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Westfield vs. Deerfield: It all comes down to this

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Like to be a fly on the wall at Westfield this week? Just to get a glance at that blackboard in the football office would be something.

It's probably a mess.

X's and O's all over the place, coming and going in every direction. That's what it's like trying to get ready to play Deerfield-Windsor, where the Knights run the kind of offense that drives teams nuts.

"We've got so many weapons,'' DWS quarterback Banks Kinslow said. "We've got so many receivers who can catch the ball and so many backs who can run the ball. If you're playing us, it's pick your poison.''

A year ago, it was pretty simple stuff the week before meeting Deerfield-Windsor. Just put a big O on the blackboard with running back Tony Zenon's name on it and tell the defense to stop him. Easier said than done, because Zenon torched every team he faced before he darted off to Georgia Tech.

Now teams don't have to prepare for Zenon. They have to prepare for Deerfield -- as a whole.

"We thought we would be pretty good, but you don't know,'' said DWS coach Allen Lowe, whose team is 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in the GISA Class AAA state poll and hosts No. 2

Westfield tonight with the Region 1-AAA title on the line. "I was

hoping the defense would keep us in games until our offense found an identify.''

They found an identity, all right. Call it schizophrenic, or maybe just a multiple personality disorder, because when teams play DWS they don't know what to expect.

"We don't just run, run, run the ball like with Tony. Everybody is contributing,'' said Davis Moore, a senior who has rushed for 837 yards and nine TDs and caught 13 passes for 140 yards.

He's the epitome of what's going on at DWS this season. Thirteen different players have carried the ball, and six of those have rushed for touchdown. Ten players have caught passes this season, and six of those have scored touchdowns.

These guys share more than Oprah.

Quentin Heard, who has rushed for 467 yards and four TDs and caught 10 passes for 111 yards and four TDs, and Gaughf Ivey, who has rushed for 104 yards and four TDs and caught five passes for 91 yards and three more TDs, are just two of those weapons Kinslow was talking about.

Michael Laslie has caught 17 passes for 362 yards and four TDs and Walker Lanier has five receptions for 114 yards and three TDs. The Knights score from just about every where. Trey Puckett has kicked field goals from 31 and 45 yards, and has nailed 34 of 38 PATs as DWS has outscored the other guys, 268-53.

Kinslow? He's not a weapon. He's an arsenal. He has spent most of his season re-writing the record book at DWS. He set the record for TDs in one quarter when he threw four against state-ranked Stratford, and set the record for most TDs in one game with four, then broke it two weeks ago when he threw five TDs in a 35-14 win against Trinity. He also broke the 18-year-old record for career TD passes this season. He's at 27 -- and counting.

He's completed 59 of 93 passes for 934 yards ad 16 touchdowns and thrown only three interceptions all year.

Jordan Funderburk, a two-way lineman, sums up Kinslow in one word: "Phenomenal,'' said Funderburk, who is part of a couple of pretty phenomenal lines. The front four on defense -- DT's Matt Miller, Funderburk, and DE's Walker Lanier and Hunter Brettel -- have changed everything for the defense. Just ask linebacker Rhett Cooper, who had 154 tackles last year. He's got 68 this season -- but you won't hear him complaining.

"Our D-line is insane,'' Cooper said. "They play with so much intensity and they are so physical. I'm not getting as many tackles because our front four is so good. It all starts with them. They're every bit as good as the D-line that won the state title in '08.''

Lowe uses waves -- that's right, waves -- of platoons on his offensive line as the group takes the one-for-all, all-for-one mentality over the top. They stay fresh and wear out opponents.

"You can see it in their faces of the other team's linemen,'' Moore said. "They're on their knees on the ground just worn out.''

Nothing against Zenon. They love him at DWS. But the Knights, who went to the state title game the past two seasons with Zenon, might be better than ever now. They've never started 8-0 and these kids think they're just getting started.

How good are they?

Show up at Webb Memorial Stadium tonight and find out. It's a classic, No. 1 DWS against No. 2-ranked Westfield. Both are unbeaten and the winner not only wins the region title but home field throughout the upcoming playoffs, including the state title game.

"It's big, because of that,'' Lowe said. "Having the home field in the playoffs makes this game real big. But it's not the biggest game we'll play. We still have a very good Southland team next week, and then the playoffs. We'll find out how we really stand over the next two weeks against two real good football teams.''

This could just be the overture for the state title game, because it's possible DWS could meet Westfield next month with everything on the line. Deerfield has won the state title twice -- in 2002 and again in 2008 -- and beat Westfield in both those games.

"They beat us in the regular season in '02 and then we beat them in the finals, and in '08 we beat them 6-3 in the regular season in the 'Mud Bowl,' and then beat them in the final,'' said Lowe, who expects another classic tonight. "They're very similar to us. It's like looking in a mirror.

"Every time we play them it's a war. We have mutual respect for each the, but both teams really want to win, and they will get after you real hard.''

The two teams couldn't be much closer. They are 13-13 in the all-time series against each other, but DWS has won the last five, including a 27-7 victory last season. Of course, that was with Zenon.

By the way, he's not playing this year.