WESTMORELAND, N.Y. (WKTV) - Begging for a challenge all season long, Westmoreland finally got one and passed it on Saturday with a 42-12 win over Waterville to clinch a perfect regular season and the Class D South title.
Having outscored its first five opponents 199-6 in the first half and winning by an average of 48 points, the Bulldogs, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class D, had yet to play their starters in the fourth quarter this season. Waterville, which is led by former Westmoreland head and assistant coach Jerry Corigliano, finally forced that to happen by being within 21-6 at halftime and 28-12 after three quarters, and Westmoreland responded by shutting out the Indians 14-0 in the final frame to pull away.
As the league champion, Westmoreland (5-0 league, 6-0 overall) will be a top seed in the Section III, Class D playoffs and will host a first-round game next weekend. Waterville, meanwhile, finishes tied for second in league play at 3-2 (4-2 overall) with Oriskany and Morrisville-Eaton. The teams will have their seedings determined by a tiebreak as each team went 1-1 against the others, meaning there is no head-to-head matchup winner. The playoff brackets will be released Sunday.
With Waterville boosted by the return of quarterback Donnie March after he missed last week's game with an ankle injury, Westmoreland's defense made it a moot point by intercepting him on Waterville's first three possessions and turning each one into an offensive touchdown for a 21-0 lead, including a 99-yard drive capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Dan Smith. But Waterville kept the ball on its fourth possession and scored in the final seconds of the half on a 7-yard pass from March to Stephen Potter to keep it close at the break--something that excited both teams; Waterville because it was hanging with Westmoreland and the Bulldogs because it meant their starters would get to play more than just one or two series in the third quarter before being pulled.
Waterville positioned itself to make the game perhaps uncomfortably close for Westmoreland when it intercepted the Bulldogs on the opening possession of the second half and got a 1st down on Westmoreland's 13-yard line. But the Bulldogs held tough, forcing 4th and 6 at the 9 and ending the drive with a Travis Rogers interception in the end zone--which he fumbled trying to run out, but teammate Jason Colburn recovered it at the 4. Westmoreland then drove all the way down again, capping a 96-yard drive with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Colburn to go up 28-6.
The Indians stayed within striking distance thanks to Silas Frye returning the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-12, but Westmoreland clamped down after that with standout running back Justin Becker rushing for a 20-yard touchdown and returning a punt 36 yards for another in the fourth to seal the victory.
Becker finished with 20 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns plus the punt return TD while Smith carried 15 times for 117 yards and a touchdown and completed 6-of-12 passes for 69 yards, two TDs and an interception. Colburn led the defensive attack with four tackles and two interceptions, Rogers had five tackles and a pick and Brandon Jones had six tackles.
The victory was not all good for Westmoreland, though, as it lost starting offensive lineman Tim Crumb to a knee injury in the first quarter. Head coach Tim Gates believed it was an ACL injury, which would knock the 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior out for the playoffs.