AUSTIN- An old district rivalry that’s taken on a non-district flavor reignites Friday when Bowie and Westlake meet at 7:30 p.m. at Chaparral Stadium in Austin. Bowie and Westlake started playing each other when Bowie opened in 1988 and have played every year since except for a break in 1992-93.
Westlake owns a 23-4 advantage in the series, but Bowie has won four of the last 10 since notching its first win in 2007 and managed back-to-back victories in 2013-14. The two schools played in the same district from 1994-2015 before splitting up in the last realignment.
“The Westlake game is special for the Bowie community,” said 2001 Bowie alum and 6ATexasFootball owner Alan Galbreath. “There’s more excitement all week. More fans show up to the games. It’s an electric atmosphere prior to kickoff, especially if Bowie has a good squad that year. Now, it’s not as if Bowie practices for just this game, and it’s their Super Bowl. They prepare the same as every other game, but this one just means a little more. Westlake has such a great history, and not just against Bowie, so it feels really good to get a win against them. Not quite the feeling of a playoff win, but it’s special.”
Westlake and Bowie come into this game with matching 3-0 records. It’s the second time in three years both teams enter the contest undefeated. Westlake opened the season with a hard-fought win against College Station 35-28, then laid down a pair of smackdowns against Niceville (Fla.) and Pflugerville by a combined score of 118-10. Bowie also has a dominating victory against Pflugerville (44-12), and have notched wins versus LBJ (24-10) and Vista Ridge (52-31) the last two weeks.
“We still have a lot of stuff to get cleaned up but obviously when you’re 3-0, we’ll take that,” said Bowie coach Jeff Ables. “We know that we got to get some things taken care of, but the thing we like is that our effort has been really good, kids are playing hard, playing together so when you’re doing that, you can hopefully get those mistakes correct.”
Bowie lost senior quarterback Matthew Wheeler before the season to a quad injury, and he still won’t be ready by Friday. But sophomore Trinidad Sanders has stepped up and completed 27-of-46 passes for 550 yards and five touchdowns to just one interception while rushing for 220 yards and three scores on 34 carries.
“That’s a lot for a sophomore to take on, but he’s a good athlete and he’s a competitor,” Ables said. “Until you get out there in varsity competition, you never know how they’re going to react. There’s been times when he’s had some mental lapses, but he’s a good enough athlete to overcome that.”
Sanders is helped by a pair of play-making receivers who can explode at any moment. Senior Aizayah Santiago has 12 receptions for 300 yards (25 yards per catch) and two touchdowns while junior Elijah Higgins has hauled in eight passes for 182 yards (22.8 ypc) and two scores.
“They’re a very talented duo. Santiago was their No. 1 guy last year, and he’s back, and Higgins, of course, was a sophomore last year. He’s a very impressive young player,” said Westlake coach Todd Dodge. “Both of them are very talented, and yes they do concern me, absolutely.”
Dodge may be known for his prowess in coaching quarterbacks, but when he has a great running back he’s not afraid to ride him. That’s been the case with senior tail back Nakia Watson, who’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of his three starts with 557 yards and nine touchdowns on 58 carries (9.6 yards per rush).
“(Watson) is fast and can run you over. He’ll make a choice either to run you over or juke you and go 80 yards,” Ables said. “(They’re) just good up front. They hold you like a dog on the offensive line. They’ll tackle you, creating bigger holes for (Watson) to run through.”
Ables thinks very highly of Westlake’s defense. He mentioned senior defensive end Braden Cassity (14 tackles, 1 sack), junior defensive lineman David Neil (22 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT), senior linebacker David Dickerson (23 tackles, 1 TFL) and senior safety Connor Kelley (12 tackles, 1 INT) as guys that stand out and give the Chaps a well-rounded unit on all three levels.
“We have been very, very consistent (on defense),” Dodge said. “It’s not always a given that the guys who are returning starters from the year before are going to play really well early, but we’re getting great play out of guys who we ought to… That’s a challenge that we’ve given to those players and they’re stepping up.”
Bowie’s defense ain’t too shabby, either. The Bulldogs have registered 28 tackles for a loss, led by senior defensive back Josh Smythe-Macauly’s five. He also has a team-high 25 tackles and headlines a ball-hawking secondary that includes senior Pierce Withers (5 pass break-ups), senior Tony Miller (18 tackles, 3 TFL) and junior Terance Durst (18 tackles, 2 PBUs, 2 INTs). Seniors Brennan Rogers (18 tackles) and Zach Flournoy (12 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT) lead the linebacking corps and junior M’Elijah Wesley (11 tackles, 4 TFL) anchors the defensive line.
Photo via Brian Ullestad, TexasHSFootball.com
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