Westminster stops S. Carroll

Owls' defense shines in season opener

Westminster 12 South Carroll 0


September 09, 2006|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to the Sun

After graduating all of their top offensive threats from a year ago, the Westminster Owls came into last night's season opener against fellow state finalist South Carroll trying to find themselves on offense. What they found was a surprisingly potent defense.

The host Owls limited the Cavaliers to 176 yards of total offense, holding off a pair of critical fourth-down plays and getting a pair of touchdowns of their own from junior running back Jesse Astlin in a 12-0 win.

Astlin, starting in place of injured senior Michael Hill (knee), finished with 94 yards on 18 carries for Westminster (1-0), which last season featured one of the state's most potent offenses in rolling to the Class 3A state final.

"I asked them before the game, `What is this team's identity going to be?'" Owls coach Brad Wilson said. "I don't care if it's offense, defense or special teams. I thought we played good team football."

Westminster moved the ball well early, including two 30-yard passes from Nick Brunner to senior wide out Ryan Miller, but saw its drives fade well shy of the goal line, but with pass-heavy South Carroll (0-1) consistently unable to move the ball, the Owls had plenty of chances. They finally capitalized on one late in the first half, starting near midfield and riding the strong arm of Brunner deep into Cavaliers territory.

Then, on a second-and-goal at the 4, Westminster moved 265-pound lineman Kawaan Tucker to the backfield, and he delivered the key block as Astlin scored around the right side to give his team a 6-0 lead with 1:19 left. The extra-point try sailed just wide.

South Carroll finally got its running game on track after halftime, eschewing a largely unsuccessful passing game to run the ball eight straight times to start the third quarter, moving the ball well into Owls territory.

On a fourth-and-one at the 34, however, the drive ended when quarterback David Ringold was stuffed on a keeper up the middle. Westminster extended its lead late in the quarter, starting its drive at the South Carroll 19 after forcing a punt out of the end zone and scoring on Astlin's 10-yard bolt up the middle to make it 12-0.

The Cavaliers still had one last chance to get within striking distance, but on a fourth-and-goal at the 3, running back Roger Yohn fumbled and the Owls recovered at the 5.

"They did a great job of stuffing the run," first-year South Carroll coach Greg Mihalko said. "We did a good job passing the ball, but we just couldn't sustain the drives. Give them credit - they came up on the big downs."

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