The Westfield Shamrocks scored on their first three possessions of the second half at Scheumann Stadium to break open a competitive game against Lafayette Jeff, allowing the state’s No. 1-ranked 5A team to leave town with a 38-14 victory Friday night.
The victory gave Westfield (8-1) at least a share of its first Hoosier Crossroads Conference title in the league’s final season. Jeff (1-8) dropped its seventh consecutive game going into its sectional opener against Merrillville.
The Bronchos welcomed back their offensive spark plug in tailback Darian Green, and he delivered in the first half, rushing for 107 yards on 19 carries. One of those was a darting 46-yard TD run in the first quarter that tied the game at 7-7.
Green did not play in Jeff’s 44-0 loss to Fishers last week and only sparingly in the 54-14 loss to Avon the week before that because of injuries.
“It felt great being back out there,” Green said, who finished the night with 112 yards on 22 carries. “I didn’t think I would be able to do what I did out there, but I trusted in God and pushed through the pain. But we had some mental plays and just didn’t finish.”
Lafayette Jeff’s three first-half turnovers — two interceptions and one fumble — killed promising drives and bought time for the Shamrocks to get their offense going again.
No turnover was bigger than when Westfield’s defensive back Jay Simons picked off a Matt Johnson pass at the Shamrocks’ 46 with 33.7 seconds left before halftime in a 10-7 game.
The Bronchos’ defense was just coming off holding Westfield on a three-and-out after Jeff lost a fumble on the Westfield 46 the series before.
Given another shot, the Shamrocks capitalized. Quarterback Nick Ferrer found Milo Beam on a 40-yard pass play to get Westfield inside the Jeff 10.
Two plays later, Elvin Caldwell, who rushed for 116 yards on 24 carries, snuck out of the backfield to catch a wide open 9-yard TD pass from Ferrer 15 seconds before halftime.
“That sequence of plays changed the entire game,” said Westfield coach Jake Gilbert. “You hear that great teams find a way to score just before the half. That gave us tremendous momentum for the second half and was the catalyst for the rest of the game.”
The momentum shift was obvious in the second half as the Shamrocks scored on their first three possessions, driving 56, 77 and 74 yards without having a single play go for negative yardage.
Westfield backup tailback Brandon Karsnick came in for Caldwell and rushed for 113 yards on 12 carries, all in roughly three offensive series. When the Bronchos began to target Westfield’s running game, Ferrer was impressive, completing 16 of 20 passes for 188 yards and four touchdown passes, three in the second half.
“I didn’t think we executed all that well, especially in the second half,” Jeff coach Andy Kennedy said. “In the first half, we moved the ball on offense but we had turnovers slow us down.”
Jeff had a chance to take the lead against Westfield in the second quarter. The Bronchos, behind the running of Green and Johnson, moved the ball to the Shamrocks’ 16-yard line, but misfired on a 4-and-2 pass that killed the opportunity.
“I thought they held our slot receiver on the play because we tried to surprise them with that pass, but we didn’t get the call,” Kennedy said. “You can’t complain about woulda, shoulda and couldas. You have to go out there and keep playing.”