West Limestone coach Shelby Davis has coached in a lot of road games in his career, but he said Friday night's game at Central-Florence was the toughest road game experience he has ever faced.
So even though West Limestone nearly threw away a 22-point halftime lead, Davis was more than happy to sneak out of town with a 28-20 victory that keeps the Wildcats in first place in Class 4A-Region 8.
“That's the toughest place I've ever been to play in my 10 years of coaching,” Davis said. “We faced some adversity, but the kids never panicked and the coaches never panicked. We held it together and said 'Let's do what we've got to do to win and get out of here.'”
The game didn't look too difficult for West Limestone (3-0 overall, 2-0 region) in the first half. After spotting Central a 6-0 lead, West scored the next 28 points to take a 28-6 halftime lead.
Colin Patterson hooked up with River Helms for a 15-yard scoring strike that put West up 7-6 after Maiko Bartmann's extra point.
The Wildcats extended the lead after forcing a Central fumble deep in their own territory. Patterson took advantage of the good field position by throwing another touchdown pass to Helms. Helms finished the game with 94 receiving yards and two scores, while Patterson had 187 passing yards on 15 completions.
West scored twice more before halftime, with Dakota Wilson scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run before Thorne Slaton weaved his way through the Central defense on a 53-yard touchdown run with just 5 seconds remaining before halftime. Slaton finished the game with 108 rushing yards, while Wilson had 89.
West Limestone had a chance to put the game completely away in the third quarter, but had two touchdowns called back due to penalties. One touchdown was negated due to a holding penalty, while the other was called back because of a blindside block. Davis wasn't very happy with either call.
“We had over 400 yards of offense and only 28 points to show for it,” he said. “We had three times as many penalties as they did. Going back and watching the film, I don't believe they were the correct calls. It really could have been a 42-6 game there in the third quarter.”
With West Limestone frustrated with penalties and unable to extend the lead, Central (3-1, 1-1) threw a couple of long touchdown passes to get back in the game. Jackson Minor threw an 88-yard touchdown pass to Carson Brewer midway through the third quarter and the two hooked up again on a 38-yard touchdown toss to make the score 28-20 at the end of the third quarter.
“We blew two coverages on their touchdowns, and that was a lot of their offense,” Davis said. “You take away those two plays and they didn't even have 200 yards of offense. We really shut their running game down, we just lost concentration on a couple of plays and it hurt us.”
The two teams traded punts on their next two possessions, and Central got the ball back in the final minutes with a chance to tie the game. However, West Limestone was finally able to seal the victory with an interception with 14 seconds remaining.
It was a fitting end to the game, as West Limestone forced five Central turnovers. Brody White and Brett Beckworth each had interceptions, while Cooper Phillips had two fumble recoveries.
The Wildcats are the only undefeated team remaining in the region and travel to West Morgan in another region contest Friday.
“Our focus going forward this week will be on ourselves,” Davis said. “We've got to get some things fixed and work on our focus. We had a lack of focus and concentration at times Friday. We really picked it up and got out to a big lead, we just didn't finish very well.”