The hugs at midfield after the game for Scott Earley lasted a little bit longer than normal. The former Lexington coach was greeted with open arms by many supporters of the Wildcats and he seemed a bit relived that Westside’s second game of the season with Lexington was behind him.
It was almost like it didn’t matter who won or lost. But, rest assured, Earley was proud of the effort of his new team. The Rams built a big first-half lead, then hung on for a 31-27 victory against the Wildcats on Friday night at Westside Stadium.
“I’m actually proud of both teams,” Earley said. “There is a lot of emotion over there. All of those kids, when they were freshmen, went 9-1. I’m proud of those kids. Everybody got their money’s worth tonight and that’s what me and Josh wanted to happen. We got our wish. It wasn’t very pretty, but it is what it is.”
“I’m just glad this one is over.”
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Lexington coach Josh Stepp said the lone focus this week was on Westside and hoping to open the season 1-0.
“We didn’t address (the Earley situation),” Stepp said. “It was Lexington against Westside. We wanted to win the opener. That was the first goal on our goal board, and we didn’t accomplish it. There’s still a lot left for us. This group is young, and we’re going to get better and better every single week.”
Earley was the Lexington coach from 2010-12 and went 24-13 with an undefeated regular season before leaving under somewhat controversal circumstances. Both coaches wanted the game to focus on the players but they understood there were hurt feelings on both sides. But Earley agreed this contest was about getting his new program going in the right direction after winning five games in the previous four seasons. He’s trying to instill the same ethic that has worked at Myrtle Beach, Chapin and Lexington.
“I think it’s validation of the process,” Earley said. “It’s validation that it works. We’re going to keep doing it and, hopefully, we’ll get better at it.”
Westside (2-0) sprinted to a 28-7 halftime lead and needed every bit of that cushion to hold on. Each team scored on its opening possessions, with Westside taking five plays to cover 80 yards. Cal King, who threw for 201 yards and three scores, hit a wide open Rodriguez Thomas for a 46-yard touchdown 1:35 into the contest.
Lexington answered with 3-yard touchdown run by Jayson Hopper to cap a 10-play, 68-yard drive.
Thomas and King hooked up again on a five-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 with 1:41 remaining in the first quarter. King set up the score with a 68-yard scamper. King then caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Caleb Moss before hitting Matthew Martin for a 19-yard score.
But the Westside offense that had 303 yards at the half finished with 130 in the second half to allow the Wildcats (0-1) to get back in it.
“We couldn’t finish because our kids still feel something bad is going to happen because it’s happened for so long,” Earley said. “When one little thing happens, it sort of snowballs. I believe Lexington will have a good year and, hopefully, we can learn to finish and we can have a good year.”
Slade Carroll had scoring runs of three and 13 yards in the third quarter to bring Lexington within a touchdown entering the final quarter.
Westside called on freshman kicker Chance Poore to pad the lead with 4:06 remaining. He nailed a 33-yarder.
“I have always had freshmen that do well,” Earley said. “When I said field goal there, they said ‘what in the world are you doing?’ This kid is the best. Usually, a kicker is the hero or goat, and tonight he’s a hero.”
Tyler Schadewald caught a 25-yard touchdown with 1:59 remaining and, after the failed extra point, Lexington trailed by four. Westside recovered the onside kick but fumbled on the first play to give the Wildcats a final hope. But Dayquan Telley intercepted a pass three plays later to seal the victory.
Both coaches saw things they liked and didn’t like.
“We choked,” Earley said. “You have to understand, when you’ve had bad stuff happen before, you assume it’s going to happen. That’s what we’ve got to get over here. If we can get over that and stay healthy, we can be pretty good.”
Stepp was proud of the effort after being down by 21 at the half.
“This group battled back and showed some guts and grit and character,” Stepp said. “They came out in the second half and played their tails off. We talk to them all the time about playing 48 minutes of football, and we played 24 minutes of good football. We just have to put it together for 48 minutes.”
W – Thomas Rodriguez 46 pass from Cal King (Chance Poore kick) 10:25
L – Jayson Hopper 3 run (Chris Kinsley kick) 7:22
W – Rodriguez 5 pass from King (Poore kick) 1:41
W – King 10 pass from Caleb Moss (Poore kick) 8:19
W – Matthrew Martin 19 pass from King (Poore kick) 5:50
L – Slade Carroll 3 run (Kinsley kick) 2:37
L – Carroll 13 run (Kinsley kick) 0:20
W – Poore 33 FG 8:14
L – Tyler Schadewald 25 pass from Donnie Baker (run failed) 1:59
L – Slade Carroll 24-117, Donnie Baker 10-17, Jayson Hopper 2-5. W – Cal King 7-116, Quinn Wright 18-60, Caleb Moss 9-26, Kershaw Duncan 1-22.
L – Baker 16-32-2-194. W – King 14-21-2-201, Moss 1-1-0-10
L – Hopper 7-88, Tyler Schdewald 3-45, Jordan Carr 2-19, James Ricker 1-17. W – Matthew Martin 5-79, Thomas Rodriguez 4-86, Caleb Moss 4-20, Quinn Wright 1-16.