Richland Northeast withstood a spirited challenge from Westwood on Friday at new District 2 Stadium, escaping with a 21-17 win against the first-year Redhawks.
“(Westwood) played their tails off and we knew coming in that they were going to be ready to play,” RNE coach Jay Frye said. “We got off to a great start again, but then it turned into a struggle. But, thank goodness, we responded after they took the lead.”
The Cavaliers (2-0) cashed in a big break after Westwood took a lead (17-14) for the first time in school history on a 30-yard field goal by freshman Brandon Howard with 6:13 to go in the third quarter.
The spark for RNE was a four-yard Westwood punt that set the Cavaliers up at the Redhawks 26. Four plays later, quarterback A.C. Whaley accounted for what proved the winning score on a 7-yard run with 19 seconds left in the third.
The RNE defense made the edge stand up, thanks to a huge stop at its own 20 with time waning. Westwood marched from its own 8 to the Cavaliers 21 before giving the ball up on downs. Defensive tackle Alonzo Cooper made two key plays — teaming up Angel Crespo for a tackle for a loss on third down, and pressuring Redhawks quarterback Davis King into a hurried, fourth-down pass that fell incomplete.
“We don’t care how many yards or points we give up as long as we make the plays we have to make to win,” Cooper said.
“I’m really proud of the effort, especially considering we fell behind 14-0 early,” said Westwood coach Rodney Summers, a former assistant at RNE.
“I just liked the way we kept battling back to take the lead. We gave ourselves a chance at the end, but just couldn’t finish it off. We’re not happy with the loss, but we’ll take the effort and build on it moving forward.”
RNE’s Rashaad Bourquin, who had three interceptions, picked off a tipped King pass on the fourth play of the game and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.
The Cavaliers needed three plays to move 66 yards on their first offensive possession to extend their lead to 14-0 by the 7:53 mark of the first quarter. Whaley was 2-for-2 passing for 45 yards and ran once for 16 yards during the drive. Whaley hit a wide-open Ryan Howell with a 25-yard scoring pass.
Westwood countered with 14 points in the second quarter on the passing of King, who fired two scoring passes to Vyncint Smith, and a two-point PAT.
RNE – Rashaan Bourquin 65 interception return (Sam Lourie kick), 10:36
RNE – Ryan Howell 25 pass from A.C. Whaley (Lourie kick), 7:53
W – Vyncint Smith 33 pass from Davis King (kick failed), 10:51
W – Smith 13 pass from King (Diamond Williams pass from King), 5:00
W – FG Brandon Howard 30, 6:13
RNE – Whaley 7 run (Lourie kick), 0:19