AUSTIN – The streak is over, the demons have been exorcised, and it all ended on a dramatic spot in the final minute. Lake Travis junior wide receiver Garrett Wilson caught a fourth down pass in Westlake territory and reached for the first down marker. After a measurement determined the ball was short, Westlake’s sideline went nuts.
That, combined with a strong running game and stout defensive performance, allowed Westlake to end it’s 10-game losing skid to rival Lake Travis in a 21-14 win at Chaparral Stadium on Friday night in Austin.
“I was real nervous (on that last ball spot). My hands started shaking. I just started praying. I was like, please, please don’t let them get the first down,” said Westlake senior running back Nakia Watson. “(I was) being asked everyday ‘are y’all going to win? Are y’all going to win?’ It kind of drives you nuts… You get tired of hearing it… (The locker room this week was) crazy. We were all excited about it. We knew if we came out hard and played that we were going to come out on top… It felt great (to win).”
The Chaps ran more than twice as much as they passed and produced 270 yards on 44 carries (6.1 per attempt). Watson scored two touchdowns and gained 127 yards on 29 totes. Junior quarterback Taylor Anderson scrambled for 138 yards and a score on 14 carries.
The defense held Lake Travis to just five first downs and forced six three & outs. Outside of three deep pass plays, the Cavaliers managed just 55 yards on 42 snaps.
“Our kids defensively absolutely played phenomenal,” said Westlake coach Todd Dodge. “We talked to them all week long that (Lake Travis) was going to get some big plays. They always do. They’ve got too many fine athletes not to. But we held them to a minimum of those explosive plays and got a lot of pressure on the quarterback with a three and four-man rush. In the past, we just blitzed the hell out of them and it didn’t work. Today, we played a lot of coverage and got a lot of pressure up front with a minimum rush.”
Westlake trailed 14-7 going into the break despite picking up 11 more first downs than Lake Travis (13-2) in the first 24 minutes. The defense came out of the locker room on fire and made the Cavaliers go three and out on all three of their third quarter possessions.
Westlake tied the game with with 7:31 left in the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown run by Anderson, who made a great decision on the zone-read and juked a defender out of his shoes at the 11 for the score. Anderson broke a 46-yard run in the fourth quarter which set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Watson with 3:39 left to give Westlake the lead.
“We have the best one-two punch in quarterback-running back than we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Dodge said. “Sam (Ehlinger), his first two years, he was our breadwinner in the rushing game, and we were’t that good at running back. Last year, him and Nakia played one game together. Now, if you key on our running back, we got a guy that can make it hurt.”
The Chaps marched down the field on their opening drive with a frenetic pace. Watson capped the 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a 12-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the game.
Lake Travis quarterback Matthew Baldwin started off with five straight incompletions, but three of those were drops. His first completion was a 74-yard bomb to Wilson that tied the game 7-7 with 49 seconds left in the opening period. Baldwin finished the game with 240 yards on 14-of-28 passing. He ran for a three-yard score with 6:52 left in the second quarter to give Lake Travis its halftime edge.
On top of the scoring pass to Wilson, he had a 57-yard completion to senior tight end Kyle Wakefield and 58-yard toss to sophomore wide receiver Hudson Card. But he also a had a costly interception in the fourth quarter when he overthrew a ball that was picked off by Westlake senior Matthew Sams with 7:10 to go at the Chaps’ 14-yard line.
“I just feel a lot of absolute joy and happiness for these kids,” Dodge said. “I told them this week that I was in a similar situation growing up. I lived in a town Port Arthur (and played for the) Yellowjackets. We got beat nine years in a row by the Port Neches-Groves Indians. My senior year, we finally got the monkey off (our backs).”
“I remember our coaches talking to us that year about these two teams have never played. My message this week was ‘these two teams have never played before.’ They’re not 21-point favorites just because they’ve won 10 years in a row. In the past, sometimes our kids have played so tight, that we weren’t able to really function, and tonight we just came out and let loose and played hard.”
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