Westwood took advantage of a worn-down Fairfield Central defense for some late points Friday night at Richland District 2 Stadium.
But the Redhawks’ second-half surge wasn’t enough for the Griffins, who escaped with a 35-26 victory in the season opener for both teams.
“We had some things go our way toward the end,” Westwood coach Rodney Summers said. But the sad thing is our run game. That’s just something we were really hoping to improve on this year. We’ve got to run the ball, and we couldn’t do it.”
Fairfield Central held the Redhawks to 221 yards of offense, with 120 rushing yards on 28 attempts. Westwood was held to three yards passing and 73 rushing yards in the first half.
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“They got us in man coverage and just dared us to throw the ball,” Summers said. “I probably should’ve threw it earlier, but I just felt like we had to have the run game.”
Down 29-7 early in the third quarter, Westwood caught a spark when quarterback Chris Patterson connected with Adonus Lee for a 44-yard TD at the third quarter buzzer.
Fairfield Central quarterback DeAndre Belton found Byron Sampson along the left sideline for a 77-yard TD strike early in the fourth to make it 35-14, but Terrance Anderson scored from 10 and 5 yards out in the fourth quarter to keep the Redhawks close.
“I don’t think people realize what a good football team Westwood is,” Griffins coach Demetrius Davis said. “They’ve got a lot of good receivers, they’ve got a good quarterback, and their kids came to play.”
It was a typical season-opening game, filled with incomplete passes, fumbles and penalties. The Griffins had 10 flags for 130 yards while Westwood had nine for 73 yards.
“Our key word for this year has been ‘Finish,’ ” Davis said. “That’s the one thing we wanted to focus on, but we couldn’t finish the job. But we won the football game.”
Westwood’s initial drive ended with a Josh Bell interception at the Fairfield Central 4.
The Redhawks caught a break when the Fairfield Central backfield lost the ball on its first play from scrimmage. The ball bounced into the end zone, and Bradley Carter fell on the ball for Westwood to make it 7-0.
The Griffins picked up momentum after their mistake, with Shadarius Hopkins taking the kickoff that followed 39 yards to the Fairfield Central 44. The Griffins moved 56 yards on six plays and evened the score at 7 with Deondre Belton’s 15-yard touchdown run at the 2:22 mark of the first quarter.
Fairfield put together a 70-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter, capped with a 7-yard Larry Bell run. Just before the half, Devin Simmons recovered a muffed punt reception at the Westood 37.
From there, Belton connected with Hopkins for 18 yards and then a 19-yard pass to Kewaun Squirewell, who burst into the end zone 10 seconds before intermission. Belton found Neal for the 2-point conversion to make it 22-7 at the half.
The Griffins got an 18-yard TD run from Belton to to lead 29-7 before Westwood started rallying.