By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT – There were times when Westfall was able to slow down Isaac Little on Friday in a Scioto Valley Conference game.
But they were never able to fully contain the talented Unioto senior quarterback, or even come close to it.
Little accounted for 351 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in a 41-30 shootout win over the host Mustangs.
“We made a few stops here and there, but we weren’t able to do enough to slow down Little consistently,” Westfall coach Brad Smith said. “That’s hard to do, because he’s a mobile quarterback who can also throw the football very effectively.
“There were times when he’d come up a little slow or look a little sore, but he just kept making plays for Unioto. He was impressive.”
Little was 16 of 23 through the air for 282 yards and two touchdowns and added 69 yards rushing and three more scores.
The Shermans (4-2, 4-2) jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Little put the Shermans on the scoreboard with a two-yard keeper to cap a 50-yard drive to open the game.
Smith felt it took the Mustangs (3-2, 3-2) the first drive to adjust to game speed after not playing for two weeks. Westfall canceled its game last week at Piketon due to concerns of Pike County being raised to Level 3 on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which means there is “very high exposure and spread” of COVID-19.
“The rest over the last couple of weeks allowed us to heal up a little bit and get a couple of extra practices and preparation time for Unioto, but it took us that first drive to get back playing at game speed,” Smith said. “We were a little slow early. You can’t simulate game speed in practice, especially when we only have around 23 healthy players.”
Little connected with Byrd Green on a 60-yard reception on the next Unioto possession that the senior quarterback capped with an eight-yard run to pay dirt.
Ely Cox changed momentum for the Mustangs when he recovered a Unioto fumble on the Unioto 37.
On the next play, Marcus Whaley connected with a wide open Todd Scheel, who made one defender miss, to take the pigskin into the end zone. A two-point conversion run by Whaley cut the Unioto lead to 14-8.
The Shermans responded on their next drive with Little hitting Green for a 32-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-8.
Westfall used Whaley’s elusiveness to again cut into its deficit in the second quarter.
The senior quarterback evaded pressure and turned left to extend the play, finding Luke Blackburn over the middle on a crossing route. Blackburn made three defenders miss as he scored from 45 yards out with 7:55 remaining before halftime. A two-point conversion run by Whaley made it 21-16.
Unioto expanded its lead to 28-16 going into halftime when Cameron Lohnes took the pitch from Little around right end for a 16-yard touchdown run.
Westfall put together its best drive of the night on its second possession of the third quarter, covering 85 yards in 12 plays.
A 22-yard run by Blackburn on fourth-and-two set-up a 12-yard touchdown slant from Whaley to Rex Brown on the next play. The two-point conversion run failed, leaving the score at 28-22.
Unioto put the game away with the next two touchdowns, coming on a 16-yard keeper around right end by Little eight seconds into the fourth quarter and a three-yard touchdown pass from Little to Carson DeBord.
“We had a few breakdowns tonight that made it hard to beat a team like Unioto that has double the players that we have,” Smith said. “I called out the wrong defense on the second to last touchdown, because I thought they were going to pass, and that’s on me.
“We had a couple of turnovers and a few other breakdown.”
Westfall scored its final touchdown of the night on a 34-yard touchdown run around right end from Whaley that was followed by a two-point conversion courtesy of Brown.
Whaley finished the game 18 of 31 passing for 260 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 74 yards rushing and another score.
Blackburn made eight receptions for 133 yards with a touchdown.
“We have a few things we want to tweak with our pass protection, but when we have time to execute we have a lot of confidence in Marcus and our wide receivers,” Smith said.
The game took nearly three hours to play, due in part to 16 penalties for 150 yards in the second half. Ten of those penalties were on the Shermans for 100 yards.
The Mustangs turn their attention to a first-round playoff game a week from today at New Lexington (3-3). Every team could opt into the postseason this season, due to the shortened schedule with COVID-19. Westfall will be playing its first playoff game since 2013, when its upset bid fell short 30-28 at Martins Ferry.
“It’s exciting for our kids to get to play in the playoffs,” Smith said. “I know I am stoked and ready to go. We’re get after it and get ready for the atmosphere of the postseason.”