"This game boiled down to special teams play and one (long) run" said Cedar Park Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Ross, speaking of his teams loss Friday night at famed AC Bible Stadium in Leander to the visiting Westlake Chaparrals, in the season opener for both schools.
If stats won football games, then this one would have clearly been a game won by Timberwolves, but the scoreboard showed differently, Austin Westlake 24, Cedar Park 14.
Cedar Park looked for the most part, to be the dominate team on both sides of the ball on this Friday evening, out gaining the Chaps on offense 399-226 and limiting the visitors from Austin Westlake to just 5 first downs for the entire game.
Cedar Park struck first in the game, getting on the scoreboard on a 3 yard run by Timberwolves quarterback Nathan Thornhill. The PAT failed.
Westlake countered with a 13 yard TD run of its own by Brice Dolezal, after the Chaps intercepted a Thornhill pass and had good field position to work with. PAT was good giving the Chaps a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.
On Cedar Park's next possession, the Wolves chewed up nearly four minutes of the clock moving the ball down the field with some hard running by FB Bradley Willard, and passes out of the backfield to TB Michael Waterfield, capping off a 4 yarder by Willard to put the Timberwolves back on top. Quarterback Nathan Thornhill ran the for the two point conversion and converting it, making the score 14-7 with :16 ticks left in the first quarter.
Cedar Park missed on some golden opportunities in possibly adding to its lead during the second quarter, but was its own worst enemy at times on their drives.
Coach Chris Ross was stated "Those two penalties in the red zone, we're about to get on the board again, being first and ten down in their area, and that was critical, critical...(the holding penalties)" All of this culminating in a missed FG attempt and no points to show for it. Cedar Parks defense held their own for the remainder of the quarter with great play from DE Holmes Onwukaife and LB's Chet Moss & Joseph Nichol.
In the second half Westlake got things rolling after a 3 and out by Cedar Park, with Chaps punt returner Louie Swope making a fine return to set up a 34 yard run by running back Van Gramann two plays later, and the PAT good tying the game back at 14 all.
The Chaps added 3 more points on their next possession as Cody Rademacher connected on a 29 yard field goal putting Austin Westlake up 17-14 with 5:47 left in the third period.
Cedar Park again was bitten by a setback, when the kick-off return, (that would have set them up in great field position), was negated by a holding penalty. The wolves still managed to move the ball deep into Westlake's territory, with some good running by backs Cody Cloud and Michael Waterfield,as well a timely catch from wide-out Dillon Cox on a trying third and nine attempt.
Cedar Park moved the ball inside the 10 before a dead ball "sideline" penalty was called again, moving the ball in the wrong direction for the Timberwolves. All this culminating at the end of the third quarter.
After changing ends of the field to begin the fourth, and Westlake's defense holding firm, CP attempted a game tying FG from 26 yards by Travis Johnson, when it was blocked by Louie Swope. Swope again, making another huge contribution on special teams.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Westlake broke the game open when Lewis Guilbeau took the hand off from Chaps QB Bryce Tanner, and scampered 80 yards through the middle of the CP defense for a touchdown. The PAT was good, giving Westlake a 24-14 lead they would not relinquish. "Miles Berger (WR) had a great block, and the hole was just wide open...made one cut and I was gone" said Guilbeau when asked about his game changing play.
Cedar Park's head coach Chris Ross went on to say"The mistakes we made tonight as a team, really opened the door for the them(Westalke), not to take anything away from them,their a good football team" (ranked #15 in the state of Texas).
Dominic Espinosa, Cedar Park's mammoth Senior center, and leader of the offensive line (verbal commitment to play for The University of Texas next year) had this to say about the game and his team's play.
"We have a great team and great leaders, and to me if felt like we (our offensive linemen) were doing so good up front, it just seemed like something wasn't hitting right, just some things we need to figure out on film, and see what we could have done differently. Offensively,if we would have scored in the red zone...as I know we got 24 first downs, so I can't complain about that, we did our part there...we as a team just need to cut down on the mistakes from this game, and we'll learn from that".
Next for Cedar Park is a trip up I-35 to Temple, as the Timberwolves get a look at top Rivals ranked RB Lache Seastrunk and Co., while Westlake heads over to battle neighboring foe, and Class 4A defending State Champs Lake Travis.