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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Westerners win 41-32 thriller over Eagles

Monday, October 15, 2012

(Sentinel photo by Jay Bell) Akron-Westfield quarterback Cory Eskra runs in for an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter against Lawton-Bronson on Friday.
AKRON -- The Westerners continue to live on the edge.

Akron-Westfield (8-0, 6-0 Class A District 1) trailed 32-28 with 4:25 remaining in the game and faced 4th-and-19 on the A-W 48-yard line. A-W head coach Eric Walkingstick called for a punt to give his defense the opportunity to get the ball back.

The low snap bounced past Taylor James to his left. James scrambled to recover the ball, reversed field and began to run towards the A-W sideline. James held onto the ball as long as possible before completing a pass to Dylan Meyers for a 21-yard gain.

The Westerners took full advantage of a new set of downs. A-W was moved back to the L-B 36-yard line on a false start and quarterback Cory Eskra was stopped at the line of scrimmage on a run.

(Sentinel photo by Jay Bell) Akron-Westfield's Chance Hoffman gets behind the defense for a 36-yard touchdown reception against Lawton-Bronson on Friday.
Eskra then completed a pass to Chance Hoffman on an out pattern towards the L-B sideline. Hoffman broke a tackle and raced to the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown reception. Taylor James kicked the point after attempt to put the Westerners ahead 35-32 with 3:26 left in the game.

It was the fifth and final lead change of the game.

"I guess we like to make it really entertaining," Walkingstick said. "We came out and made some mistakes, but what I love about his team and what defines this team is their character.

"They fight. They fight and they don't give up. That's what the sign of a great team is."

Daniel Beitelspacher then kicked a short sidewinder kickoff that the Westerners recovered to take over again on offense.

A series of penalties was called on both teams during the A-W possession, including two calls that wiped out a long touchdown run by Jams and a long gain on the ground by Eskra.

Eskra completed an 18-yard pass to Hoffman on 3rd-and-27, but the Westerners still punted on fourth down.

James kicked a 30-yard punt and Chance Gant tackled Anteres Ashley as soon as he caught the punt. L-B (5-3, 3-3) took over on the team's own 28-yard line with one last opportunity.

L-B's only yards of the drive came on a pass interference penalty, but James stepped up once again and caught an interception. James returned the interception 55 yards to put A-W ahead 41-32 with 50 seconds remaining in the game.

It was James' fourth touchdown of the game. James scored one rushing touchdown, one receiving touchdown, one special teams touchdown, one defensive touchdown and kicked five extra points. A-W's other scoring leaders this season, Eskra and Hoffman, each found the end zone on their own in the victory.

"What's fun about this team is when one guy kind of falls off, another guy steps in," Walkingstick said. "But tonight, those guys did some tremendous things that helped us go on and keep our streak alive.

"Right now we're sitting at 8-0 and it is because they work hard. These kids have worked hard, they have put the time in and they stick together like a family. This community should be proud of these guys because they don't quit, they don't die, they just fight with their hearts and they keep going."

The Westerners looked to be in trouble early on of suffering their first loss of the season. The Eagles wore down the A-W defense on two long scoring drives.

(Sentinel photo by Jay Bell) Akron-Westfield running back Taylor James makes his way through the L-B defense for a touchdown run.
Ashley ran for a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth down just three minutes into the game. Blake Sappingfield doubled the Eagles' lead late in the quarter on a 7-yard touchdown run. L-B led 13-0 after the PAT miss by Matt Smith.

James caught the ensuing kickoff and followed a bunched group of blockers before busting through the L-B coverage for an 85-yard kickoff return.

The Westerners were unable to take advantage of great field position on their next drive after a bad snap and fumble on a punt attempt by L-B. A-W was able to take the lead midway through the second quarter when James weaved through the L-B defense for a 32-yard touchdown run. A-W led 14-13 after the PAT by James.

Devon Myers recovered a fumble by the Eagles on the ensuing kickoff and the Westerners took over on the L-B 29-yard line. Eskra finished off the drive on an 8-yard touchdown run. James kicked the PAT and A-W led 21-13.

(Sentinel photo by Jay Bell) Dylan Meyers dives onto a loose ball Friday for Akron-Westfield following a Lawton-Bronson fumble in the second quarter in Akron.
A-W looked to have all of the momentum with halftime approaching.

Smith later completed a screen pass to Sappingfield, who then weaved through the A-W defense for a 66-yard touchdown reception. L-B trailed 21-19 at halftime after a failed 2-point attempt.

Neither team scored again until the very end of the third quarter when Smith completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Peterson. Peterson caught the pass when an A-W defender slipped. The Eagles failed again on the 2-point try and led 25-21.

The Westerners moved the ball on offense and quickly answered. Eskra completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to James on a crossing pattern on 3rd-and-15.

"We had some people that stepped up in some key situations and we had to have it or otherwise we wouldn't win," Walkingstick said. "We knew this was going to be a good game. We knew Lawton-Bronson was well-coached. We knew they were going to be a very good team.

"They stepped up, we stepped up and it turned out for a very exciting ball game tonight."

L-B took its final lead of the game with 8:15 left to play on a 43-yard run by Brandon Thompson. Eskra hustled back on defense to trip Thompson, but he dove into the end zone for the Eagles' final score.

(Sentinel photo by Jay Bell) [Order this photo]
James ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against L-B. James also caught two passes for 26 yards.

Eskra was 6-for-12 passing for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Hoffman made two receptions for 54 yards and a score.

A-W was out-gained 378-290 by the L-B offense. The Westerners were also whistled for 15 penalties for 150 yards and L-B was flagged eight times for 67 yards. The Eagles were even one better on third and fourth downs than the Westerners.

Cody Bosse led the Westerners with seven solo tackles and four assisted tackles. James made five solo stops and assisted on two more.

(Sentinel photo by Jay Bell) Akron-Westfield's Daniel Beitelspacher finishes off a tackle against Lawton-Bronson on Friday.
James was also a menace on special teams. James punted four times for an average of 48.5 yards per kick. James averaged 61 yards on two kickoff returns. L-B fans cheered in fourth quarter when a kickoff was kicked in the end zone and James was unable to return it.

A-W has still not clinched first place in the district due to the competition and the schedule. The Westerners' final game of the regular season this Friday will be at West Lyon (7-1, 5-1). West Lyon's only loss this season was a 28-12 defeat at the hands of Hinton in Week 3.

"Every week we're battling and that's all we can do," Walkingstick said. "That's what these kids have done from the very beginning. I'm just so proud of them.

"It was senior night. These seniors are a great group of kids and I can't say enough about them. We had a lot of people out here tonight and it was an electric atmosphere. We just go back to work, do what we've been doing and battle every week."

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