WILLIAMSPORT – Jack Gose seemed to take the quality over quantity route Saturday night.
The Williamsport Westfall senior wide receiver used four receptions to score a pair of touchdowns and gain 124 yards receiving, helping to lift the Mustangs past visiting New Lexington 31-7 in a Division IV, Region 15 quarterfinal contest.
“We came out strong offensively in the first half,” Gose said. “I think that is the best flow I've had with (quarterback D.J. Cain) all season and it felt good.”
Westfall (11-0) advances to the regional semifinal to take on Waverly at a site to be determined.
Seth Hardin added 11 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns for the Mustangs, while also coming up with a fumble recovery and interception on defense. Ben Cline chipped in 101 return yards to set up Westfall with a pair of short fields.
Making its fifth straight appearance in the state playoffs, the Mustangs were efficient early by scoring on four of its first five possessions.
“We've had high hopes all season and now we're trying to expand on them each week,” Westfall senior Joe Vandyke said.”
Westfall took the ball to begin the game and marched 63 yards in seven plays. Hardin capped off the drive by breaking through the left side of the Westfall line and going 35 yards to pay dirt.
“Our line did a good job blocking for me and opening up some holes,” Hardin said. “They're awesome.”
Gose and Cain connected for the next two touchdowns on passes of 56 and 39 yards, respectively. Hardin continued the Westfall surge with a 10-yard touchdown run to put the Mustangs ahead 28-0 with 8:55 left in the second quarter.
“You always want to get off to a good start in a game like this and put points on the board early,” Westfall head coach Scott Keller said. “You want to try and make the other team play catch up, especially with the type of style they run. If you get a two to three score lead with what they do, you feel like you can be safe with it.
“They're not the type of team that likes to catch up. They want to grind you out.”
New Lexington (8-3), making its third straight appearance in the postseason, struggled on offense in the first half. The Panthers picked up two first downs in the opening half, including one by penalty.
But even as the temperature plummeted in the second half, the New Lexington offense began to warm up.
Joe Hollingshead jump started the Panthers with a 48-yard carry on the second New Lexington possession of the second half. Four plays later, the Panthers converted a fourth-and-goal with quarterback Clint Cannon connecting with tailback Will Hicks on an 11-yard touchdown pass to put the Panthers on the board.
“We got the option going in the second half, but we couldn't put it in the end zone very much,” New Lexington head coach Bill Nutt said. “They're a great team and they have a lot to be proud of. They played well.
“We didn't play badly. We played as well as we could.”
Cline regained some energy for the Mustangs on the following kickoff, returning the pigskin to the New Lexington 23. Cameron Puckett converted the field position into three points with a 30-yard field goal, increasing the Westfall lead to 31-7.
New Lexington threatened to score twice in the fourth quarter, but Bryant Gibson picked off Cannon on a fourth-and-24 heave in the end zone, and knocked away a pass intended for Brett Wycinski in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal on the Panthers' next possession.
“We came out cold in the second half to be honest,” Gibson said. “We got all warm in the first half and they caught us off guard in the second half. We didn't think they'd come out that strong, but we got back and kept working at it. Holding them out the end zone those couple of times really helped out.”
The Panthers finished the game by outgaining the Mustangs 295-289. Hicks had 16 carries for 87 yards and also gathered three receptions for 37 yards. Hollingshead added six carries for 63 yards and Cannon completed 9-of-19 passes for 97 yards.
Cain threw a pair of touchdowns for Westfall and completed 7-of-14 passes for 163 yards.
Westfall advances to the regional semifinal for the third straight season. The Mustangs will hope that the third time is the charm. Westfall lost 21-7 to Ironton in a 2005 semifinal game and 37-26 to Bellaire in last season's semifinal contest. In the Bellaire game, Westfall led with only 3:27 left, only to see the Bellaire score 14 straight points.
“You better believe that they're going to hear about last year all this week,” Keller said. “We want it as fresh in their heads as we can get, and every day they will be reminded of what it felt like to walk off that field in Zanesville last year.”
New Lexington finishes the season at 8-3. The Panthers, consisting of just seven seniors and a host of sophomores and juniors, hope to use this experience for the future, according to Nutt.
“Like we told the kids, we were in the playoffs for the third straight year, and hopefully next year we can make it four,” he said.