Westover’s Jaelon Benjamin runs upfield against Crisp County in Friday night’s Region 1-AAAA battle at Hugh Mills Stadium. The Patriots entered the game as the only undefeated team in region play, while Crisp was one of several teams with one region loss.
ALBANY — Ta’Keevian Harris calmly sat back in the shotgun, took the snap and fired over the middle to wide receiver Michael Green.
In a first half where nothing seemed to go right, the pass was a play the Westover Patriots sorely needed. The drive stalled, but the Patriots settled for a 35-yard field goal from Tanner Stumpe.
Westover added a late third quarter touchdown and shook off a stubborn Crisp County team 17-3 Friday night at Hugh Mills Stadium.
The game several times appeared to have upset written on it, but Westover managed to shake off its sloppy play and held on.
The victory allowed the Patriots (4-2, 3-0 Region 1-AAAA) to maintain their hold of first-place in the region standings. An upset would have created a logjam of teams contending for the top spot.
Friday night’s victory hardly resembled the one Westover scored two weeks ago when they executed a near perfect gameplan to upend preseason region favorite Cairo. The Patriots never could get their offense in a rhythm, their defense missed tackles and costly penalties sent them backwards.
Westover finished the game with nine penalties for 75 yards.
Crisp County, meanwhile, may have learned something about its team. The young Cougars continue to mature and showed they will have a say-so in the playoff race. Crisp (3-3, 1-2) withstood nearly every punch Westover threw at it.
But Westover’s defense delivered the final knockout punch, stopping Crisp from the potential tying score with 2:02 left. Campbell’s pass attempt to Montre Hartage bounced off the turf near midfield and the Westover players and coaches breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Julian Colwell added a 14-yard dash with 1:35 left to finally give the Patriots some breathing room.
It seemed Shannon Saunders’ 3-yard run late in the third quarter to make it 10-0 would stand. However, Crisp drove to the Patriot 4-yard line midway through the fourth quarter but could only manage a 21-yard field goal by Tahjie Thompson to make it 10-3 with 5:50 left.
Crisp had one more chance to tie after Stumpe missed a 48-yard field goal attempt with 2:56 left. However, Westover forced the Cougars to fire three straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.
The Patriots held the Cougars to 192 yards of total offense, while the offense rolled up 245 yards of total offense. Saunders finished with 80 yards on 11 carries.
Westover moved the ball efficiently in the first half but couldn’t find the end zone. In the first quarter, Stumpe’s 41-yard attempt went short and wide left.
He later attempted a 46-yarder in the second quarter that fell several yards shy as neither team could score in the first half.