By Tyler Killian
Special to MyNewsMesa.com
Westwood had put seven points on the board Friday and looked poised to strike for seven more, posting up inside the Gilbert red zone in the final minutes of the first half.
Westwood held the lead and was also set to receive the second-half kickoff, so the Warriors knew a score there would put them in control of the game heading into the locker room.
Instead, a costly turnover and a touchdown the other way ceded control to Gilbert, and Westwood was never able to wrestle it back.
Up by one point at the time of the turnover, Westwood went into a tailspin, allowing 35 consecutive points and falling 41-7 at home to Gilbert in a 6A conference non-region matchup.
It was 7-6 when Westwood quarterback Carter Layton’s pass was intercepted in the end zone with 3:52 left in the second quarter, one of two first-half Warrior giveaways in Gilbert territory.
Westwood’s defense forced Gilbert into a third-and-19 on the ensuing possession, but blown coverage in the secondary allowed Gilbert receiver Dawson Tanner to break free for a 54-yard touchdown that made it 14-7 Tigers after a two-point conversion.
The teams continued to go in opposite directions after intermission, as Westwood (2-3) punted on its first six possessions of the second half while Gilbert (3-1) scored touchdowns on its first three.
“That’s on me. We didn’t make the right adjustments,” said Westwood coach Kyle Ide, in his first full season at the helm after replacing Jim Ewan for the final two games of 2016.
“We tried to do a couple of things we hadn’t worked on, and they made some really nice adjustments. Just me being a rookie coach, I didn’t do my job.”
It didn’t help that Westwood was down a couple of playmakers, with running back Ethan Neeley missing his second straight game and Manny Collier not 100 percent while dealing with a hamstring injury. Junior Derrick Horne was a force on the ground last week in a 35-0 win over Maryvale, gaining 202 yards, but on Friday he was stifled to the tune of 27 yards on 13 carries.
The Warriors appeared to wear down during the second half, particularly on defense, as Gilbert quarterback Jack Plummer found a rhythm in completing 13 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns over the final two quarters.
Gilbert coach Derek Zellner said his team came out “sluggish” to start the game Friday but was vitalized by the turnover-touchdown sequence that gave the Tigers the lead just before halftime.
“We had to get the mojo,” Zellner said. “It’s not like we weren’t moving the ball. We were just squandering opportunities that came around.
“Going into halftime, to get that score – huge momentum swing. We woke up and then we started playing the way we wanted to play in the second half.”
– Tyler Killian is a freelance sports writer for MyNewsMesa.com.
Gilbert 41, Westwood 7
G 6 8 21 6 – 41
W 0 7 0 0 – 7
G – Middleton 44 run (kick blocked), 7:47
W – Collier 8 pass from Layton (Gonzalez kick), 10:11
G – Tanner 54 pass from Plummer (McKernan pass from Plummer), 0:25
G – Tanner 50 punt return (Duran kick), 9:33
G – Otanez 10 pass from Plummer (Duran kick), 5:44
G – Amendolara 15 pass from Plummer (Duran kick), 2:25
G – Tanner 1 pass from Plummer (run failed), 4:59
First downs 17 8
Rush-yards 15-114 34-96
Comp-Att-Int 21-34-0 10-21-1
Pass yards 261 93
Total yards 375 189
Pen-yards 11-93 11-95
Fumbles/lost 1-1 1-1
G – Middleton 6-62, Plummer 7-37, Lucio 2-15. W – Layton 10-44, Horne 13-27, Burchard 4-6, Collier 2-11, Hornsby 2-5, Sonasi 2-1, William-Cyrus 1-2.
G – Plummer 21-34-4-261. W – Layton 8-17-1-76, Hornsby 1-1-0-11, Collier 1-1-0-6, Stayner 0-2-0-0.
G – Tanner 6-116, Amendolara 4-26, Middleton 3-2, Hudson 2-34, Laganke 2-33, Otanez 2-30, Meza 1-18, W. Plummer 1-3. W – Collier 3-35, Palmer 3-30, Ayre 1-11, Whiting 1-8, Layton 1-6, Horne 1-3.