Westfield saluted its youth football programs prior to Saturday’s hugh schgool football game between the host school and Union, then proceeded to put on a clinic for its next generation of heroes.
For a half.
After demonstrating the virtues of a stout defense and an opportunistic offense in the first half, Westfield abandoned those very principles along with a two-touchdown advantage in the second, absorbing its third consecutive loss, 25-14 to Union.
The Blue Devils (2-3), ranked fifth in the Courier-News Top 10, shut out Union (2-2) and shut down its explosive back, Jamauri Bogan, in the first half, limiting Bogan to 41 yards on 11 carries and the Farmers to a mere 80 yards of total offense, while riding a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to a 14-0 advantage at the break.
“We just didn’t finish,” Westfield coach Jim DeSarno said. “We dominated the first half in every aspect of the game.”
Bogan returned to form in the second half, running 19 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns to make things easier for quarterback Diego Rios, who completed six of seven second-half passes for 119 yards and another score. The Farmers scored on its first four possessions of the second half before graciously sitting on the ball deep in the red zone to close out the contest.
“We’ve shut him down in every first half we’ve ever played against him, I think,” DeSarno said of Bogan. “We’ve never shut him down in the second half. We made the kids aware of it.”
Westfield advanced inside the Union 5 yard-line before fumbling the ball away in the first quarter but took advantage of a bad snap on a Farmers punt to regain possession at the Union 30 three minutes into the second. On third-and-seven from the 15 Chris Hogge found Dylan Elliott, who caught five passes for 83 yards, all in the first half, at the goal line near the middle of the field.
Westfield required just four plays to travel 66 yards on its next possession for its second score. Rawles, who finished with 135 yards on 26 rushes, picked up 48 on the first play of the series and six on the last for a 14-0 edge.
The shift in momentum came suddenly as Union nearly matched its first-half yardage with a 79-yard, 10-play march to open the second. Bogan carried on seven of the 10 plays and surpassed his first-half output with 49 yards in the series, which ended with his six-yard touchdown run.
Union’s defense picked up, too, stopping the Blue Devils in three plays, and Jabree Robertson returned the punt 65 yards to narrow the gap to 14-13 a minute later.
“They came right down and scored, and then the punt return, and we just never recovered,” DeSarno said.
Union missed the extra-point kick but an air of inevitability hung over the field, even as Westfield earned its only three first downs of the second before punting. The Farmers took the lead for good with an 80-yard, nine-play drive that culminated with an 18-yard strike to Travon Gravenhise in the near left corner of the end zone with 8:52 remaining.
W – D. Elliott 15 pass from Hogge (Hogge kick)
W – Rawles 6 run (Hogge kick)
U – Bogan 6 run (Dagnone kick)
U – Robertson 65 punt return (kick failed)
U – Gravenhise 18 pass D. Rios (pass failed)
U – Bogan 22 run (pass failed)
RUSHING: U – Bogan 30-143, Iroha 3-18, Robertson 2-8, Francis 1-3, D. Rios 4-(-7); W – Rawles 26-135, Curry 3-15, Hogge 3-(-10).
PASSING: U – D. Rios 10-15-0-139; W – Hogge 6-18-0-88.
RECEIVING: U – Iroha 3-51, G. Rios 3-27, Robertson 2-8, Bogan 1-35, Gravenhise 1-18; W – D. Elliott 5-83, Kane 1-5.