MARIETTA – Region 2AAAAAAA leader Westlake appeared to be on its way to a convincing victory over Wheeler with a 15-0 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Then, the Wildcats woke up, scoring 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a dramatic come-from-behind 18-15 upset victory over the Lions at Corky Kell Stadium on Friday.
The win breathes new life into Wheeler’s state playoff hopes, as the Wildcats can clinch a postseason spot with a win on over Pebblebrook in their regular-season finale next week.
Zach Adkins’ 42-yard field goal with 42.4 seconds remaining in the game broke a tie and gave Wheeler (4-5, 2-2) the win.
“Our guys are very resilient,” Wheeler coach Bryan Love said. “We had a great week of practice. I told the guys, just keep believing, keep working hard, keep doing the right things and great things will happen for you. We had a lot of adversity that we faced this year and the guys keep believing, they keep fighting.”
Westlake (5-4, 3-1) got off to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter on a 25-yard touchdown run by Jamari Simons and an 11-yard pass from Jimmy Ingram to Chase Lloyd. It then adding a safety just before halftime to make it 15-0.
“At halftime, I told them, “Don’t flinch. There’s no panic in what (Westlake was) doing. They’ve got a tremendous team over there. Coach (Bobby) May is doing a great job over there. They have a great program. I told the kids it was our time to make plays in the second half.”
After a scoreless third quarter, the final period appeared to be more of the same after Wheeler fumbled the ball over to Westlake at the Lions’ 35-yard line with 9:50 remaining.
However, Wheeler’s Manuel Young intercepted a pass by Westlake’s Ingram at the 50 and took the ball to the Lions 9 with 9:39 left.
Wheeler took advantage as Dayshawn Anderson scored on a 9-yard run on the first play of the series to help the Wildcats cut their deficit to 15-7.
Westlake was forced to punt on the ensuing series and the punt was blocked by Wheeler’s Taylor Smith, who scooped up the ball and ran it back 40 yards for the touchdown with 5:19 to go. Robinson ran the ball into the end zone for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 15-all.
Wheeler got another big break when it recovered a Westlake fumble on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Wildcats the ball at their own 42.
The Wildcats proceeded to advance the ball well into Lions territory, setting up Adkins’ game-winning 42-yard field goal in the final seconds.