WILLIAMSPORT — Eight days can make a world of difference.
Just ask Westfall senior quarterback Hayden Lemaster.
Due to Marcus Whaley sustaining an injury in the final preseason game, Lemaster was thrown to the fire last week in a 32-0 loss to Madison-Plains.
“We lost some key linemen from last year’s team, so we struggled opening up holes, and the coaches didn’t want to put much on my shoulders because I only had three days of practice playing quarterback,” said Lemaster, who is normally a wide receiver and last appeared under center as a third-grader before last week. “This week of practice was huge, because I learned more of our plays and had a lot better grasp of running the offense.”
And it showed.
Lemaster completed 8 of 15 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, and added 31 yards rushing and another score in a 38-20 non-league win on Saturday over visiting Logan Elm.
“I felt so much more comfortable out there tonight,” Lemaster said. “I made one bad throw, but other than that it felt great working with our wide receivers.
“I also have to give props to our linemen. Wednesday in practice was the turning point for our line and they did a pretty good job of opening up holes for us to run through and also giving me time to throw the football.”
The Mustangs did most of their damage on the ground, consuming 206 yards on 46 carries for a 4.5 average, along with scoring five touchdowns. Trenton Davis led the way with 23 totes for 115 yards and two scores and Chanston Moll added 51 yards on just four carries and a touchdown.
“We threw a new wrinkle at Logan Elm this week that we hadn’t shown before, running a tight spread and getting the football to the edges,” Westfall coach Brad Smith revealed. “In the preseason and last week against Madison-Plains, a lot of our runs were on traps and other inside plays.
“Our line improved a lot over last week, and we also had some hard running from Hayden, Trent, Chanston and Lucas List. It was nice to see everything come together.”
The Mustangs (1-1) hit the ground running by scoring their first two touchdowns of the season in the first quarter.
A short punt by the Braves and subsequent return by Lemaster gave the Mustangs the football just 25 yards from the end zone. Lemaster scored three plays later on a three-yard run to make it 7-0, following the extra point by Chase Feirl.
“Hayden deserves a ton of credit, because he was put into a difficult situation and has really worked hard,” said a colorfully attired Smith for the Tackling Cancer game. “We know Hayden is an athletic kid from some of the plays he made last year at receiver, but he still had a learn a new and difficult position on the fly.
“When Hayden has made a mistake in practice or in the game, he owns it, learns from it and moves onto the next play and tries to make something happen. He’s new to the position, but he’s playing with a lot of maturity and that was a key to his success against Logan Elm.”
Smith also felt an additional day of preparation due to the annual Tackling Cancer game being played on Saturday made a difference.
“We had a lot to work on after last week’s game and having that extra day allowed us to regroup, work on our blocking and tackling, add a couple of wrinkles and work on developing Hayden as a quarterback,” he said.
Davis capped a seven-play, 79-yard drive later in the quarter on a 43-yard touchdown run around left end to make it 13-0.
The Braves (1-1) finally reached the scoreboard in the second quarter, thanks in part to a seven-yard shanked punt which game them the football on the Westfall 22-yard line. Quarterback Conner Robinson scored four plays later on a one-yard keeper to make it 13-7, following the extra point by Gavin Ewing.
That’s where the score stayed going into intermission, but the Mustangs took charge with a dominating third quarter.
The Mustangs outscored the Braves 19-6 in the period, owned a 130-24 advantage in yards and also forced three takeaways.
“Westfall was more physical than we were and they controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the night,” Logan Elm coach Terry Holbert said. “I have to give their kids a lot of credit, because they were excited, prepared, ready to go and they outplayed us.”
Moll made it 19-7 when he scored from 31 yards out on the second Mustangs’ possession of the quarter.
Lemaster then intercepted a pass, setting the Mustangs up on the Braves’ 42-yard line.
A 26-yard pass from Lemaster to Luke Blackburn set up a four-yard touchdown run by Davis on the next play to make it 26-7.
The Braves tried to stem the tide, pulling to within 26-13 on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Donte Dryden, but a fumble on their next series recovered by Feirl gave the Mustangs another short field.
Westfall cashed the turnover in on the very night play, using a 19-yard strike from Lamaster to Moll to extend their lead to 32-13.
The third quarter ended fittingly with Blackburn intercepting another pass and putting the Mustangs on the LE 17-yard line. The Mustangs scored three plays later on an 11-yard run by List.
Logan Elm scored its final touchdown of the night later in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass from Robinson to Jared Harrington.
Eight days after rushing for 225 yards in a 45-14 win over Zane Trace to open the season, the Braves were held to just 10 yards on 33 carries.
“Our defensive line did a nice job on Logan Elm’s line and then our linebackers did a good job of filling the open window,” Smith said.
It was the second consecutive season that the Mustangs stymied Logan Elm’s running game after allowing the Braves negative-28 yards last year.
Robinson completed 15 of 34 passes for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Braves. Dryden hauled in four receptions for 92 yards and a score and Chase Hoffman added three grabs for 61 yards.
The Mustangs, who extended their winning streak to three games over the Braves, now prepare to host another Pickaway County rival next week in Circleville (0-2).
“Our feeling from last week to this week is like night and day. We had fun and this gives us some confidence moving forward,” Lemaster said. “It’s also important to build off this and have a good week of practice going into the Circleville game.”
The Braves enter the second of a three-game road swing next week against Miami Trace (1-1).