Chaps advance in playoffs with first-round win over Round Rock

Westlake defense and run game shine as Chaps beat Dragons 35-3 Friday night
Julianna Wolff
Quarterback sophomore Rees Wise carries the ball into the end zone in the second quarter of Westlake’s 35-3 win over Round Rock Friday.

As the final few seconds ticked down on Friday night, defensive lineman senior Carter Sepulveda gave the Westlake varsity football team yet another reason to celebrate. He pounced on a fumble forced by defensive lineman senior Will Sloan to fizzle out any final hopes the visiting Round Rock Dragons had of finding the end zone.

The fumble capped a ruthless defensive performance from the Chaps (11-0, 8-0 District 26-6A) as they cruised to a 35-3 victory over Round Rock (4-7, 4-3 District 25-6A) in the first round of the UIL 6A DI playoffs at Chaparral Stadium. 

The Westlake defense forced three turnovers and held the Dragons without a touchdown. The Chaps’ offense complemented the defensive effort; they rushed for over 200 yards and three touchdowns, defending their home turf for one final time in the 2023 season. Their remaining playoff games will be played at neutral venues.

“We just played physical, and that’s what we do,” running back senior Jack Kayser said. “We run people over, and that opens up everything else.”

While the Chaps ended the game hot, Westlake started slow on both sides of the ball. The Chaps failed to gain momentum on offense and allowed an early 30-yard field goal by kicker senior Kai Haruki. 

“We went to the bench and grit our teeth,” running back junior Grady Bartlett said. “[The lack of production] wasn’t acceptable, so we knew we had to go out there and put some points on the board.”

On their next offensive drive, the Chaps did just that. Westlake worked its way down the field, leaning on its run game before quarterback sophomore Rees Wise found Bartlett over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown. The Chaps led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. 

“The game plan was working well,” Bartlett said. “The offensive line was grinding in the trenches, and we had good calls. It just comes down to work during the week and the game plan. We went out there and executed.”

In the second quarter, Westlake continued to execute their game plan. 

The Chaps led a time-consuming drive, capped by a four-yard touchdown pass from Wise to Bartlett. Toward the end of the half, the Chaps found themselves in striking distance once again. Wise called his own number, rumbling into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run. 

While the Dragons posed an offensive threat in the final moments of the half, defensive back junior Payton Luther defused the attack. He intercepted quarterback senior Mason Cochran’s pass and sent the Chaps to the locker room up 21-3. 

Chaps prepare to run a play near the end zone (Julianna Wolff)

Westlake turned to its defense to make a play and blow the game open in the second half. Defensive back senior Denim Collins provided the spark, as he snagged the Chaps’ second interception of the night. 

Following the interception, the Chaps consumed most of the third quarter on offense. The Westlake run game was in full effect, grinding out short yardage until they found themselves near the end zone again. Kayser capped off the long drive with a four-yard touchdown run to put the Chaps up 28-3. 

“We strive to come out hot offensively and defensively,” defensive back senior Ty Ingram-Eiser said. “[The defensive effort] really set the tone for us all night.”

Another stifling effort from the Westlake defense and a 37-yard run from Kayser on the ensuing drive set the Chaps up once more. Kayser tumbled in from one yard out to put the Chaps up by 32 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Sloan’s forced fumble and Sepulveda’s recovery secured the win for Westlake. 

As the Friday night lights shut off over Ebbie Neptune field for the final time in the 2023 season, the Chaps reflected on their success at home throughout the season and in years past. Westlake hasn’t lost a game at Chaparral Stadium since 2018, making it 34 consecutive wins at home. 

“It’s always fun to have the win, but it’s emotional,” offensive lineman senior Tyler Knape said. “We’ve never lost a game here in our high school careers. It’s fun, that one last game.” 

The road to a state championship is just beginning for Westlake. While one round is down, the Chaps have more to accomplish. 

Winning next week and advancing to the third round will be no easy task for Westlake. The Chaps will play the Reagan Rattlers at Matador Stadium in Seguin next Friday in a clash between two undefeated teams. Reagan won District 28-6A handily and took down first-round opponent East Central 55-21 on Friday. 

“I really haven’t looked at them much, but we’ll look at them this weekend,” Ingram-Eiser said. “I know our coaches are gonna give us a great game plan. I know defensively we’re gonna come out, play physical, and just be us and we’ll be alright.”

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