BY MIKE URSERY
Fayette Falcons junior defensive back Drew Whitley came up with two key interceptions late to give the Fayette Falcons (4-1, 3-1 Lewis and Clark) a 38-29 upset victory over the No. 8 Westran Hornets (4-1, 3-1 Lewis and Clark) on Sept. 15 at Thomas S. Davis Memorial Field.
With the score 38-29, Whitley made an interception with less than three minutes to play, and a second one with under a minute left, to seal the win for the Falcons.
“It was intimidating, because the receivers were a lot bigger than me,” Whitley said. “I had to make sure I could out-jump them, and get to the ball before they could, especially at the goal line. It was intimidating try to play press coverage on a receiver that was bigger than me.”
The Westran passing attack was effective in the first half. Junior quarterback Alex Young threw three touchdown passes to give his team a 21-20 lead at halftime.
The second half was much different. Fayette held Westran to only eight points, and led for almost the entire half.
“We just had to start focusing a little bit,” head coach Roger VanDeZande said. “We made a couple of adjustments on who was covering who in the secondary. We played a little bit more of our ‘six DB (defensive back)’ package.’”
Westran took advantage of an early mistake by Fayette. The Falcons received the opening kickoff, and were able to move the ball, until a fumble by Whitley gave the ball to the Hornets.
The Hornet offense went to work. Westran moved the ball down the field. A pass interference by Fayette gave Westran a first down at the Falcons 36-yard line.
On the next play, Young found senior Chris Evans for a 33-yard pass, moving the ball inside the 10-yard line to the 6. Then, the offense began to move backward, instead of forward.
From the 6-yard line, Young was sacked by Fayette junior Kolby Skaggs for a 10-yard loss. A false start moved the ball back five yards to the 21, and a 10-yard sack by junior Isaiah Estes moved the ball back to the 31.
On 4th-and-goal, Westran opted to go for the touchdown. Young threw a 31-yard pass to senior Avery Hammonds for a score. Westran led 7-0 with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
Fayette responded quickly, in 19 seconds, to be exact.
With the ball at the Fayette 30, senior running back Brennen Hudson ran the ball up the middle. He moved past Westran’s front, then past the secondary. He was in a foot race towards the end zone with two defenders.
Hudson outran both of them, scoring on a 70-yard run. The score was 7-6 with 3:56 left in the opening quarter.
Despite the quick turn of events, Westran wasn’t phased. They drove down the field again, mostly by way of their running game.
Westran went 70 yards in eight plays. They scored on a questionable completion by senior Chris Evans in the back of the end zone.
Evans got his hands on the ball while in the air, but bobbled it as he came down. The officials signalled that he caught the ball before going out of bounds. Westran extended their lead to 14-6, and that was the score at the end of the first quarter.
The Falcons scored on their next drive, and with another big play.
The drive started at the Fayette 31. The Falcon offense seemed to move back and forth, but were still able to move the ball down the field.
Junior running back Isaiah Estes started the drive with a 6-yard run to the 37. Brennen Hudson followed with a 3-yard loss at the 34.
Estes then made a 12-yard to the Fayette 46. Junior quarterback Ross Hudson followed with an 18-yard scramble across midfield to the Westran 36.
The drive ended with Hudson finding senior receiver Nick Lembke for a 37-yard touchdown.
Lembke made the catch in open space on the left side. He maneuvered past two defenders and had a clear path to the end zone.
“I just ran as fast as I could, and used what I learned in practice to break those tackles,” Lembke said. “I had Kolby (Skaggs) blocking for me. I trusted him.”
Lembke’s touchdown and the two-point conversion tied the game 14-14 with 8:04 left in the first half.
The ensuing kickoff was a short one, and allowed the Hornets to begin from their own 47-yard line.
The Falcons held Westran to a three-and-out and forced a punt, that was downed inside the Fayette 5-yard line at the 4.
Estes picked up 63 yards on only three carries during the drive. With the ball at the Fayette 16, Estes ran up the middle. He shook off a tackle in the secondary, and broke loose for a 57-yard run. He was finally brought down at the Westran 27-yard line.
Ross Hudson completed a pass to senior Chavez Kent for 12 yards, and Estes carried the ball twice for four more yards, moving the ball to the 8.
Brennen Hudson finished the 7-play scoring drive with an 8-yard touchdown run. It was his second of the game, giving the Falcons a 20-14 lead with 3:25 to go in the half.
Hudson finished the game with 17 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Another short kickoff gave Westran favorable field position, at their own 48-yard line.
