For the fourth time in this decade the Westlake Chaparrals will head to the Texas State Championship game thanks to a 42-27 win over Katy Cinco Ranch on Saturday at Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin.
"It's breathtaking really," coach Darren Allman said. "Our team just keeps on fighting. When something bad happens, they don't get their heads down -- they fight back. We're excited. It's surreal to be going to the State Championship game with this group."
While this will be the first trip to hallowed ground for this group of Chaps, the State Championship isn't new territory for Westlake as the program has made the Championship game seven times (including one trip as a 4A school) in its 40 year history.
"I've dreamed about this about this and it's finally coming true," Bryce Hager said. "I just can't wait."
On the first snap of the game Tanner Price threw an interception to Cinco Ranch linebacker James Radcliffe. Two plays later the Cougars found the end zone less than a minute into the game.
The Chaps went unfazed by their opponent's early score and went on a 27-0 run that left the Cougars down by 21 points at the half.
"It's huge when you can come out and hit them in the mouth early," Price said.
With precision passing and quick footwork, Price foiled the Cinco Ranch defense and contributed to every Westlake score in the first half.
"Our defense gave us great field position that half," Price said. "I think every time we scored we had the ball at about the 50 and that makes it really easy on our part."
A Wake Forest signee, Price and receiver Miles Berger synced up for a couple of big plays in the first half. Late in the first quarter Price hit Berger on the numbers for a 26 yard pass reception that put Westlake at the Katy five yard line. Three plays later Price ran the ball into the end-zone from one yard out.
With under a minute left in the half Price found Berger again, this time on a 12 yard pass for a touchdown. The score gave Westlake their 28-7 halftime lead and seemingly put the Cougars down for the count.
Leading the Westlake receiving core, Berger finished the afternoon with four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Price finished the night 13 for 22 on pass completions with two touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns. The multi-purpose quarterback had 170 yard through the air and 103 yards on the ground.
"Tanner is a great leader for our team," Allman said. "He was ready Wednesday, and we've had to keep him calmed down all week…because he really wanted to win this game in a bad way."
Price credited his offense line for much of his success.
"They did an awesome job today," Price said. "They made great blocks and we had a really balanced attack with the running and passing. We just capitalized off of it."
In the second half, Cinco Ranch mounted a comeback with pivotal plays by Cougar quarterback Zach Myers on both long passes and elusive runs.
A Collin Shaw fumble on a punt return inside of Chaparral territory pushed the momentum in the Cougars favor late in the third quarter. Cinco Ranch scored on the short five play- 44 yard drive early in the fourth quarter to make the score 35-21 in favor of Westlake.
With 5:30 left in the game Myer's found wide-receiver Bobby Waid in the end zone for a 25 yard pass reception. A failed point after attempt meant that the Cougars sat just eight points back of Westlake.
Cinco Ranch had two more possessions with a chance to tie, but failed to advance the ball out of Cougar territory as the Chap's defense by linebackers Bryce Hager and Lance Duran defense contained the Cougar attack.
"They made a great comeback and we knew they weren't going to give up," Price said. "But our defense stepped it up when they needed to and that's what got us this win."
After failing to move chains on fourth–and-four with 1:31 left in the game the Cougars turned the ball over to Westlake on downs. Chaps running back Van Gramann rushed the ball 33 yards for a touchdown on the following play and capped the Westlake win.
Gramann scored both of Westlake's second-half touchdowns, running in a 34-yard touchdown mid-way through the third quarter. Usually by the Westlake offense for short up-the-middle burst, both of Gramann's touchdown runs came on the edge of the field. Gramann led his team on the ground with with 127 yards on 16 carries.
The win marks the first time that first year Westlake head coach Darren Allman has made it to the State Championship game as a head coach. As a player in the mid-80's Allman experienced a Texas title match while playing for the Permian Panthers.
"It's a lot different as a coach," Allman said. "There's so many more things on your mind with the coaching part of it… it's very rewarding. I think it is probably more exciting from a coaching stand-point."
The Chaps will head to the Alamodome to face Euless Trinity (13-2) in the 5A State Championship game next Saturday. In the 5A Division II state title game, Katy will take on Abilene Saturday at 7 p.m. also at the Alamodome.
"We know there will be a great football team lined up across from us next week," Allman said, "just like there have been the last five weeks, and we're a team that can respond to that. It ought to be fun."
Central Texas Notes
Westlake will be one of two Cen-Tex teams competing for a State Title next week. Lake Travis beat Pearland Dawson 57-12 on Saturday to earn the right to play in its third consecutive state championship game. With a chance to earn their third straight title and continue their 45-game win streak, the Cavaliers will face Longview, the team they beat in the championship game last year, in Waco Saturday at 6 p.m.
Westlake outduels Cinco Ranch
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