A smothering defense and a powerful running game are what led Westwood High to an 11-win season and the second round of the playoffs. It also proved to be the Redhawks’ undoing once they got there.
Greenwood flipped the script on the home team Friday night, as a suffocating front seven kept the Westwood offense off track while the Eagles’ offense eked out enough to escape with a 16-0 victory. The win moved Greenwood into the Class 4A Division II semifinals against York, where a victory would send the Eagles to their fourth state championship appearance in five seasons.
“It was just a matter of them wearing us out up front,” Redhawks coach Rodney Summers said.
Summers had been the one using that formula to better his opponents up to this point. But he and Westwood met their match against the Eagles, who forced four turnovers while limiting the Redhawks to 147 yards, including 49 rushing yards on 28 attempts.
Junior tailback Andrew Plante, who entered averaging over 100 yards per game, was held to 13 yards on nine carries, while senior quarterback Nick Leveretter finished with 8 yards on nine attempts and a fumble. Through the air, the signal-caller completed 3-of-8 passes for 72 yards and a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Neither played in the second half as they gave way to backups over the final 24 minutes.
“Not a great night,” Summer said of Leveretter. “But again, he’s a great kid and he can’t hang his head down on just one night’s effort.”
But the Redhawks (11-2) had their chances. Trailing 13-0 early in the second quarter, Westwood opted to go for it on fourth and goal at the 1. But Plante was stopped trying to reach over the top of the pile, sending the Eagles’ sideline into a frenzy. One possession later, Leveretter was sacked on 4th and 4 from the Greenwood after a failed flea flicker.
“Down there, I felt like if we would have scored down there we would have got some momentum, done a little bit better,” Summers said. “That really demoralized our guys a little bit, not scoring down there. That was something you look back on and say they played better, they played harder in the trenches.”
The Eagles (9-4) weren’t done, however, as their high-flying defense forced an interception and a fumble on Westwood’s next two drives before the Redhawks kneeled to end the half.
“At the beginning of the year, we played bad,” Greenwood coach Dan Pippen said. “We gave up a lot of turnovers, put our defense in a lot of bad situations. At the year went on, we’ve just gotten better. The kids never really quit on each other, that was a big thing.”
Greenwood began the year 1-4 but finds itself on an eight-game winning streak dating to Oct. 2. The Eagles gave up 175 points over their first five games but have allowed 62 since, and Pippen’s defense has also posted a pair of shutouts in each of its first two playoff games. Laurens’ only score in its 12-6 first-round loss came on a fumble return.
“It’s been pretty good,” junior defensive back Matthew Greene said. “Starting off at the beginning of the season, we weren’t that good. But during the season we got better and better.”
It was Greene who iced the game with his 36-yard interception return for a score, which gave Greenwood a 13-0 lead following Markeyvious Adams’ 20-yard touchdown catch down the right sideline.
He added an interception off reserve quarterback Jalen Smith in the second half, while teammate Joseph Rapp also tallied a pick.
That was enough for the Eagles, who also saw quarterback Roshun Jackson finish with a game-high 128 yards on 22 carries.
“They poured their heart and soul into this season, but, unfortunately, they didn’t get the end result that they wanted,” Summers said. “But they did win a lot of football games and they can take a lot from this season.”
G – Markeyvious Adams 20 catch from Roshun Jackson (Jack Pierce kick failed) 9:20
G – Matthew Greene 36 interception return (Pierce kick) 0:34
G – Pierce 39 kick 0:15
Rushing: G – Roshun Jackson 22-128, D.J. Wright 15-16, C.J. Jackson 8-4; W – Jalen Smith 7-24, Andrew Plante 9-13, Nick Leveretter 9-8, John Trapp 3-4.
Passing: G – Roshun Jackson 8-14-2-99; W – Nick Leveretter 3-8-2-72, Jalen Smith 1-11-1-26.
Receiving: G – Markeyvious Adams 4-58, Jamir Watts 2-21, Sam Pickney 2-20; W – Adonus Lee 5-98.