The aftermath of No. 7 Westfield's 35-14 home win over No. 6 Robinson last night in the AAA Division 6 Northern Region semifinals was notable for its tranquility. Westfield's celebrations were muted. Fans didn't rush the field and players were almost subdued. The Bulldogs, it seemed, expect to see plenty of other chances to cheer in coming weeks.
"We've got a whole lot more to play for," Westfield Coach Tom Verbanic said.
Still, last night's victory was an accomplishment. Although the stat sheet doesn't show it, Westfield controlled the game from start to finish against Robinson, a team that beat the Bulldogs 14-10 last week and had been the most dominant program in the Northern Region over the past five years. Despite being out-gained 344-245, Westfield (10-1) won the turnover battle, committed three fewer penalties and scored on special teams.
With the win, Westfield advanced to its second region championship game in three years, and Robinson (9-2) goes home without making the region final for the first time since 1999.
"I think the key was last week was we lost two out of the three phases of the game," Verbanic said. "We didn't do well on offense and we didn't do well on special teams. Tonight, our special teams were excellent and offensively we played very well."
Senior running back Evan Royster was a big part of that change. Held to just 57 yards last week, Royster's lowest output since the second game of his sophomore season, he burst through the Rams defense for 69 yards on seven carries on the first drive of the game, including a two-yard touchdown run.
Royster didn't disappoint the rest of the game, finishing with 221 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns. Two of this scores will get replayed on highlight reels for a long time. Royster broke a 7-7 tie in the second quarter, rushing through the middle of Robinson's defense and performing a wicked spin move in the secondary before bouncing to the outside for a 55-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he capped Westfield's scoring with a 49-yard score, leaving would-be tacklers in his wake.
"We worked on every aspect of the game this week and did better in all of them," Royster said.
Robinson also allowed senior Cameron Hadnot to run behind a pack of Bulldogs for a 59-yard punt return that swelled the lead to 28-7 with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. That score was Westfield's second of the half and busted open a 14-7 Westfield lead at halftime.
"We were off," Robinson Coach Mark Bendorf said. "Give them credit. We outplayed them last week and they outplayed us this week. "