By Craig Harris for The News Examiner
WHITE HOUSE – The Westmoreland High School football players don’t remember the program’s last win over White House … for good reason.
However, the visiting Eagles took advantage of special-teams miscue on Friday evening and held on in the final minutes for a 14-7 victory over the Blue Devils at Dewey H. Whitson Stadium.
“That’s what we challenged our kids with,” Westmoreland head coach Steve Harris said. “It was 1991 the last time we were able to win. None of these kids were even born then.
“I’m so happy for these kids. It’s big for our program, and I also feel that it’s big for our community.”
White House had won the previous six meetings between the two programs. The last time that the Blue Devils didn’t make the playoffs was that 1991 season, when they suffered a 19-6 setback to the visiting Eagles in week 10.
“This is the one (Harris) said, if we win this one, we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives,” Westmoreland defensive lineman Luke Hall said. “It helps us (potentially) get a home playoff game.”
Despite not completing pass, the Eagles had a significant advantage in first downs (17-6) and total yardage (359-90).
Due in part to multiple quarterback sacks and a botched punt by the Blue Devils, Westmoreland (6-2 overall, 3-1 in District 9-AA) held the Blue Devils to negative rushing yards and regularly brought blitzes to combat the White House passing attack.
“It made a big difference,” Eagle junior linebacker Brandon Green said. “Most teams that play them don’t make him (White House junior quarterback Steven Rankin) move around. I feel like it helped a lot.”
Green was sidelined for the previous two games with a shoulder injury, but it didn’t deter Westmoreland’s defense from being effective the previous week, with the Eagles allowing just 145 yards in a 21-0 win at Greenbrier.
“We’re getting healthy,” Harris said. “That makes a big difference when you have people out there ready to play.”
Green added, “We’ve been sticking together more. We’ve gotten some things worked out. We were all playing as individuals. Now, we’re playing together as brothers. That makes a difference … and it’s the intensity.”
However, it was White House’s defense that stood up early on, halting a 13-play drive on Westmoreland’s opening possession. Eagle junior fullback Dylan Todd, senior tailback Darrin Akins and senior wingback Brad Evans had three consecutive carries of 16, 13 and 14 yards, respectively. That moved the football to the Blue Devil 22.
However, White House (5-3, 3-2) forced a turnover on downs.
“We’ve had a season of hurting ourselves offensively,” Harris said. “I thought we cut down on a lot of mistakes tonight.
“There’s still areas for improvement. We can look at the film and hopefully improve.”
The Eagles did convert later in the half, mounting a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Todd capped it with a 2-yard touchdown run, but the ensuing point-after sailed wide of the left upright.
The Blue Devils responded though, scoring on their final possession of the half.
A 15-yard screen pass to junior tight end Logan Trimmer came two plays prior to a 41-yard touchdown pass thrown up the home sideline from Rankin to senior wide receiver Caleb Huffines.
“That was a big momentum play,” Harris said. “We felt like we dominated the football game, and at halftime, we were down a point.”
White House senior Dillon Anderson split the uprights on the PAT to give his squad the lead.
“We got totally dominated, and we go in up 7-6,” Blue Devil head coach Jeff Porter said. “We were fortunate we were not down 21-0.”
It remained that way as the two teams traded punts throughout the third quarter.
With White House lined up to punt early in the fourth quarter, the snap sailed over Trimmer’s head. He finally fell on the rolling football in the end zone, resulting in a safety that gave Westmoreland an 8-7 lead.
“In the third quarter, we kept competing better,” Porter said. “Then, we had the unfortunate miscue.”
Todd and senior quarterback Justice Graves ran for first downs over the final four minutes, prompting the Blue Devils to use all of their timeouts. Following its final timeout, White House allowed Todd to run 39 yards into the end zone with 1:15 remaining in order to get the football back.
Graves’ ensuing two-point conversion pass was intercepted by junior Denis Schaffer, keeping the margin at seven points and the Blue Devil hopes alive.
“We hung in there and fought,” Porter said. “I thought our defense played extremely hard and wise at the end.”
Rankin completed a 21-yard pass to junior wide receiver Luke Hopkins on the next play from scrimmage, but the next four plays resulted in incompletions – with Eagle senior defensive lineman Jordan Holmes forcing the fourth-down incompletion as he had Rankin in his grasp – and a turnover on downs.
“Coach Harris said, ‘stick to what we have been practicing on,’” Hall said of the team’s halftime discussion. “‘We’ll come out and win the next half.’”
Harris added, “All the credit goes to our young men. We challenged them at halftime to come out and play harder. Fortunately, we did that, and we came out with a victory.”
Todd rushed for a career-high 199 yards on 28 carries, and Evans and Graves finished with 88 and 55 rushing yards, respectively.
“Credit goes to our offensive line,” Harris said. “Those guys put in the work in the weight room. Coach (Victor) Woodard is doing an outstanding job with that group. Right now, it seems like we go as our offensive line goes.”
With White House Heritage in the driver’s seat to win District 9-AA title, the win puts Westmoreland in position to possibly place second in the district. The Eagles have finished second the last two seasons, behind White House.
The Blue Devils host Cheatham County on Friday. Westmoreland hosts Harpeth.
W – Dylan Todd 2 run. Kick failed. WH – Caleb Huffines 41 pass from Steven Rankin. Dillon Anderson. W – White House falls on football in the end zone for a safety. W – Todd 39 run. Pass failed.
Westmoreland – Dylan Todd 28-199, Brad Evans 15-88, Justice Graves 8-55, Darrin Akins 6-17.
White House – Trey Hyde 10-36, Ronald Honeycutt 10-24, Troy Raymond 1-3, Logan Trimmer 1-(-29), Steven Rankin 6-(-35).
Westmoreland – Justice Graves 0-6-0-0.
White House – Steven Rankin 4-15-0-86, Luke Hopkins 1-1-0-5.
White House – Caleb Huffines 2-46, Logan Trimmer 2-24, Luke Hopkins 1-21.