Defensive back Gavin Loughnane (6) fights off a stiff arm to make a critical take midway through the fourth quarter.
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Westwood High School football team returned to the gridiron for their 2017 season opener on Friday night under the lights at home against Pembroke, beginning a new era of Wolverines football with first-year head coach Brad Pindel. Senior captain Jake Antonucci led the Wolverine offense in seemingly every major statistical category, rushing four times for 12 yards and two touchdowns to go along with six receptions for 100 yards.
Pembroke jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, scoring a touchdown on the game’s opening possession after a trick play; a Titans’ running back threw a deep pass to an open receiver to set his team up deep in Wolverine territory. However, senior defensive lineman Matthew Mason blocked the ensuing PAT to keep it at a six-point deficit.
The Wolverines were forced to a three-and-out on their opening drive of the game, but a fumble on Pembroke’s second drive set up Westwood deep in Titan territory with the chance to get on the board. Jake Antonucci cashed in on the second play of the drive with a two-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat formation. Senior kicker Nick McQuarry added a successful PAT to give the Wolverines their first lead of the night at 7-6 with 42 seconds left in the first quarter.
Both teams exchanged punts to begin the second quarter of play before Pembroke scored a go-ahead touchdown on a 30-yard pass down the far sideline to take a 12-7 lead. The Titans elected to go for two, but a sack on the two-point try by linebacker Matt Berluti kept it at a five-point deficit for Westwood at the half.
The Wolverine defense stepped up big to begin the second half, as following a three-and-out by the Westwood offense, the Titans turned the ball over on downs thanks to a key pass breakup by cornerback Gavin Loughnane in the end zone. Senior captain and quarterback Reed Wilson then orchestrated an 80-yard drive, finished off with a six-yard touchdown run by Antonucci out of the wildcat, to reclaim the lead for Westwood at 14-12 (McQuarry PAT successful) with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.
The Titans began the fourth quarter with a touchdown drive to recapture the lead at 18-14 after converting a third and goal from the Westwood 22-yard line. However, the Wolverines were again able to turn away the Titan two-point attempt thanks to an Antonucci pass break-up, keeping it at a four-point deficit. Wilson led the Wolverines into Pembroke territory on Westwood’s ensuing possession, but a fumble gave the Titans the ball back with the ability to chew some clock. Pembroke then drove deep into Westwood territory and scored a touchdown on a 15-yard run up the middle followed by a successful two-point try, extending their lead to 26-14 with a little over three minutes to play. The Titans hammered in the nail with a pick-six on Westwood’s ensuing possession to make it 33-14, sealing themselves a season-opening win on the road.
The Wolverines will look to secure their first win of the season on Friday when they make the short drive down the road for a non-conference showdown at Norwood.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.