Trailing by four with less than two minutes to play last night, No. 17 Westfield proved that it has a quick-strike offense -- just not the conventional kind.
Instead of throwing the ball with precious little time left, Westfield handed the ball to All-Met running back Evan Royster, who needed only two carries to gain 80 yards and score the game-winning touchdown in Westfield's 34-31 road win over No. 7 Centreville.
Royster made his score count by intercepting a pass on Centreville's final desperation attempt, securing a key win for the Bulldogs (5-0, 1-0) and handing Centreville (4-1, 0-1) a loss in the teams' AAA Concorde District opener. More than 7,000 fans attended the game, school officials said.
"I was in a zone, and I knew I could get down the field in those last two minutes," Royster said. "I felt like if they gave me the ball, nobody was going to tackle me. I haven't had it going like that in a long time. It was an incredible feeling."
Royster's late heroics provided the final highlight in a game filled with them. The game's preeminent offensive stars -- Royster and Centreville quarterback Drew Dudzik -- rotated in and out of the spotlight, especially in the second half.
Royster carried the ball on 10 consecutive plays in the second half, helping his team march down the field without much problem. Dudzik, meanwhile, led three scoring drives after halftime, including one that put Centreville ahead, 31-27, with 2 minutes 14 seconds left and set up Royster's final heroics.
Both players finished with statistics typical of their seasons. Royster ran 37 times for 278 yards, boosting his season total to 1,176 rushing yards; Dudzik completed 17 of 23 passes for 263 yards.
"This was a game with some great offensive players, and that's what we saw," Westfield Coach Tom Verbanic said. "We haven't had a close game like this until now, so [Royster's] been sitting out a lot in the second half. I knew he had the energy for this kind of game."
Royster, though, sometimes worried he might not make it through the fourth quarter. He played cornerback for the first time all season so that he could shadow Cam Dohse, Centreville's star wide receiver. Playing both ways for the entire game, Royster found himself gasping for breath on the sideline with 10 minutes left.
"That's when I said to myself, 'You've got to get this done,' " Royster said.
"I gave myself a pep talk. I mean, this is a huge game in our season, and I was running off emotion. I just had to get enough energy up to make a couple more big plays."