West Limestone's football team keeps making history in 2020. The Wildcats took advantage of turnovers and limited the big plays to defeat Good Hope 21-12 Friday night in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
It is only the second time West Limestone has won multiple playoff games in a season. The other time happened in 1988 when the Wildcats advanced all the way to the state championship game before falling to Thomasville.
“The senior class is an awesome senior class,” West Limestone coach Shelby Davis said. “They've worked so hard. They're tough, they're physical, and that's the way the game is intended to be played.”
West Limestone defeated Good Hope despite being outgained by more than 150 yards thanks to creating turnovers and shutting down Good Hope's run game in the second half.
Good Hope came into the game wanting to run the football and did just that in the first half, rushing for 259 first-half yards. However, West Limestone adjusted at halftime and held the Raiders to just 82 rushing yards in the second half.
Davis credited his assistant coaches with coming up with a game plan that allowed for Good Hope to gain yards but consistently shut the Raiders down before they reached the end zone.
“Our coaches do a fantastic job of coming up with a great game plan,” Davis said. “Our kids have been so locked in in the last couple of weeks on doing their job and doing whatever they've got to do to win the game.”
Good Hope moved the ball at will in the first half but could only cash in the drive for points twice. The Raiders' first two drives of the game ended with lost fumbles, with the second one being picked up by River Helms and returned to the 19-yard line.
It only took West Limestone four plays to score, with Dakota Wilson racing around left end from 8 yards out to put the Wildcats up 7-0 after Maiko Bartmann's extra point.
Good Hope answered on its next drive, moving 77 yards in 13 running plays. The drive was capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run by Colton Bagwell in the first minute of the second quarter. However, the extra point was missed, which kept the Wildcats in the lead.
It was short-lived though, as after a West Limestone punt, Good Hope took the lead on a 57-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tanner Malin. Malin was a thorn in the Wildcats' side all night. He threw for 83 yards and rushed for 191 yards and a score.
However, West Limestone quickly responded to falling behind. Helms took a direct snap and raced 31 yards for a touchdown with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter to give the Wildcats a 14-12 lead.
Good Hope drove inside West Limestone's 10-yard line in the final seconds of the half, but a block in the back penalty pushed them back outside the 25, and the Raiders ran out of time before they could mount a serious challenge for the end zone.
West Limestone received the second-half kickoff and immediately put their stamp on the game. The Wildcats drove 80 yards in 11 plays, with three of those plays being completions from quarterback Colin Patterson to Helms. Helms had receptions of 15 and 30 yards to put West in scoring range, and on third-and-goal from the 7-yard line, he made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone over three Good Hope defenders. Bartmann's extra point gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead, which they spend the rest of the game defending.
Helms had 93 yards receiving on five catches, while Patterson had 101 passing yards on six completions.
Helms lined up in many different formations on offense. He was split wide, tight at the end of the line and in the backfield. But he was always making the big play whenever the Wildcats needed one.
“Wherever I play, I just want to beat the man in front of me,” Helms said. “That's my job. Wherever they want to play me, I can do it.”
Davis said Friday's performance by Helms was just a continuance of what he has been doing over the past month.
“He's our guy, and the guys rally around him,” Davis said. “Man, he has played lights out the second half of the season.”
Good Hope drove inside West Limestone territory on each of their last three possessions, but each time were thwarted by the Wildcats defense. Tucker Weatherford intercepted a pass inside the 10-yard line to kill the Raiders' first drive late in the third quarter.
After West Limestone's subsequent drive ended with a blocked field goal, Good Hope drove inside the Wildcats' 20-yard line, but Malin was stopped short of the first down on a fourth-down scramble.
After a West Limestone punt, Good Hope's final drive of the game reached the Wildcats' 30-yard line, but two penalties pushed them back to midfield, and Malin was sacked on third and fourth down to end the Raiders' final scoring threat with 32 seconds remaining.
West Limestone improved to 11-1 and will travel to play Gordo in the third round of the playoffs Friday. It is the second-most wins a West Limestone team has ever had in a season, trailing only the 1988 team, which went 12-3.
“I can't even explain the feeling right now,” Davis said. “To see these guys believe in me and believe in these coaches, it's just awesome. It's the feeling that I wanted them to have. The feeling of we're going to go out there and compete, and play together, and win. And there's nothing anybody can do about it.”