By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT — After watching his team get shut out in the first half of last week’s scrimmage, Westfall first-year coach Logan Stepp had a simple message for the Mustangs before Friday’s season-opener against Madison-Plains.
“One thing we stressed was to play fast from the jump,” he said. “That was something we lacked last week in our scrimmage against Lakewood.
“Our guys knew I wasn’t happy about that, so they stepped up, accepted the challenge and just came out playing really hard.”
It was safe to say the message was delivered, as the Mustangs stampeded the Golden Eagles for five touchdowns in the opening 19 minutes on their way to a 38-20 non-conference win.
The Mustangs amassed 417 yards of total offense, headlined by quarterback Bryce Wickline connecting on 18 of 29 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns, and adding 101 yards rushing with another score. Casey Cline was on the receiving end of the Mustangs’ first three touchdowns of the season on his way to a seven-reception evening that covered 119 yards. Trent Walters added six grabs for 92 yards and Jaden Towler consumed 44 yards on four receptions and also scored.
“We knew that Madison-Plains’ skill players were young and ours have a little more experience, so we felt like we had an advantage there,” Stepp said. “Our goal was to get Bryce comfortable early and get him into a rhythm. We talked before the game and told Bryce that he’s a good quarterback and that his job was to throw the football around and use the good athletes we have on the perimeter.
“The crowd saw that we had three receivers really step up and play well. I was also happy we were able to get the chains moving some in short yardage situation with our running game as we got into the game more.”
Westfall used six plays to cover 47 yards and turn its first possession of the season into a touchdown. Cline grabbed a 13-yard pass on a third-and-seven to keep the chains moving and brought in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Wickline two plays later. The first of two extra points by Walters made it 7-0 Mustangs.
The Mustangs used eight plays to cover 73 yards on their next possession. An 18-yard pass from Wickline to Walters on third-and-13 again kept the chains moving and Cline finished the drive five plays later when he hauled in a 25-yard fade pass from Wickline.
Westfall quickly expanded its advantage to 32-0 by scoring three times over the span of two minutes and 13 seconds in the second quarter.
Cline grabbed a 12-yard touchdown pass from Wickline along the home sideline in the end zone to start the scoring run. Michael Harwood then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that the Mustangs turned into a touchdown on the next play when Wickline connected with Towler on a flag route for a 21-yard strike.
After another three-and-out from the Golden Eagles, Towler returned the ensuing punt 41 yards to the Madison-Plains 17. Wickline covered the rest of the yardage on a pair of runs, the last from 11 yards out to pay dirt.
Stepp complimented the play of his offensive line for giving Wickline plenty of time to work.
“We started the game with some quick calls to let our guys settle in and then they started to make checks and do some nice things to protect Bryce,” he said. “Aiden Lemaster is undersized, but he gives us everything that he has and just plays hard. Then, our guards and center are starting to gel with what Austin Robinson, Hunter Probasco and Peyton Moll did. And then, Jackson Thomas, he’s a player and he’s really starting to learn and grasp what we want to do out here.
“When those guys fully gel together then we are going to be able to do some pretty good things out there on that field.”
While the Westfall offense was putting on a show, the defense also stepped up by forcing Madison-Plains into three-and-outs on its first four possessions of the season and didn’t give up the initial first down to the Golden Eagles until 5:22 left before halftime. On that possession, Madison-Plains drove down to the Westfall 11. Walters stripped M-P quarterback Evan Coil of the football while sacking him and recovered the loose pigskin.
“Tanner Scheel and AJ Shoults really helped to lead our team effort at linebacker and then we did a nice job with our defensive line of rotating some guys to stay fresh there and get some pressure on their quarterback,” Stepp said. “We felt like if we stopped the run (Madison-Plains had seven yards on 15 carries) that our skill players would win out, and that’s what happened.”
The Golden Eagles finally reached the scoreboard with 1:12 remaining before halftime on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Coil to Peyton Scott.
Westfall added just one touchdown in the second half, a three-yard run by Joey Wright with 8:44 remaining.
Madison-Plains scored the lone touchdown of the third quarter on a 50-yard double pass from Scott to Marcelius Winlock. In the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles blocked a Westfall punt and took over four yards from the goal line, which Sam Hawkins covered with a pair of two-yard runs to cap scoring with 3:40 remaining.
Stepp attributed the slowdown after the Mustangs’ first-half onslaught with needing to learn how to play with a big advantage. Westfall finished just 1-8 a season ago, with its lone win coming 12-8 over Southeastern.
“Last week, we didn’t play the way I wanted our team to in the first half and then we came out in the second half and scored four touchdowns. We really finished that scrimmage well,” he said. “(On Friday), we came out and got up 32-0, which is honestly a position our guys have not been in much.
“When you have a 32-0 lead, you have to work to maintain that lead while still playing at an elite level. We have to play hard until the final whistle, and that’s something our guys will recognize and adjust to.”
The Golden Eagles were held to 178 yards of total offense.
“They hit us on a few seam passes,” Stepp said. “We consider ourselves a bend-but-don’t-break defense. We’re going to give up a few yards, but there were a few plays we’d like to have back, and we’ll work on that once we look at the game film and get to practice next week.”
Westfall (1-0) hits the road next week to take on Pickaway County rival Logan Elm (0-1), which lost 25-13 last night to Zane Trace.
“I’m just really happy with our group of guys and the way they came out here and got after it,” Stepp said. “We’re no longer bad; we’re okay right now and we still have some things we need to work on, so we can continue to get better as a football team and get to where we want to be.”
Score By Quarters 1 2 3 4 F
Madison-Plains 0 7 7 6 20
Westfall 14 18 0 6 38
WF — Casey Cline 20 pass from Bryce Wickline (Trent Walters kick), 7:12
WF — Casey Cline 25 pass from Bryce Wickline (Trent Walters kick), 2:05
WF — Casey Cline 12 pass from Bryce Wickline (kick failed), 7:46
WF — Jaden Towler 21 pass from Bryce Wickline (kick failed), 7:38
WF — Bryce Wickline 11 run (kick failed), 5:33
MP — Peyton Smith 12 pass from Evan Coil (Layne White kick), 1:12.
MP — Marcelius Winlock 50 pass from Peyton Smith (Layne White kick), 1:47.
WF — Joey Wright 3 run (kick failed), 8:44.
MP — Sam Hawkins 2 run (run failed), 3:40.
First downs 8 21
Rushing yards 15-7 35-155
Passing yards 171 262
Comp.-Att.-Int 10-23-1 18-29-0
Total yards 178 417
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-40 5-45
Punts-Ave. 5-34.8 3-26.4
RUSHING – Madison-Plains — Evan Coil 8-(-8), Wyatt Grube 3-11, Sam Hawkins 2-4, Peyton Scott 2-0. Westfall — Bryce Wickline 24-101, Joey Wright 9-55, Tanner Steele 1-1, Caleb Cline 1-(-2).
PASSING – Madison-Plains — Evan Coil 9-22-1-121, Peyton Scott 1-1-0-50. Westfall — Bryce Wickline 18-29-0-262.
RECEIVING – Madison-Plains — Peyton Scott 7-99, Marculius Winlock 1-50, Hunter Mullins 1-11, Colby Stoughton 1-11. Westfall — Casey Cline 7-119, Brydan Gall 1-5, Trent Walters 6-92, Jaden Towler 4-44.
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