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Westwood -- State Champs!!!

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

SAVANNAH -- It's hard to be perfect at anything.

But once again the Westwood football team showed that it can be just that on the football field.

On a rainy Friday night at Garden City Stadium, the Wildcats romped past Memorial Day, 31-12, to finish off their third unbeaten season in school history and claim the GISA Class A State Championship.

"I've been on state championship teams as a player and a coach, but never an undefeated one. It adds a little something to it. It's not something you do every day," Westwood coach Ross Worsham said. "It's really hard to put into words right now. I am just so proud of these kids. They have fought hard all year. I had no doubt they'd fight (Friday night), but Memorial had us scared to death because of all their speed and athleticism. But we contained them for the most part because we played hard.

"They left it all on the field and that's all we asked them to do."

With the win against the Blue Thunder, Westwood not only capped a 13-0 season, it captured its seventh state title in school history. The crown was also the first for the Wildcats since the 2001 season when that year's team also finished unbeaten.

The Wildcats made quite a turnaround from last season when they lost several close games and finished 4-7 overall.

"The (wins) just started coming one after the other," said senior running back Jake Edore, who carried 19 times for 64 yards and a touchdown in Friday's win, while also running for a two-point conversion. "First, it was 1-0, then two and all of a sudden it was 12-0. We realized we could win all of our games for the first time since 2001 -- and what a legacy we could start again."

This championship victory came against a Memorial team that had won two straight championships in Class AA before dropping down in classification prior to this school year due to a decrease in enrollment.

The Blue Thunder started the season with a pair of losses to bigger schools, but had reeled off 10 straight wins against Class A competition to reach its third state title game in a row.

The game pitted the top two teams in the state rankings with Westwood coming in at No. 1 and Memorial at No. 2.

From the opening whistle, though, the Wildcats proved to be a far superior team -- at least on this night -- jumping ahead, 24-0, in the opening half and keeping the speedy Blue Thunder at bay over the final two periods.

"Technique was the key for us," Westwood junior defender Mason Jones said. "With all their speed to the outside, we hadn't seen anything like it really. We had to play disciplined, keep them squeezed inside as much as possible and wrap up tackles. We messed up some, but played well for the most part."

The Westwood defense held the explosive Blue Thunder offense -- which had scored 37-plus points in each game during its winning streak -- to a pair of second-half touchdowns, while allowing Memorial 236 yards for the entire game.

At halftime, however, the Blue Thunder had managed just 58 total net yards while the Wildcats built that huge, 24-point lead.

Memorial's junior running back Lamir Cohens was checked to 81 yards on 10 carries. Cohens, who had gained more than 1,200 yards this season, had just 10 yards on five rushes before halftime.

Senior quarterback Ty Latson, a small but shifty runner, finished with just 34 yards on 10 carries while completing only 7-of-21 passes for 108 yards.

"No one had contained them all year," Worsham said. "Their quarterbacks and their running backs, they're all good. For our defense to hold an offense like that, with all those weapons, is definitely something."

The Wildcats, meantime, finished with 341 total yards with a balanced attack that churned out 201 yards on the ground on 46 carries, while junior quarterback Mason Worsham, the head coach's son, was 6-of-10 passing for 140 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

J.T. Edore, a freshman running back and Jake's younger bother, carried 15 times for 78 yards, while Worsham added 49 yards on eight attempts.

"That was the key to the game," Mason Worsham said of having a balanced offense. "We wanted to keep them on their toes and not knowing what was coming on the next play."

It worked.

The Wildcats scored on their opening possession after forcing a Memorial punt. After taking over at the Memorial 34-yard line following an interference penalty on the pint return, Westwood struck in three plays as Worsham faked a handoff and hit a wide-open Jake Edore for a 20-yard touchdown after Edore snuck out of the backfield.

Edore then ran for two points for an 8-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.

The next time Westwood got the ball it needed seven plays to go 41 yards with Worsham hitting a streaking Douglas Nobles for a 36-yard touchdown down the Wildcats sideline. Alex Chambless kicked the point-after for a 15-0 lead with 2:51 left in the first quarter.

The Wildcats scored again on their third offensive series, marching 85 yards in nine plays with junior running back Daniel Hays going in from 9 yards out on first-and-goal as the Westwood lined up in a wishbone set. Chambless made it 22-0 with the PAT with 6:24 before halftime.

Westwood also got a safety before halftime after a high snap to the Memorial quarterback from the 26 rolled into the end zone.

After halftime, Memorial drove 88 yards in 12 plays for its first score with Latson scoring on a 1-yard sneak in the final seconds of the third quarter.

Westwood answered to start the fourth, going 63 yards in five plays to score on a 10-yard pass from Worsham to junior John Vereen. The touchdown was set up by a 50-yard pass from Worsham to Vereen two plays earlier on third-and-7 from the Westwood 40.

And the Wildcats never looked back.

Once it ended, the Wildcats stormed the field to celebrate their perfect season.

Obviously, it was the ending the Wildcats had hoped for, which also included a stop off in nearby Statesboro and a visit to Paulson Stadium, where Ross Worsham played for two Georgia Southern University teams that won national championships under legendary coach Erk Russell.

Worsham hoped some of his old coach's magic would rub off on himself and his Wildcats just one more time.

"We rubbed his head," Worsham said, referring to the bronze statue of Erk near the Eagles' field. "Most of the players did it, and I did it pretty good."

It was certainly a magical year for Westwood. And "pretty good" doesn't even begin to describe it.