By MATTHEW BROWN
Journal Sports Writer
In a tense battle for a semifinal spot in the GISA AAA football tournament, the Westfield Hornets survived numerous turnovers and penalties to win 10-7 against the Trinity Christian Lions of Sharpsburg Friday at Marvin Arrington Stadium.
There were indeed more turnovers and 15-yard fouls to discuss than offense, but Ronnie Jones’ Hornets never trailed on this cold evening and converted all the plays necessary on both sides to earn another game in the 2012 season. That game is this coming day after Thanksgiving Friday against the champion of Region 2-AAA, Heritage School in Newnan.
This Trinity Christian club – like Heritage based in Coweta County – two times did not score despite drives inside Westfield’s 10-yard-line. And the Lions had a field-goal kicker in Cody Houser who made a 25-yard PAT with room to spare but did not even get the chance to try for three.
Landon Beamon, the Hornet placekicker, did get his shot at a trey in the first half and made it from 29 yards away. Quarterback Evan Williams, for the 12th time this season, scored a rushing touchdown, this one on his team’s first second-half possession that put Westfield ahead 10-0.
The more telling numbers on the night were the nine penalties for Trinity-Sharpsburg for 90 yards and their two lost fumbles. The Hornets also lost two fumbles and two intercepted passes and was one five-yard flag shy of matching the penalty stats from the visiting team.
When it came to third-down conversions, Westfield found a way to keep important drives going, especially the one for Williams’ touchdown. In all, the Hornets made 14 first downs and earned each one of the 213 total yards.
With lineman Ty Forrester leading the way on the defensive front, Westfield gave up 149 total yards, 50 on the ground.
It was the first meeting in varsity football ever between these two schools, and right away Trinity-Sharpsburg received a break on a fumble recovered by Gavin Smith on the Hornet 36-yard-line. On 3rd-and-1, it was Forrester penetrating through the line to get to quarterback Connor Adams for fourth down.
Lion receivers had a tendency to make leaping catches, and Dee Snelling did just that for 15 yards and first down. On 2nd-and-6, Tom Tuggle stopped a run on the 8, and on third down Austin Jenkins corralled Adams for lost yards. Trinity-Sharpsburg bypassed the field goal try and failed to get the first.
On defense, the Lions sacked Williams to put Westfield in a punting situation, but they were called for an illegal block on the return. One play into the ensuing drive, Trinity-Sharpsburg coughed up the football, the Hornets recovering on the TCS 24 with 4:13 left in the first period.
Fullback Drew McCrory gained 15 yards and a first down on the 7. But the home team lost seven of those yards in two plays, and Jones sent out the field-goal unit. Beamon made the kick at 1:56 for 3-0.
Linebacker Bert Hiley was responsible for numerous Hornet stops, including a tackle-for-loss early in the next Lion series. Westfield took a punt on its 31 at the end of the quarter. It was third down at the start of the second when another fullback, Dustin Hall, rushed up the middle to the TCS 45. On 3rd-and-1, the football was in Halls hands again for first-down yardage at the 32. The drive stalled from there, and Beamon missed a long field-goal try.
Both Adams and his receivers went to the air on the next series. Snelling took a receiver screen with lots of yards after the catch – 19 in all – to the Lion 46. Jay Warner jumped twice to catch the ball, and his team was inside the Hornet 20.
Jenkins stuck Warner for a loss at the 20, but out of a timeout Westfield was called for illegal contact. That spotted the football on the 10, but was not a first down. Riley would knock down a pass for 3rd-and-3.
Again, Trinity-Sharpsburg did not send the field-goal unit out, turning the ball over on downs instead.
Though Williams ran two keepers to get his team out of the deep hole, Smith had his second fumble recovery on the half at the 35. A holding call negated a 20-yard gain from Adams inside the final minute of the half, and both Williams and Forrester laid solid hits to keep the shutout on the board at the break.
With the first second-half possession, Trinity-Sharpsburg was faced with 4th-and-1 at midfield. Going for it, the result was a dropped snap Hiley recovered right on the 50.
Two times the Hornet offense was faced with third down, and two times Hall had the call. First, he was on the Lion 38, and when needing seven the second time, he got 17 up the middle to the 18.
Williams, on the third third-down, ran a keeper for first down on the 8. The drive ran the clock down to 4:58, and that’s when Williams snuck in the two-yard touchdown. Beamon kicked Westfield to 10-0.
With Forrester recording a huge second-down sack, the Lions punted to the Hornet 10. Tuggle and Hall had 11- and 10-yard runs for first downs to end the third period. The fourth, though, started with disaster, a Trinity-Sharpsburg interception on 3rd-and-1 and return to the Hornet 8.
Snelling, going east-west, scored the touchdown (delay of game caused Houser to kick from 25 yards).
Westfield had good field position to answer thanks to a 15-yard facemask on the kickoff return. But on 3rd-and 14 at the TCS 45, Williams threw an interception … only to see the return man fumble back to the Hornets at the 32.
With its own personal foul problems, it was 4th-and-long at the 30. Reid Hudson and Stuart Smith worked the ‘hook-and-ladder’ play, and though Smith broke two tackles he was stopped at the 10.
Forrester forced a bad pass from his pressure, and Hiley stopped Snelling for fourth down at 3:50. Adams eluded more blitzing, and Snelling caught a tipped ball at the 49 at 3:12. Two 15-yard calls also aided Trinity-Sharpsburg up the field, but it went no further than the Hornet 37 thanks to both Forrester and Hall.