West Springfield 35,
After losing yards on five of six carries midway through last night's game, West Springfield senior Jason Langley was headed in the wrong direction, and the Spartans were in danger of losing their grasp on the game.
But Langley wasn't ready to surrender just yet -- and neither was his offensive line. The Spartans made a blocking adjustment at halftime, and Langley rushed for 147 of his 160 yards -- and two of his three touchdowns -- in the second half to lift West Springfield to a 35-21 victory over visiting Hayfield in the AAA Patriot District opener for both teams.
"It was just pure determination," the 5-foot-6, 160-pound Langley said of his 28-carry effort. "You have to have that, and you have to play with heart in games like this. We're excited because this is the first time in six years that we've been 3-1."
With the victory, the Spartans (3-1, 1-0) vaulted into the Northern Region Division 6 playoff hunt, while Hayfield's chances of qualifying for the four-team tournament took a serious hit. The Hawks (2-2, 0-1) suffered a heartbreaking 30-24 loss in double overtime at Herndon on Monday.
Although Langley's second half performance was impressive, he didn't do it alone. Sophomore quarterback Peter Lalich was solid in his first varsity start, completing 9 of 12 pass attempts for 123 yards and one touchdown. He rushed for another. Lalich was filling in for Spartans quarterback Joey Skaff, who missed the game with an injured throwing shoulder.
"I started a preseason game, and the second half of the last game," said Lalich, who is 6-5, 221. "So I felt I had enough reps to be comfortable. The difference was the offensive line stepped it up in the second half. It was a good team win."
After Lalich scored on a one-yard sneak at the start of the fourth quarter to put the Spartans ahead 28-14, Hayfield came right back on a 34-yard pass play from quarterback Pat Martin to wide receiver Evan Eyo, which put the Hawks back in the game, 28-21, with 2 minutes 46 seconds remaining.
But Langley's second half resurgence continued on the Spartans' next drive. After a failed Hayfield onside kick, he broke free for a 33-yard gain down the sideline. Moments later, Langley scored from four yards out to clinch the victory, 35-21, with 1:13 remaining.
"In the second half, the line started coming off the ball better," West Springfield Coach Bill Renner said. "We started hitting some passes, which forced the linebackers to back off a bit. And Jason started picking his holes. That was the key to win."
Hayfield trailed 14-7 at halftime thanks to a 37-yard score by Martin, who rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries.
"We jut ran out of gas in the second half," Hayfield Coach Billy Pugh said. "It was hard to come back in the second, especially with [injured running back] Larry Asante playing at about 70 percent."