Westminster Christian's playoff hopes come to an end
With three games remaining, and in just its second year of existence, the Westminster Christian football team knew it had a shot at becoming playoff eligible Saturday. Unfortunately for the Warriors, in order to do so they had to upset the second best team in the Northeastern Athletic Conference in Chicago Hope Academy.
After scoring 82 points last week, the Eagles settled for 48 and took home the victory as they routed Westminster 48-15 in Elgin, knocking the Warriors out of playoff contention.
The scoring started almost immediately for Chicago Hope (6-1) even though its offense would not see the field for almost 5 minutes to start the game. Angelo Patterson took the first punt from Westminster back 75 yards to score and Lafayette McGary would run for the conversion to give the Eagles an early 8-0 advantage.
After Westminster was forced to punt the ball away again, the Eagles' offense took the field and started to march the other way. They would come up short of the goal line however thanks to Nick Demaria, in his first game back from injury, knocking the ball loose from Patterson and recovering the fumble near the end of the first quarter.
Patterson would make up for the mistake by causing and recovering a fumble of his own on the next Warrior possession, setting up a short field and an easy score for running back Keandre Murph. The score would move to 16-0 after a Patterson conversion to start the second quarter and end at 22-8 for the half, something Eagles' coach Stephen Pagh knows can help his team in the long run.
"We talk about how we need to see some adversity a lot," Pagh said. "We appreciate playing an opponent where if it's 22-8 at the half and if they score the momentum can swing. It was encouraging facing that today and seeing how our kids were going to respond. It was a good step forward."
It was more of the same for the Eagles in the second half, scoring 12 points in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth. Patterson, who finished with 37 yards, would add another touchdown. McGary who had a game-high 96 yards rushing, quarterback Rashad Johnson and his twin brother Raheem Johnson would all score on the ground and collect 244 yards rushing combined as well.
Though down 22-0 with just over a minute left to play in the first half, the Warriors (2-5) finally got their offense moving in the right direction, going 80 yards to score just before the half but it almost did not happen.
A face mask penalty on the Eagles in a fourth-and-1 situation and the punt team out on the field kept the drive alive for the Warriors and they did not waste it.
Quarterback Max Tucker delivered a 35-yard bomb to Marcus Grasemann on the very next play, setting up an easy 3-yard touchdown pass to wideout Scotty Graziano, who would also make the conversion catch. Getting back within two scores, the Warriors found themselves in very familiar territory.
"We were in the same situation (last week)," Warriors' coach John Davis said. "Two weeks in a row we were only down two touchdowns going into the half against the number one and two teams. We went at them as hard as we could. We are still an extremely young team and over the next two years you will see us grow."
The Warriors scored on their final drive of the day, this time going 65 yards and using more big plays from Graziano and Tucker (21-for-34, 215 yards passing). It would be that duo to score from 9 yards out to with the final seconds ticking off the clock to make it a 48-15 final.
With just two games left, Westminster can still try and win out to double its win total from last year and have their seniors end on a good note, especially Tucker.
"He's brought us senior leadership and maturity to our team," Davis said of his QB. "I don't think I will see another person more passionate about football and for the game for as long as I am coaching."