Second half surge propels Westlake past Crowley
WESTLAKE – Talk about a tale of two halves.
The Crowley Gents went toe-to-toe with Westlake in the first half of the two team’s district and regular season finale Friday at Rams Stadium, outgaining the Rams in total yardage (173-166), first downs (11-10) and points, (22-17).
The Rams, fighting for a playoff spot, forced three turnovers and scored 36 unanswered points in a mind-numbing second half to shock the Gents, 53-21.
“We really have to look at ourselves in the mirror,” said CHS coach Tommy Tate, whose squad fell to 4-5 on the season finished league play at 2-3. “We were winning this thing at halftime. I thought we played a very competitive half and played well on both sides of the football.
“The second half, we just didn’t come out. You have to give Westlake a lot of credit. They made all the plays and we just didn’t have a lot of gas left in the tank in the second half.”
Westlake took a 25-22 lead early in the third quarter when Ryan Feagin connected with Handon Ettiene on a 5-yard touchdown pass and then hit Justin Nordberg on the two-point conversion.
From there, the Rams scored on their next four possessions.
“Westlake took it to us and we didn’t have a lot of fight left in us in the second half, for whatever reason,” said Tate. “It got out of hand in the second half early and we couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Crowley’s offense, which seemed to be clicking in the first half, came to a screeching halt in the second half. The Gents ran just 10 plays in the final 24 minutes and gained a whopping total of five yards.
Of those 10 plays, quarterback Andre Mills carried three times for minus three yards and completed one of six pass attempts to Caleb Cormier for four yards. LSU commitment Davante Bourque had just one carry in the final two frames for four yards.
“Their offense got a lot of snaps and we didn’t get many,” said Tate. “We didn’t get many offensive snaps at all. We just didn’t come out with a lot of energy in the second half.”
The major contributing factor in Crowley’s lack of snaps in the second half was turnovers.
Mills fumbled on the Gents’ first play of their second series of the half and following a WHS touchdown, Kaleb Cormier mishandled a squib kick that the Rams recovered in CHS territory. The third turnover occurred on the Gents’ second to last posesion of the game when Mills was intercepted by Westlake’s Nic Latour.
“Some of our turnovers were unforced and we’ve got eliminate those things to give ourselves a chance,” said Tate. “Especially against a team that’s a ball control team like Westlake where they’re going to keep some possessions and run some clock. Every possession is big for us and we can’t turn the ball over like that.”
Defensively, the Gents also struggled throughout the contest, especially in the second half.
The unit gave up a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive to start the second half and a 10-play, 59-yard drive followed that and also resulted in a touchdown.
Westlake took just five plays to drive 47 yards for a score on its third series and then a two-play, 35-yard score followed. The Rams’ final touchdown came on a 10-play drive that amassed 81 yards.
For the most part, the Rams did most of their damage on the ground. Devin Eaglin racked up 163 of Westlake’s 382 rushing yards on 32 carries. He scored three times. Justin Nordberg followed with 142 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.
“You have to hand it to their backs,” said Tate. “They’re are really good and they ran hard.”
Crowley’s offense did all of its damage in the first half.
The Gents mounted a 53-yard drive on the opening series of the game that was capped by Bourque’s 5-yard touchdown run. Danny Malbrough punched it in on the two-point conversion to put Crowley up 8-0.
Crowley’s defense then came to life, holding Westlake out on a goal line stand to give the Gents the ball at their own 1-yard line.
That momentum swing didn’t last long, however.
The Gents got the ball out to the 10 on two plays, but on third down, a high snap sent the ball into the end zone. Mills recovered but he was sacked for a safety to cut the lead to 8-2.
Westlake ended up with great field position after a short kick by the Gents and started their next series at the CHS 38. Feagin hit Nordberg on a 16-yard pass on the first play and then connected with Eaglin for a 22-yard touchdown to give the Rams a 9-8 advantage.
Crowley answered though.
Starting at their own 39, the Gents racked up 10 yards on two runs and added 12 more on a pass to Cormier. After back-to-back run plays resulted in negative yardage, Mills hit Chanz Moore streaking across the middle for a 42-yard touchdown that put Crowley up 14-9.
Westlake also struck with a big pass on their ensuing possession when Feagin found Jacory Washington in the end zone on a 20-yard scoring strike to give the Rams a 17-14 advantage.
Crowley got one final chance before the half when Feagin went to Washington again but was intercepted by CHS’ Cade Abshire.
The Gents took over at their own 48 with three minutes remaining and drove down the field, converting on a fourth-and-six with a 7-yard pass to Cormier. Two plays later, Bourque hit paydirt from one yard out. Malbrough punched in the two-point conversion to give the Gents a 22-17 lead heading into the half.
Crowley finished the night with 178 total yards of offense with 99 yards coming on the ground. Bourque led the way with 78 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries while Mills had 14 carries for 16 yards. Malbrough picked up five yards on two carries.
Mills also completed six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“Westlake did some things defensively that gave us some problems but in the first half, we moved the football,” said Tate. “The second half, we just turned it over too many times.”
As disappointing as the loss was, the Gents must have a short memory and put it behind them, said Tate. The Gents now have to begin preparations for the playoffs, which begin next week. The LHSAA offical playoff brackets will be released this afternoon.
“We will find out who we play on Sunday and we’ll see if we have a little fight, a little play left in us.”