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Leaving no doubt: Deerfield 21, Westfield 7

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Legacy.

That's the word Rod Murray used. He could have been talking about footprints, big ones -- the kind you leave for others, the kind that sink deep into minds and hearts and stay there, lingering.

Murray, the defensive coordinator at Deerfield-Windsor, was talking about the DWS defense, that wild bunch that had just taken Westfield apart, 21-7, Friday night at Webb Memorial Stadium.

"We've had some great defensive units who have left a legacy here,'' Murray said. "And this unit is part of that. It will leave its legacy.''

By the time these kids are done, you might need a statue.

This is the first team in Deerfield history to start a season at 9-0, and that perfection starts with a defense that might be as good as any that has ever lined up at DWS.

They looked that good Friday.

How good?

"We're the best,'' said Quentin Heard, who had a big night on both sides of the line for DWS. "I will go ahead and say it, we're the best defense in GISA.''

Who is going to argue?

Westfield, which had averaged 46 points during its last three games and 38 points in six region games, didn't score until there was just 5:14 left in this contest, and the Hornets gained more yards on Wesley Rust's 53-yard TD pass to Alex Smith than they gained the rest of the night.

"It was just wild,'' said Heard, who had two sacks and created a safety when he slammed into Rust, who fumbled the ball into the end zone. "The energy was just wild (Friday night). This was such a big game. There's nothing better than beating Westfield.''

DWS' wild bunch on defense produced 10 plays for either no gain or negative yardage, and scored four points itself on two -- count 'em -- two safeties.

"I've never seen that before,'' DWS assistant coach Craig Rhodes said. "Two safeties in one game, that's just crazy.''

Head coach Allen Lowe followed with the punchline.

"That's the way we planned it,'' he deadpanned. "Our goal was three. I'm a little disappointed.''

Lowe can joke all he wants. His team is the No. 1-ranked team in GISA's Class AAA, and Friday's win against No. 2 Westfield not only made a statement, but gave DWS the Region 1-AAA title and more -- a whole lot more. The Knights will not only be at home in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but the win guarantees that if Deerfield plays for the state title, the game will be at Webb Memorial.

"It's nice knowing we're here for the duration,'' Lowe said. "Hopefully, for the full duration.''

Lowe was ready for the showdown between Nos. 1 and 2. He pulled out a trick play on the opening kickoff, and had his quarterback Banks Kinslow field the kick, stop and throw it across the field to Heard, who bolted all the way to the Westfield 40.

"I didn't expect him to call that play,'' Kinslow said. "When he told us, I just said: "Oh yeah! Oh yeah!' That play got us going.''

The Knights never slowed down.

"In big games, sometimes you have to be loose and take some chances,'' Lowe said. "Those jitters can build up.''

The Knights never had time for jitters. They drove right down the field, and with Lowe playing loose and easy, they gambled twice on fourth down and just kept driving until Kinslow scored on a 1-yard keeper.

"That was a great drive right there,'' said Lowe, who was then reminded he went on fourth down twice. "We did, didn't we? I guess it was the right call. It worked.''

Kinslow scrambled for eight yards on fourth-and-five from the 35, and Heard busted free for a six-yard gain on fourth and one to set up Kinslow's TD.

Kinslow found Michael Laslie with a 35-yard TD pass with 1:09 left in the first quarter and Trey Puckett nailed a 24-yard field goal two minutes later to lift DWS to a 17-0 lead. Gaughf Ivey set up the field goal with an interception at the 20.

Westfield finished the first quarter with exactly zero total yards, thanks to sacks by Heard and Rhett Cooper and Ivey's pick.

"We just never could get anything going against them,'' Westfield coach Ronnie Jones, whose team dropped to 8-1. "They kept us pinned down all night.''

Westfield started drives from the 22, 20, 16, 19, and 25 in the first half, and began from the 13, 15, 1, 20 and 6 yard lines in the second half.

The Hornets managed to drive inside the 10 just once, but Cooper stopped a play for no gain on a second and goal at the six yard line, and on third and goal Heard slammed into Rust, who pitched the ball to John Lee, who was hit for an 11-yard loss by Cooper on one of the biggest plays of the night. An incomplete pass on fourth down ended the threat.

"They had been doing a lot of chattering on Facebook about how they were going to come in here and drop 35 points on us,'' Cooper said. "That didn't sit well with us, to say the least. We weren't having any of that. There was a lot of motivation in this game, and a lot of emotion.''

And some heart from Deerfield, which had to win the game with one of its top players, running back and cornerback Davis Moore, on the sideline with a hip injury for most of the night.

"Quentin Heard, Gaughf Ivey and Noah Horton all stepped up and ran the ball hard,'' Lowe said.

Heard finished with 73 yards on 16 carries and was a workhorse in the fourth quarter, and Ivey picked up 31 yards on seven carries. Horton finished with 48 yards on six carries.

But this was a night that belonged to Deerfield's defense.

Kinslow, who completed 4-of-6 passes for 46 yards and punted Westfield in a hole all night, put it bluntly.

"The offensive line and our defense won this game,'' he said. "Our defense was in their face all night long. They just got after them.''