Westran junior quarterback Alex Young was responsible for all of the Hornets’ yards on their last scoring drive before the half.
Young carried the ball four times for 28 yards. He finished with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Evans.
Evans had five catches for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
Westran led 21-20 at halftime.
The Hornets received the second-half kickoff. They moved the ball into Fayette territory, but turned the ball over on downs at the 28.
Four different players carried the ball after the Falcons took over at their own 28.
Estes picked up eight yards on two of the first three plays. Brennen Hudson picked up eight yards on his first two carries of the drive.
Fayette was faced with 4th-and-3 at their own 49. Estes took the carry and ran up the middle for seven yards, converting on fourth down.
The Falcons were faced with another fourth down, needing one yard from the Westran 23. Estes was again given the ball. This time, he ran until he crossed the goal line. His touchdown put Fayette ahead 26-21 with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter.
Estes rushed for 232 yards on 23 carries with three touchdowns.
Estes scored his second touchdown early in the fourth quarter. This time, it was a 49-yard run. He ran up the middle, shook off one defender, and ran untouched the rest of the way for the score.
“The (offensive) line made a lot of adjustments from last week to this week,” Estes said. “I knew that if I could get past the secondary, I would be good.”
Estes said that the offensive line has played well this season, but that he thinks they can continue to play even better as the season goes on.
His second touchdown made the score 32-21.
Westran marched down the field on their next possession. They had help from a personal foul. Fayette was flagged for a horse collar tackle, moving the ball from the Fayette 48 to the 33.
The drive started at the Westran 34. Young picked up 18 yards on the first play, then the flag came out.
Junior Kaden Massey was tabbed for three carries, moving the ball to the Fayette 19.
Young found Evans in the end zone one more time. The two connected for a 19-yard touchdown. Westran went for two points and converted.
Fayette led 32-29 with eight minutes left in the game.
The Falcon offense picked right back up where they left off, running the ball effectively.
Fayette started from their own 47. They set out to score again, and take time off the clock.
The Falcons were successful at both objectives. They used up more than three minutes on a six-play scoring drive.
Estes got it started with a 26-yard run, moving the ball to the Westran 27. Brennen Hudson followed with a 19-yard run, setting up 1st-and-goal at the 8-yard line.
Brennen Hudson crossed the goal line later on a 5-yard run for what would have been his third touchdown, but a holding penalty called at the 1-yard line moved the ball back to the 11. Estes finished the scoring drive with his third touchdown, a 9-yard run up the middle.
The Falcons led 38-29 with 4:54 left to play in the game. The undefeated Hornets found themselves down by two scores, with less than five minutes to close the margin.
Westran started from their own 35. A holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 23.
Young completed a 13-yard pass to senior Blake Massey on 2nd-and-22 to make up the yards lost on the holding penalty.
Young threw two more passes, that fell incomplete. The Hornets turned the ball over at their own 36 with 3:46 left to play.
The Falcons took over, but weren’t able to gain much ground or take much time off the clock.
A holding penalty moved the ball back to the 40. The farthest Fayette could move the ball was to the 31. Ross Hudson ran the ball on a quarterback keeper, and was forced out of bounds five yards short of the first down marker.
Westran took over with less than three minutes to play. Young threw two passes that fell incomplete. He threw a third pass that was intercepted by Whitley at the Fayette 49. Whitley immediately took a knee, ending the play.
“I didn’t want to risk the chance of fumbling,” Whitley said. “I just wanted the offense to come on and run the clock out.”
The offense didn’t run the clock out. In fact, they were only able to run four plays, turning the ball over on downs at the Westran 49.
The Hornets took over from there. Young completed a 30-yard pass to the Fayette 22. Westran had used all three of their timeouts and had no way to stop the clock.
Young threw another pass, and Whitley came up with another pick. He came down in the end zone, and the officials ruled that they play ended in a touchback.
“He’s back there to do that very thing,” VanDeZande said about Whitley playing in the secondary. “He’s tall and he can get up. He has a great vertical. He understands the passing game. He came through exactly like we had hoped he would. It was a lot of fun for him.”
Fayette lined up in a victory formation at their own 20. Hudson took the snap and took a knee. The clock ran out, and Fayette walked off the field with a win over Westran for the second straight year.
The Falcons go back on the road, to Paris, Missouri, for a game against the Paris Coyotes (2-3, 2-3 Lewis and Clark). Paris defeated 28-20 last season, one week after the Falcons upset Westran.
The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.