Westlake defense shines, has “statement game” in home opener win over Judson

Julianna Wolff
Chaps celebrate a touchdown

Coming off a Week 1 win in which they gave up 21 unanswered points in the second half to Ridge Point, the goal for the Westlake varsity football team all week was to leave nothing to chance in their home opener Friday night. 

“The whole week we were focused on ‘killing the will,’ making sure they have no momentum at all,” defensive lineman junior Cullen Devine said about the Chaps’ preparation. “Letting a good team like that come back will get you further down the road.”

The Westlake defense put in their most convincing performance since last season, returning home to Chaparral Stadium and delivering a 47-0 crushing of the Judson Rockets in the Chaps’ home opener. 

Westlake’s special teams unit set the tone early. The Rockets received the ball first to open the game, but it was a different Judson that came away with the ball. The Rockets fumbled on the return, and defensive back senior Judson Crockett pounced on the loose ball to set the Chaps up in opposing territory early. 

“We’re always committed to winning the kicking game,” Crockett said. “We came out fast. We knew what they were doing, and we schemed it out right. It showed [Thursday], even with the J.V. game, they were vulnerable on kickoffs, so we made the most of it.” 

The Chaps made the most of their field positioning, getting the scoring started with a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback senior Paxton Land to wide receiver junior Cal Livengood. 

In the second quarter, Land found running back senior Jack Kayser alone in the end zone for an 18-yard score, and kicker senior Spencer Barnett knocked in a 37-yard field goal before halftime. While up 17-0 at the break, the Chaps still struggled to pull away. Judson’s defense stood strong, keeping the Rockets competitive at half. 

Quarterback senior Paxton Land receives the ball from offensive lineman junior Bennett Wilkin. (Julianna Wolff)

Nonetheless, Westlake’s defense wasn’t making it any easier for Judson to get things going. The Chaps invaded the Rockets’ backfield nearly every snap, forcing errant throws, failed fourth down conversions and several tackles for loss. 

“They were sticking in it,” Devine said. “We just had to make sure that offense, defense and special teams would kick them while they were down.”

Needing a boost in the offense, the Chaps experimented, putting quarterback sophomore Rees Wise under center in the second half.

“I felt ready, but had beginner jitters,” Wise said. “I didn’t have much time to prepare because Coach Rodgers told me [I was going in] the drive before I went in the game.”

Despite some initial butterflies, it didn’t take long for Wise to get going. He opened his varsity account with a 17-yard throw to wide receiver junior Brody Wilhelm, who made a juggling catch down the sideline and tumbled into the end zone, adding another six points to Westlake’s tally. 

“It felt great to get on the board,” Wise said. “[Wilhelm] made a great play.”

The sophomore later found Kayser for a 16-yard touchdown pass and ran one himself from 22 yards out. In his first action with the varsity squad, Wise completed six passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns, and added another 26 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Chaps quickly took a 41-0 lead, scoring 24 points with Wise in control of the offense. 

Wise wasn’t the only sophomore to shine for the Chaps, as running back sophomore Sebastian Henault scored a short touchdown run at the end of the game, and defensive back sophomore Thompson Bennett snagged his first varsity interception for Westlake. Their efforts helped the Chaps finish off a 47-0 win, looking convincing on both sides of the ball. 

“I think last week we just got gassed out,” Bennett said. “We’re just getting started. This week we really put the pedal to the metal and hit Judson with everything we got.” 

While the Westlake offense took over in the second half, it was the Chaps’ defensive efforts that led the way. After giving up the most regular season points they had in two years, the Chaps attacked early and never looked back. Bennett’s interception and two fumble recoveries from Crockett brought the Westlake’s turnover tally up to three on the night. On top of the turnovers, The Westlake defense provided three sacks and limited the Rockets to under 150 total yards. 

“We have the confidence and now we just have to keep it rolling,” Crockett said. “This is a statement game, but we still have more to prove.” 

The Chaps will get their chance to do just that next Friday, as they welcome Akins to Chaparral Stadium for their first district game of the season at 7:30 p.m.

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