Varsity football marches over Smithson Valley in Area playoff round

It was a converted fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter that decided the fate of the Area Championship. With Smithson Valley’s offense threatening all night, Westlake head coach Todd Dodge took the risk up 38-31 and in possession of the ball with just less than five minutes left in the game.

“I did not want to give the ball back to them,” Dodge said. “There was no doubt in my mind. We had to keep moving the ball. We have a 230-pound running back and a big offensive line, so I [trusted Nakia] to get a yard, and that’s what he did.”

From there, the Chaps exploded, scoring two more late touchdowns to finish off the Smithson Valley Rangers, one of which was a pick-six by cornerback sophomore Sage Luther. The game finished 51-31, and Westlake advanced off the back of running back senior Nakia Watson’s 192 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” linebacker senior David Dickerson said. “We will come up with a good game plan [regardless of the opponent]. We’re going to practice hard next week, and we will be ready.”

The Chaps executed their gameplan in the second half nearly perfectly, taking long stretches of time on offensive drives and forcing the Smithson Valley offense into uncomfortable situations.

With 1:48 left in the third, Westlake added on 10 quick points courtesy of a 1-yard touchdown run by Watson and a 28-yard field goal by kicker junior Gabriel Lozano. With dwindling time and an increasing Westlake lead, the Rangers tried to force the ball down the field and capitalized with a hectic scramble by quarterback junior Levi Williams that led to a 15-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to seven.

But Westlake shaved some time off the clock with a lengthy drive, and Watson gave Westlake a 14-point lead with a 1-yard touchdown run straight up the gut.

“I think [this game] had two teams that absolutely respected each other,” Dodge said. “[We] knew that it was going to be a four-quarter deal. Fortunately for us, midway through the fourth quarter, we were able to really separate from them, but we have a lot of respect for Smithson Valley.”

Taylor Anderson put up four touchdowns, 99 rushing yards and 211 passing yards with a 72.4 completion percentage. The leading receiver for the Chaps was junior Penny Baker totaling 80 yards on eight receptions and one touchdown. For the Rangers, Levi finished with a 50 percent completion rate, 224 passing yards and two touchdowns.

The Chaps will face the Vela Sabercats 7:30 p.m., Friday Dec. 1 at Wildcat Stadium in Portland, Texas in the Regional semifinals.

“I’m gonna tell [the players] when we’re in the locker room [the old saying] ‘Katy bar the door,’” Dodge said. “We’re going after it. There is nothing else left to play for except the State Championship.”