Westerners to take on Hinton in quarterfinals at home
At halftime, it could have been anyone's game.
Akron-Westfield and West Hancock were tied 8-8 at the Britt field in the second-round Class A playoff game.
But the Westerners took control for the 27-16 win, advancing to the Class A quarterfinals Friday.
"It was back and forth in first half. The offense drove the ball pretty good," said A-W coach Eric Walkingstick. "We knew the whole game would be a war."
West Hancock scored first, Eagle senior Chris Schleuger running a touchdown in after a 77-yard drive.
The Westerners missed one chance to score in the first half, the coach said.
But, with 4:47 left in the second quarter, sophomore Kevin Carlson caught a pass from quarterback Cory Eskra down the middle of the field for a 23-yard gain and A-W's first touchdown.
A-W's Taylor James ran in the two-point conversion.
The Westerners' touchdown drive of 77 yards took 10 plays.
With 2:29 left in the third quarter, Chance Hoffman made a 24-yard catch in the end zone for an Akron-Westfield score. The extra point kick by James was good, making the score 15-8.
"Hoffman came up with tremendous reception," Walkingstick said. "He did a great job for us."
In the fourth quarter, West Hancock scored again with a touchdown pass to Schleuger, who also brought in the two point conversion to give West Hancock the 16-15 lead.
With less than 10 minutes on the clock, A-W needed to find the end zone.
Westerners junior Nathan Sanchez caught a 41-yard pass at the 20 yard line and brought it to about the 14 yard line.
James brought it in for an A-W touchdown.
"Taylor James continued to do what he does best," Walkingstick said. "And our offensive line had good movement tonight."
The Westerners' two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Eagles took possession of the ball with 5:55 on the clock, but the Westerner defense held them back.
"Defensively they did a great job and stepped up against a tremendous offense," Walkingstick said.
With A-W back on offense, James brought the ball to the 1 yard line, and the Eagles used their last time out.
There was about 1:27 left to go.
A-W senior Eskra ran the quarterback sneak around the edge to score with 18 seconds left in the game.
The Westerners finished the game with an 11-point lead, winning 27-16.
"Cory is the unsung hero of this group. He doesn't say much, but he gets the job done," Walkingstick said. "He had some tremendous throws tonight. He ran the ball really well when he had the opportunity, and he had a great game."
Eskra went 13-for-23 passing, for a total of 205 yards. He threw two touchdowns and one interception.
For A-W rushing, James led with 131 yards and Cory Eskra added 28 yards.
Receiving, Hoffman caught six passes for 126 yards, including one touchdown.
Senior Chet Willer received four passes, gaining 14 yards.
Nathan Sanchez received one pass for 41 yards and Kevin Carlson received one pass for 23 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, Westerners' junior Cody Bosse made seven solo tackles, senior Daniel Beitelspacher made six solo tackles, James made five and junior Sam Mace and senior Dylan Myers each made three.
With Monday's victory, A-W moves on to third round of playoffs.
Their competitor: Plymouth County neighbor Hinton Community School.
And the Westerners will host on their home field.
"It's exciting two Plymouth County teams have come to this point and will be able to play the game in Plymouth County. It says a lot about football in this part of the state," Walkingstick said.
The 7 p.m. matchup Friday in Akron will be a good game, he said.
"I've got a lot of respect for Hinton. They've got a good coach; the kids are good kids," he said.
Walkingstick commended the A-W community for supporting the football team on the road Monday.
"We've got a great fan base. They stepped it up and really made it exciting," he said.
That energy is only going to heat up this Friday at Akron.
"We're excited to have the opportunity to go to the quarterfinals," Walkingstick said. "We're ready to go for Friday."