Westlake, H-town meet in 3A South title for third time in four years
By AJ MASON
They’ve played well through the regular season and have even qualified for the playoffs, each winning semifinal matchups last Friday.
Now, a state tournament berth is on the line as top-seeded Huntingtown (10-1 overall) will host second-seeded Westlake (8-3) again for the Class 3A South Region championship at 7 tonight.
The two teams will meet in the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years, with Huntingtown defeating Westlake in the last four postseason meetings, three of those coming in the regional finals.
The last time Westlake beat Huntingtown in the 2007 semifinals, 35-0. In 2009 and 2011, the Hurricanes earned 46-0 and 32-7 wins for the regional crowns. On the road in 2010, the Hurricanes cruised to a 35-14 victory in the semifinals en route to a regional title. In the last three playoff matchups, Huntingtown has outscored the Wolverines 113-21 combined.
Despite the postseason dominance by Huntingtown in the last few years, Westlake owns a 14-7 road victory over Huntingtown in the regular season on Oct. 19.
“Each year is different, we are 0-1 versus Westlake this year,” said Huntingtown head coach Brendan Galligan, whose team defeated fourth-seeded Friendly of Prince George’s County last Friday, 49-12. “It was 14-7 the last time we played them and they dominated both sides of the ball. So we are looking to make adjustments this time and focus on 2012.
“We are going with the same game plan. We know Huntingtown is a disciplined team and they are going to make adjustments,” Westlake head coach Marlon Curtis said. “Playing sound defense is an important key and it’s whoever makes game-time adjustment the best will pull it out.”
After recording 48 takeaways in 2011, the Huntingtown defense this season has 27 so far. The Hurricanes forced seven Friendly turnovers last week and turned them into 35 points.
“Defensively, we did well last week and forced a lot of turnovers,” Gilligan said. “Special teams and defense are often overlooked, but the last several weeks we’ve focused on that aspect.”
The Hurricanes are averaging 33.6 points and 275.3 yards per game, thanks in large part to Arnez Bowens, who has gained 975 yards this season and has scored 11 touchdowns, three of them coming in last Friday’s contest. Senior quarterback Zach Piazza has thrown for 1,089 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes’ air attack.
“We want to focus in all three phases of the game, and it’s all about eliminating the big plays,” Galligan said. “Westlake has a ton of athletes and they speed, so it’s all about how we come out.”
Westlake qualified for the playoffs in 14 out of the last 15 seasons, defeated third-seeded Potomac of Prince George’s County last Friday, 41-30. The Wolverines are led by senior Desmond Holley, who had a pivotal 73-yard interception return for a touchdown to go with rushing scores of six, 25 and 40 to help accumulate 138 yards on the ground.
Holley also had three sacks to help lead a Westlake defense that has recorded five shutouts and offensively has put up 40 or more points in five contests this season.
During the regular season contest with Huntingtown, Westlake forced four Hurricanes turnovers, as senior linebacker Marquel Lee and Dashaun Cummings each had fumble recoveries. Senior Bruce Tyler and junior Cameron Kerley also each intercepted a Piazza pass.
“You can’t focus on one area of Huntingtown because that’s where they can beat you,” Curtis said. “We want to just be aggressive at the line of scrimmage and make smart plays. It’s exciting to advance to the regional final. This has been an expectation of our program to make, to go deep in the playoffs and have a chance to play for a state championship.”
Huntingtown will be looking to even the score with Westlake with a state tournament berth up for grabs.
“We made a lot of mistakes in that game, we had a few distractions,” Galligan said. “Everything went wrong that first game. We couldn't get off the field defensively, we couldn't move the ball offensively and special teams couldn't make any big plays for us. That game was good for us because it showed we had a lot of work to do and things we needed to fix and we'll see if we got it fixed.”