GAHANNA – Jack Gose has made dozens of important catches for the Westfall Mustangs over his career.
But his interception in the closing seconds Saturday night against St. Clairsville was the biggest grab anyone wearing the scarlet and gray of Westfall has ever made.
“I never thought my biggest catch would be on defense,” Gose said. “I had some big catches last year in the playoffs against Ironton, but that catch was amazing to get and it wrapped things up for us.”
The interception, one of four Westfall takeaways during a chilly Saturday evening, finished off a 14-12 win over St. Clairsville in the Division IV, Region 15 championship game at Gahanna Lincoln High School.
“Without those four turnovers, we don’t win this game,” Westfall head coach Scott Keller said.
Westfall (13-0) collects its first-ever regional championship and advances to the state semifinals next Saturday against an opponent to be determined.
The Mustangs became the first team from the Scioto Valley Conference and Pickaway County history to advance to the state semifinals in football, despite being outgained by St. Clairsville 318-222.
Last week, Westfall recorded 603 yards rushing in a 48-28 win over Waverly – 442 of those coming from senior Seth Hardin. This week, the Mustangs went to the air.
Junior quarterback D.J. Cain, who completed 10-of-19 passes for 129 yards, found Hardin down the middle of the field for touchdown passes of 24 and 23 yards to stake the Mustangs to a 14-0 lead in the first half.
“They were playing a two-high safety look,” Keller said. “Their safeties were rolling out and leaving the middle of the field wide open. When they did that we wanted to sneak some kids down the middle of the field, and it worked twice for us to put some points on the board.”
St. Clairsville (12-1) cut the lead to 14-6 at halftime on a 48-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Anthony Vincent and wide receiver Adam Shanks.
The Red Devils drove into Westfall territory on two of its first three possessions of the second half, only to come away with no points. Ben Cline threw down Vincent for a four-yard gain on the second possession of the second half to force St. Clairsville to turn the ball over on downs. Westfall junior Bryant Gibson recovered a Kurtis Cullen fumble on the next possession.
St. Clairsville finally made a break of its own in the fourth quarter by recovering a Westfall fumble on the Mustangs’ 23. On fourth-and-goal, Vincent plunged over the goal line for a one-yard touchdown, narrowing the lead to 14-12. The Red Devils then decided to go a two-point conversion, and appeared to have it, until Vincent fumbled just an inch outside the goal line. The ball rolled backwards and St. Clairsville was denied the typing points.
“I was afraid it would come down to the little things like a two-point conversion or turnovers, but you can’t fault the kids,” St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean said. “That’s part of the game and both schools should be proud of their football programs.”
The Red Devils received one last chance after a Westfall fumble with 49 seconds left in the game. Two penalties, coming on an illegal procedure and intentional grounding, brought up third-and-25 on its own 37. Vincent fired a pass down the middle of the field that Westfall’s Tyler Rogers tipped and Gose intercepted to finish off the game.
Vincent completed 8-of-19 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. The St. Clairsville senior also had 19 carries for 55 yards and a score. Shanks had three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Hardin caught five passes for 70 yards and two scores, while adding 15 carries for 39 yards in the Westfall win. Tyler Cobb and Hardin had the other two turnovers for Westfall, each coming on interceptions.
McLean was pleased with the St. Clairsville defense limiting Westfall to its lowest scoring output of the season.
“Our defense has been excellent all year long, and our coaches work very hard,” he said. “We did some good things tonight. We bent but didn’t break a lot of times.”
The Westfall win was even more impressive considering that the Mustangs lost prized offensive lineman Daniel Burke early in the contest to a high-ankle sprain.
“Losing a four-year starter like that early in the game, it’s going to affect you up front,” Keller said. “Fortunately, Phil Hartley stepped in and did a decent job. Our kids were able to get through it.”