Originally appeared on Vype.com.
HOUSTON — Westfield simply ran out of time.
Down 14-11 with 4:01 left in the game, the Mustangs had a chance if the defense could hold.
After a wild few minutes, including a muffed punt, and defensive stand, Westfield made one final play only to see the lateral fall to the turf ending its perfect season as Lufkin won 14-11 in the Region II-6A Division II semifinal on Saturday at Texan Drive Stadium.
“You’re going to have to beat people all the way through, you get past the second round there isn’t no donkeys left and you’ve got to play,” Lufkin coach Todd Quick said. “If you want to win it you’ve got to beat people like that.”
Lufkin will face the winner of Longview — which beat Klein Collins 30-24 — in the regional final. This is the first regional final appearance for Lufkin sine 2005.
Westfield loses its first game of the season finishing the year at 11-1. This is the Mustangs’ first loss in the regional semifinals since losing to Dallas Skyline, 38-33, in 2012.
“We had our chances,” Westfield coach Matt Meekins said. “Did a good job of fighting back and giving ourselves a chance.”
Time was the biggest story of the game.
From the start, Lufkin (11-2) was able to control the clock with its highly effective rushing attack, fueled by senior Isaiah Phillips.
The Panthers racked up 315 yards of offense, 216 of it coming on the ground.
“They did a good job of running the ball,” Meekins said. “They were running zone play and blocking the backside defensive end. Our safeties weren’t coming up, especially in the first half and fitting like he was supposed to. We adjusted a little bit in the second half.”
Phillips rushed for 160 yards on 32 carries and one score in the win.
“The offensive line defeated a great defensive line,” Phillips said. “I felt like I just had to run through the holes and drive the ball.”
Behind that attack and ability to convert third downs, Lufkin dominated time of possession.
The Panthers in the end held the ball for 29:15 of the game, registering 18 first downs and going 9 of 15 on third down conversions.
“You do that, not only do you control the clock, you affect the tempo of what they want to do offensively,” Quick said. “They can’t get into a rhythm. They run four or five plays and then they’re off. Then you run seven or eight plays it kind of messes with your rythym offensively.”
Westfield struggled to find that rhythm early and it continued through the game.
The Mustangs in the first half were held to just four drives, one ending in an interception, two in punts, and the final in a 25-yard field goal from Brandon Amaya, making it 7-3 Lufkin at halftime.
The three points were the fewest Westfield has scored all season. It was the lowest since scoring just six against Dekaney in the opening half on the way to a 22-0 victory on October 6.
Trailing 14-3 with 4:52 to go in the game, Westfield’s defense came up big. Dorien Hawkins intercepted Lufkin quarterback Kewone Thomas and returned it to the 19 of the Panthers.
Westfield three plays later punched it in as Edwin Allen rumbled in from a yard out, making it 14-9. A two-point conversion was successful as Terrance Gipson hit Noah Massey, cutting the lead to three with 4:01 to go.
A defensive stand by Westfield forced Lufkin to punt. As the ball came towards Westfield’s return man, a fair catch was called. The ball all of a sudden was on the ground as Westfield and Lufkin players collided.
Initially flags flew, with Westfield’s sideline believing kick-catch interference would be called. Eventually, it was ruled holding against Westfield and no kick-catch interference, instead of a muffed punt and recovery by Lufkin at the 43.
Lufkin couldn’t do anything with the ball and would punt the ball back to Westfield with 53 seconds left.
A high snap nearly cost the Panthers but Max Quick was able to recover the ball and get off a punt, pinning Westfield at its 19 with 40 seconds to go.
“They work the bad snap drill and what to do with it,” Todd said. “I told him, son you’re a punter not a running back. Do whatever you have to do to punt the football. He didn’t get flustered, he didn’t get rattled. He turned, looked and made a play.”
Westfield had one last chance to drive down the field with 40 seconds.
Mustangs quarterback Terrance Gipson hit Ali Walter for a 23-yard pickup to the 42, leaving 26 seconds. A sack of Gipson back to the 34 and a spike stopped the clock with eight seconds.
This left time for last heave. A short pass and a failed lateral ended the game, giving Lufkin the 14-11 victory.
“Every possible emotion you could have from the highest to the lowest to the highest,” Quick said about the final five minutes. “You’ve got to believe in the kids. You put them out there and you know they’re going to do whatever they can. They made plays when they had to today.”
Gipson finished 9 of 13 for 133 yards and one interception and rushed seven times for 37 yards.
Lufkin: Kewone Thomas to Ja’Lynn Polk for 7-yard TD 7-0 (8:38 – 2nd quarter)
Westfield: Brandon Amaya 25-yard field goal 7-3 (0:09 – 2nd quarter)
Lufkin: Isaiah Phillips rush for 2 yards 14-3 (3:39 – 3rd quarter)
Westfield: Edwin Allen rush for 1 yard 14-9 (4:01- 4th quarter)
Westfield: Terrance Gipson to Noah Massey 2pt conv 14-11 (4:01-4th quarter)