Wow-zer, Westwood!: Wildcats beat Tiftarea, win second straight game in final seconds

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CAMILLA -- Maybe Ross Worsham doesn't look old enough. His Westwood Wildcats team has decided to add a few extra gray hairs to his head.

For the second week in a row, Westwood rallied in the fourth quarter to slay a higher classification GISA team. Last week, it was GISA Class AA Southwest Georgia Academy. This week, the Wildcats trailed the entire game before tight end John Vereen's touchdown catch sealed the comeback with 24 seconds left to beat Class AAA Tiftarea, 20-17, on Thursday night.

The Wildcats (2-0) fell behind 17-6 with 2:27 left in the third quarter after Tiftarea's Wes Carter hit Garrett Rippy on a 38-yard scoring strike to put the Panthers up two scores.

"It'd be real easy to throw in the towel, but they didn't," Worsham said. "This team has a chance to do something special."

Westwood put together a 15-play drive that lasted more than seven minutes and capped it off on Mason Worsham's 1-yard quarterback sneak on fourth and goal with 7:12 to play, cutting the Tiftarea lead to 17-13.

Carter, who ran for 119 yards for the Panthers (0-2), busted a 30-yard run to midfield on Tiftarea's ensuing possession, but Westwood's Daniel Hayes made a huge fourth down stop on Carter to set up the winning drive.

Westwood drove 50 yards in the final four minutes and pulled another upset when Worsham rolled out on a play-action pass and hit Vereen standing wide open in the corner of the endzone with 24 seconds to play.

"I saw nobody," said Vereen, who caught three passes for 23 yards. "We played Sherwood my sophomore year and I caught a ball (in the endzone) that went through my hands and I caught it with my knees. I was hoping I wouldn't do that again."

Westwood had jumped offside inside the five yard line after pounding the ball to Jake Edore off tackle all night, backing them up to the 7-yard line. Worsham decided then it was time to go to the air.

"Play-action off tackle is hard to defend because they're trying to stop (the run)," Worsham said. "It was a good time to do it. It was open."

Tiftarea led the entire way until Vereen's catch, thanks to Carter and Rippy. Carter ran for 119 on just eight carries, including a 47-yard score in the first quarter, and also threw for 155 yards on 12-of-19 passing. Rippy caught three of those passes for 65 yards and a score.

But Westwood wore down the bigger Panthers' team with a power rushing attack and workhorse Jake Edore, who carried the ball 23 times for 81 yards and scored on a 4-yard run with 6:42 left before halftime to cut the Tiftarea lead to 10-7.

Westwood controlled the ball in the second half for more than 17 of the 24 minutes and kept Carter and Co. off the field. Carter had 87 yards at halftime on six carries, but just 32 yards on two carries in the second half because of Westwood's ball control offense.

Vereen said he began to feel Tiftarea's defense wear down in the fourth quarter.

"We knew we were in better shape," said Vereen, one of just three Wildcats' seniors. "They had more numbers, be we've been running all summer."

Worsham finished the game with 56 yards rushing and threw for 84 yards on 10-of-17 passing. He also had an interception to end the game. Freshman JT Edore added 44 rushing yards. Westwood fumbled five times, losing two, in the first half.

The Wildcats face another Class AAA team next Friday when they play host to Sherwood at 7:30 p.m.