Westlake advances to state semifinals with win over Lake Travis

Chaps beat Cavaliers once again to conquer seventh consecutive regional championship
Julianna Wolff
Wide receiver senior Heath McRee runs past the Lake Travis secondary in the Chaps’ 21-14 playoff win Saturday.

PFLUGERVILLE – When Westlake left the field at Cavalier Stadium in September after a 20-14 win over rival Lake Travis, the two Texas high school football powerhouses looked much different than they would in two months’ time. 

While six weeks of district play, another three rounds of playoff action and significant changes on both sidelines separated them, one of the few constants in the rivals’ two meetings was the score.  

The Westlake varsity football team (14-0) defeated rival Lake Travis (11-3), 21-14, in the fourth round of the UIL 6A DI playoffs at The Pfield in Pflugerville Saturday. The Westlake defense forced three turnovers and added three more fourth-down stops. Despite early struggles, the Chaparral offense capitalized on their extra opportunities down the stretch, scoring 14 points in the second half to secure the win. 

The victory marks the Chaps’ seventh consecutive 6A DI Region IV title, and sets up a clash with the state’s top-ranked team, North Shore, next Saturday at 3 p.m. at The Pfield. 

“[Lake Travis] is a great team,” wide receiver senior Heath McRee said. “We didn’t overlook them. We played as hard as we could, and we came out with the victory.” 

While held to just 14 points in their first meeting with Westlake, the new-look Lake Travis offense rolled through the playoffs after making a quarterback change. The Cavaliers upset undefeated Vandegrift in the first round of the playoffs and handled Johnson and Brennan with ease. 

After making a midseason quarterback change themselves, Westlake continued its dominance into the playoffs. Adapting to a more run-heavy offense throughout the season, the Chaps cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs, beating Round Rock, Reagan and Laredo United. 

While they pounced on the Cavaliers early in their regular season matchup, it took the Chaps a while to find their footing offensively on Saturday. An interception, a blocked field goal and several third down stops from the Lake Travis defense kept Westlake off the scoreboard early. 

The Westlake defense matched. The Chaps’ pass rush got to quarterback junior Chaston Ditta in the backfield several times en route to a first-half shutout of the Cavs. 

“We just tried to shut the run down,” defensive lineman junior Cullen Devine said. “Once we do that, they have to pass, and when we shut that down there isn’t much else they can do.”

Late in the first half, a pair of long runs by quarterback sophomore Rees Wise set up a red zone opportunity for the Chaps as the clock wound down. Wise hit wide receiver junior Cal Livengood in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown with just six seconds to play in the second quarter. Westlake carried a 7-0 lead into half. 

Running back senior Jack Kayser runs through the Lake Travis defense in the Chaps’ win Saturday (Julianna Wolff)

The second half began with both teams trading possessions, including a play that saw two turnovers on the same snap. Defensive back senior Keiondre Lewis intercepted Wise for the second time of the night, but fumbled on the return, giving the Chaps a fresh set of downs. 

The Westlake offense showed more life with eight minutes left in the quarter. Wise found McRee over the middle, who raced through Lake Travis territory for a 52-yard pickup. Two plays later, running back senior Jack Kayser extended the Chaps’ lead to 14 with a 12-yard touchdown run. 

“[The 52-yard catch] was awesome,” McRee said. “I think that sparked the energy for sure.”

The Westlake defense replicated the energy on their next two opportunities. A stop on fourth down and a fumble recovery by defensive lineman junior Connor Vasek highlighted the Chaps’ defensive efforts throughout the second half. 

Despite shutting out the Cavaliers for three quarters, the Westlake defense finally cracked with ten minutes to play in the fourth. Ditta found wide receiver senior Kadyn Leon, the former quarterback of the Cavaliers, for a 49-yard touchdown. 

On Westlake’s next drive, the momentum began to completely shift. Defensive back junior Cam’ren-Chance Brooks intercepted Wise, giving the Cavaliers the ball, just needing a touchdown to tie the game. The interception would be the fourth turnover by the Westlake offense on the day. 

“It was important to put [the turnovers] behind us and still be able to get the win,” Wise said.

Westlake’s defense pushed it across the finish line. Defensive back senior Denim Collins snagged a crucial interception with five minutes to play in the game, setting the Chaps up in Lake Travis territory. The following possession, a 29-yard completion from Wise to wide receiver junior Brody Wilhelm and a four-yard touchdown run from Kayser put the Chaps back up by two scores. 

The Cavaliers got on the board in the dying seconds of the game with a two-yard touchdown pass from Ditta to tight end junior Josiah Thomas, but the Chaps held on, 21-14. 

“[The playoffs] bring a new level of focus, dedication and respecting your opponent,” Devine said. “We won, but there’s a new opportunity each week” 

The Chaps will get this new opportunity in the state semifinal, where they face their biggest challenge yet, the undefeated North Shore Mustangs. 

North Shore, which holds the top spot in Dave Campbell’s Texas High School Football rankings, defeated Atascocita 34-28 in their quarterfinal game on Saturday, and have solidified themselves as one of the nation’s most dangerous teams. North Shore ended Westlake’s season in last year’s state semifinal, beating the Chaps 49-34 before falling to Duncanville in the state championship. 

“I’m excited for the matchup,” Wise said. “We have a lot of film between us and them from past games, so we’ll study that, and hopefully we’ll be ready.”

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