Westover quarterback Ta’Keevian Harris runs the ball into the Stockbridge defense during Friday night’s Class AAAA second-round playoff game at Hugh Mills Stadium. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — It seemed fitting that the Stockbridge High School marching band began Friday night’s halftime by performing the Anita Ward classic Ring My Bell, as that’s exactly what the Stockbridge football team did to the Westover Patriots en route to a 35-0 victory at Hugh Mills Stadium.
The loss saw the Patriots eliminated from the Class AAAA state playoffs in the second round for the second straight year, despite an 8-2 regular season that saw them earn the team’s first region title in school history.
Westover was stuffed repeatedly on offense all night and had no answer for the Tiger’s triple-option running attack. Stockbridge dominated both sides of the ball throughout the contest and had the Patriots on their heels the entire game.
“Make no bones about it, they whipped our tail,” Westover head coach Octavia Jones said. “We knew they were a good team. You don’t win 10 games in the season and end up the number five seed without being a good team.”
Westover couldn’t seem to get anything going offensively, as the Patriots managed only two first downs all night. The team wasn’t much stronger on defense either as Tiger rushers were able to continually grind out tough yards on the ground.
Early in the game both teams struggled to gain much yardage at all until the Tiger rushing attack finally gained some momentum in the second quarter, culminating in the game’s first score, a 6-yard run by senior Javon Brandon. The Tigers added a two point conversion to give them an 8-0 lead.
Things went from bad to worse on the Patriots next possession when Stockbridge forced a fumble deep in Westover territory, which they turned into a touchdown three plays later, when senior Maetron Thomas scored on an 11-yard run to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
In what must have seemed like a bad dream to Patriot coaches, players and fans, on the team’s very next possession Patriot senior running back Shannon Saunders broke into the Stockbridge secondary only to be stripped of the ball for Westover’s second fumble of the night. Fortunately, the Pats got the ball right back when junior defensive back Jysanti Richardson intercepted a Stockbridge pass.
They were unable to capitalize on the turnover, however, as Stockbridge continued to dominate the line of scrimmage again, holding Westover in check and shutting the Patriots out in the first half.
The second half saw more of the same as Westover was still unable to get anything going offensively and had little answers for Tiger rushers.
Westover began the half with an early stop but failed to capitalize having to punt the ball away on their first possession of the half. Stockbridge took advantage immediately, moving right down the field and scoring the team’s third touchdown of the night to take a 21-0 lead.
The Patriots’ bad dream turned into a nightmare just a few minutes later when Westover turned the ball over two more times and gave up yet another Stockbridge touchdown to fall behind 28-0 as the third quarter expired.
The fourth quarter began with more of the same as Patriot senior quarterback Ta’Keevian followed up an earlier interception with his second turnover of the game, as he fumbled deep in Westover territory.
Stockbridge put the final nail in the Patriot coffin a few minutes later, closing out the 35-0 victory with a late touchdown with 32 seconds left in the game, to advance to the state quarterfinals.
The Patriots will now begin a long off season trying to figure out how another season ended prematurely.
“We’re going to go back to the drawing board,” Jones said. “We’re gonna remember this feeling so we don’t have to feel it again.”