Williamsport Westfall has been the class of the SVC over the last several years, putting together a 24-game win streak. This week the Mustangs try to become only the second conference school to win 25 straight. That won’t be easy though as a tough Piketon team, with title aspirations of its own, awaits in Pike County.
After winning their first 13 games a year ago before losing in the state semifinals, coach Scott Keller’s Westfall Mustangs dropped the first two games of the 2008 season to Teays Valley and Logan Elm. Sitting at 0-2, Westfall regrouped and now enters Week 9 the winners of six straight and the owners of a perfect Scioto Valley Conference record which has them just two wins shy of defending their title. Westfall has also won 24 straight SVC games. A win this week and they tie Paint Valley for the SVC record at 25.
A major reason for Westfall’s success is their explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback D.J. Cain and versatile star Ben Cline lead a well-balanced attack that is posting 35.4 points per game.
Cain, a double-threat guy who can hurt you with both his arm and his feet, enters Friday’s showdown with Piketon with just under 1,300 yards through the air and just over 600 yards rushing. The Westfall signal-caller is a winner. Since taking over as the Westfall starter a year ago, Cain is 19-3 overall and is still perfect as a starter in the SVC at 12-0.
Last week, Cain was only asked to play the first half, and the senior made the most of his time. Cain completed 9-of-10 passes for 235 yards and three scores as Westfall led 42-0 after two quarters.
As for Cline, he can take over a game in a variety of ways as well. He can line-up in the backfield and run it right at you, or he can go out wide and stretch the defensive secondary. Cline is very scary on special teams as well. In fact, he has had such an amazing stretch of returns over the past three years, that very few coaches allow the ball to even be kicked his way.
“We have a number of explosive guys and that starts with D.J. and Ben,” said Keller. “Our league has so many great running backs this year; it has made it tough on our defense. We have had a lot of trouble getting stops, but our offense has really stepped up and found a way to win.”
This week Westfall travels to Piketon to face its most challenging test to date in coach Tyler Gullion’s Redstreaks. With incredible preseason expectations in Piketon, the Redstreaks got off to a nightmare 1-3 start in which they led at halftime of all three losses; however, they too are now playing better as they have won four in a row and enter Friday with a 5-3 overall mark and a 4-1 SVC record.
“I have to give my kids a lot of credit, because this team could have quit back when we were 1-3, but they didn’t” said Gullion minutes after his team’s Week 8 42-41 win at Adena. “This gives us a chance to return home next week and play for a championship. Westfall has a great team and we will have to play our absolute best, but we are excited about the opportunity.”
Piketon’s offense ranks No. 1 in the SVC. Quarterback Kenny Helton has had an outstanding season completing 70-percent of his passes for over 1,300 yards. Helton has two 6-4 targets on the outside in Caleb Southworth and Jordan Brabson. Southworth has 44 receptions on the year for 706 yards. Last week in Piketon’s win, Southworth caught 12 balls for 197 yards and three scores. Brabson is also a big play threat as he has caught 25 balls for 463 yards in the first eight weeks.
“Piketon is very explosive,” said Keller. “They are so balanced and so well-coached. I really like Tyler. He is a great coach and great person. I know he will have his team ready, so we have to make sure we handle some of the distractions of being out of school this week and make sure we’re ready to play.”
This passing attack usually keeps defenses from putting too many in the box, and the Piketon running game can usually feast on that situation. Keiffer Reed and Tyler Tackett have combined for over 1,000 yards on the ground and they are doing it on a limited amount of carries. In fact, the Piketon duo averages about nine yards per touch which simply means when Piketon plays mistake-free football they usually score and score a lot. Piketon averages 38.5 ppg.
If Westfall and Piketon have weaknesses it is definitely on the defensive side of the ball. These two high scoring teams that combine for around 900 yards and 74 points also combine to give up 44 points per game. Many coaches and fans in the area have joked that this game could be “first team to 50 wins.”
The other team in the league title mix is Zane Trace. The Pioneers enter their Week 9 game with Paint Valley just one-game back of Westfall as well. A Piketon win along with a Zane Trace win could have the SVC in a three-way tie with one week remaining. Paint Valley is 3-2 in the league, so they probably are out of the title mix; however, the Bearcats welcome Zane Trace with plenty on the line as they are 6-2 overall and still in the Division V, Region 19 playoff picture. The Bearcats were ninth entering Week 8, but they dropped to 11th this week despite a 47-37 win last week. A win over a 5-3 ZT team would be a big boost.
The Westfall and Piketon game also has playoff significance. Both teams are in Division IV, Region 15. Westfall is currently fifth and is looking to move up for a chance to host in Week 11. Piketon is currently 13th, but a win over Westfall would be very helpful in terms of pushing them towards that eighth and final spot.