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Westover opens region play with win vs. rival Monroe

Westover’s Jaelon Benjamin dodges two Monroe defenders Saturday night at Hugh Mills Stadium. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

Westover’s Jaelon Benjamin dodges two Monroe defenders Saturday night at Hugh Mills Stadium. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

ALBANY — Ta’Keevian Harris looked over his line, bought a second of time, then fired to a streaking Michael Green in the end zone.

Westover’s offense seemed to fire on all cylinders Saturday night in the first half at Hugh Mills Stadium.

Not even a heavy rainstorm that doused the Hugh Mills Stadium turf before the game could slow down the Patriots, who ran, passed and kicked field goals for scores to down crosstown rival Monroe 26-13 in the Region 1-AAAA opener for both teams.

Harris hooked up with Green on a 35-yard second quarter strike to make it 20-7, then Tanner Stumpe booted a 33-yard field with 16 seconds left in the second quarter to make it 23-7.

“It’s about execution,” Green said. “We work hard on those things in practice every day, so when we get to the games, it should be second-nature.”

After the Patriots built a comfortable halftime lead, you got the feeling that Monroe (1-3, 0-1 Region 1-AAAA) wouldn’t make much of a comeback, but they did. However, the Tornadoes made too many mistakes, dropped too many passes and cost itself several chances to get back into the game.

“Those are things that can be fixed,” Monroe coach Charles Truitt said. “And we’re going to work on those. Westover got the momentum in the first half and they didn’t let up. You can’t spot a team points like that and then dig yourself a big hole.”

Westover’s Quintavioius Moran returned the opening second half kick 55 yards, setting up Stumpe’s second field goal, a 32-yarder to make it 26-7.

But Monroe did get a 1-yard run from Daryl Brown to cut the deficit in half midway through the third. However, that was as close as they would get.

The Tornadoes moved to Patriots’ 15 late in the third quarter only to fumble. Westover’s Brenten Winberly recovered the loose ball to cut down the threat.

Then late in the game with Monroe trying to claw back, Westover’s Julian Caldwell intercepted a Monroe pass at the Tornadoes 19 to preserve the win.

“We were focused on the three things we work on in practice — offense, defense and special teams,” Westover coach Octavia Jones said. “(Saturday) night was one of those nights where nothing seemed to go wrong in the first half. The second half, we got a little sloppy but played well enough to win the game.”

The game didn’t start well for the Patriots (2-2, 1-0), whose live-and-die passing attack turned the ball over early in the first quarter. Tim McCray tipped Harris’ pass attempt, then Deonte Young caught the deflected pass and returned it 61 yards and an early 7-0 lead after the extra point attempt.

But Westover responded with a Jaelon Benjamin 64-yard scamper to tie the game at 7, then Benjamin’s 22-yard interception return later in the quarter set up Shannon Saunders 11-yard touchdown run and a 13-7 lead.