Westside pulls away from Howard for season-opening win
Howard did all it could to stay in position to even the score Friday at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex against Westside, being a touchdown drive away from tying the game going into the early stages of the fourth quarter.
But missed opportunities and athletic plays throughout the offense for the Seminoles enabled Westside to rally from a slim deficit and put the game away in the final quarter, winning 24-7.
Howard (0-1) led 7-6 after each team exchanged a pair of early scoring drives before Westside quarterback Victor Dixon Jr. connected on his second touchdown of more than 20 yards in a first half for a 14-7 lead at the break.
The Huskies ate up a sizeable chunk of time in third quarter, steadily driving downfield inside the Westside 25-yard line only to have the chance fizzle out when a tipped pass was intercepted and returned deep into Howard territory by De’marus Foston. The play set up a 27-yard William Hoang field goal, making it a two-score game with a 17-7 lead.
Four who mattered
Dixon Jr: Westside’s new signal-caller was more than solid in his debut. He made key throws when he had to and didn’t turn the ball over. For the night, he was 12-of-19 for 208 yards and touchdowns of 25 and 26 yards to Landon Emery and Jaylon Barden and a third from 13 yards to Brenden Anderson.
Lakelvin Clark: His 70-yard rushing yards helped keep the Howard defense honest.
Omar Jones: He may not have had a touchdown, but he was Westside’s most consistent pass-catching threat with 94 yards on five receptions.
Malik James: Howard had early success running the ball and sustained kept itself in the game in as the game went on, and the hard running of James was a big reason why with 108 yards on 21 carries.
Trailing 14-7 late in the third quarter, Howard faced a fourth down and a chance to extend a drive that could have tied the game. Those hopes vanished when quarterback Bud Harris had his pass deflected before it was picked off by Foston. The play set up a Seminoles field goal, making the game a two-score affair.
Answering the bell: If there’s one huge positive for Howard despite the loss, it’s the way in that it rallied early on. After giving up a touchdown to Westside on its first drive of the game, the Huskies stayed calm, putting together a sustained drive of their own as they leaned on, as expected, their running game. That resolve is something that should serve Howard well as the season goes on.
Another QB option: Dixon may be Westside’s primary quarterback, but the Seminoles also appear to be giving opposing teams something to think about with Tyshaun Freeman. He lined up under center multiple times, getting chunks of yards by way of designed running plays. He rushed for 51 yards on 10 attempts.
They said it
Westside head coach Spoon Risper on the win: “We knew what type of game it would be. Coach (Barney) Hester, he’s a winning coach for a reason. He has an excellent staff, the kids are buying into what they are doing, and they have an excellent football team. We knew it was going to be a close game, and we kind of pulled away in the end.”
Risper on Dixon’s play: “We’re very proud of Victor. He protected the ball, managed the game like we wanted him to and didn’t turn it over. That’s all we ask of him. We tried to mix it up with what we were doing on offense.”
Risper on having former Westside head coach Robert Davis on the sidelines before the game and part of the pre-game coin toss for the opening of the Seminoles’ 20th season of varsity football: “There was no way we were going to play this game without Coach Davis here. This is 20 years. There’s a lot of pride and tradition. I promised him when I took this job that I would never let this program go down. That’s a lot of pressure that I put on myself, but I don’t mind pressure, that’s who I am.”
Hester on Howard’s play: “We felt good. We had some opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. The fumble early when we were driving after we had that first touchdown, we lost that momentum, and then we had some opportunities that we weren’t able to do anything with and then we lost our fullback in the second half, and that took away some things that we wanted to do.”
Hester on the Huskies going forward: “I feel real good about our kids, but we can play better. These kids get after it every day at practice, I feel good about our kids.”
Howard plays Mount de Sales on Aug. 26 at Mercer, while Westside plays Southwest on Friday.