West Springfield 31,
It didn't matter that West Springfield trailed by 16 points late in the third quarter, or that the Spartans were playing in front of more than 3,000 frenzied Annandale fans, or that they had a sophomore quarterback at the helm.
West Springfield simply went back to the formula that has worked for it all season -- handing the ball to senior tailback Jason Langley and make the opposing team pay for its mistakes. Langley scored twice in the final 14 minutes, and senior wide receiver Mike Caussin caught a tipped pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter to lift the Spartans to a 31-26 victory in a critical Virginia AAA Patriot District game.
The victory improved West Springfield to 4-1, 2-0 and boosted the Spartans' playoff aspirations. The Atoms fell to 3-2, 1-1 and saw their postseason hopes take a big hit.
"We turned their mistakes into points," said Langley, who rushed for 144 yards and two scores on 21 carries. "We knew coming in that this was going to be a close game. It came down to who made the bigger plays when it mattered. And our defense made plenty of them."
Langley was referring to a fumble recovery by junior Greg Heruth early in the fourth quarter. It came moments after Langley had pulled the Spartans to within 26-17 with a 15-yard touchdown run, and the turnover put West Springfield on the Annandale 39-yard line.
Five plays later, Caussin (seven receptions for 105 yards) caught a deep pass from quarterback Peter Lalich after it had been batted up into the air by a Annandale defensive back. Lalich, making his second career start, completed 18 of 31 passes for 180 yards.
Caussin was credited with an 18-yard touchdown reception -- his second of the game -- that trimmed the Spartans' deficit to 26-24 with 8 minutes 38 seconds remaining.
Less than three minutes later, West Springfield's Tommy Schauder snuffed out an Annandale fake punt, resulting in a 10-yard loss. It put the Spartans on the Atoms 25-yard line. Two plays later, Langley broke free for a 25-yard touchdown run up the middle that put West Springfield ahead 31-26.
Annandale never recovered.
"It was just the luck of the draw," Caussin said, referring to the batted pass. "This is a remarkable win."
Annandale Coach Dick Adams said: "That was bad luck. The quarterback was just trying to throw it away. A sure interception got tipped up and into the hands of their receiver. There were just some crazy plays tonight."
Annandale was led by quarterback Nathan Cartagena (17 carries, 75 yards, one touchdown), Keith Watson (80 yards and a score on seven carries), and Milford Smith (75 yards , two touchdowns on 11 carries).
"They helped us with a few critical mistakes," West Springfield Coach Bill Renner said. "All you can say about that tipped pass is, 'Amen.' "