Westlake falls to Galena North Shore in overtime thriller

When it comes to State Championships, Westlake has historically faltered, and the story didn’t change this past weekend when the Chaparrals (14-2) squared off against Galena North Shore (13-3) at NRG Stadium in Houston. With a 14-21 loss to the Mustangs, Westlake drops to 1-7 all time in the title match, with the only win coming in 1996 when the Chaps were led by future NFL Hall-Of-Famer Drew Brees.

The first quarter of the championship match was scoreless, as Westlake was stopped once on fourth down and forced to punt on its other possessions. The game changed halfway through the second quarter when captain senior Kylen Granson darted in on a 16-yard touchdown run, scoring on the sole offensive touchdown all game for the Chaps.

Special teams played an integral part in the game, as a combined total of three field goals and punts were blocked. The lone blocked punt led to a 41-yard fumble return by sophomore Matthew Sams for a Chaps’ touchdown, Westlake’s second score of the night, tying the game at 14. But the most important special teams play came with 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter. After marching down the field in two minutes, Westlake was just seconds away from winning its second championship. But as senior Ryan Rees lined up for the 32-yard field goal, North Shore’s K’Lavon Chaisson busted through the line to partially block the attempt. Chaisson went on to win the game’s defensive MVP award.  

The size and physicality North Shore brought to the table were too much for the Chaps, as the Mustangs were able to bottle up quarterback junior Sam Ehlinger, holding him to zero touchdowns for the first time all season. The defense compared similarly to that of Lake Travis, the only other team to defeat Westlake this season. But it wasn’t only the defense that smothered the Chaps, as the North Shore offense was able to consistently run the ball through Westlake.

“Our goal coming was to force them into passing situations, since that was their weakness,” senior Matt Gibson said. “When we were able to do that, we held them to around 50 yards and an interception. Sadly, we couldn’t do it enough.”

After beating national powerhouse Allen High School, Westlake came out as the clear favorite over North Shore. And while last week’s historic win over the Eagles boosted the confidence of the Chaps, it might have made them a little over confident.

“We didn’t really view losing as a possibility,” captain senior Mack Kelley said. “We really thought that if we beat Allen, then we could beat anyone in the state. We didn’t respect our opponent as much as we should have.”

Despite the tough loss, there was some good that came to the team before the game. Five Westlake players were placed on the Texas 6A All-State team. Seniors Reed Klubnik, Elias Garcia and Mack were all named honorable mentions. Sam and Senior Brycen Foreman were named to the All-State First Team.

“My friend was the first to tell me, and I thought he was just messing with me,” Brycen said. “But I’m really thankful to be honored with such a prestigious award in the hardest division of the hardest state for football.”

The awards didn’t stop there for Sam, who was also awarded 6A Offensive Player of the Year, as well as Texas High School Football’s Player of the Year by the Associated Press, becoming the first ever junior to win the award.

Westlake now enters a long off-season, where they’ll see some massive district realignment, one that will likely see long-time rival Austin High drop to division 5A.
“It will be interesting to see how the districts come out for next season,” Brycen said. “With the rumors floating around, it sounds like it’ll get harder with the additions of Vandergrift and Cedar Park. But with a player like Sam Ehlinger returning and coach [Todd] Dodge starting to find his groove, I think this program has a bright future for next year and years to come.”