THORNWOOD – In its last three games, the Westlake defense allowed a touchdown on the opening drive, much to the chagrin of coach John Castellano. He knew the team had essentially nine new defensive starters, but also that the grace period had run its course.
“We talked about playing defense with a little bit of an attitude,” Castellano said. “Last year’s team had a little bit of an attitude on defense. This team has to develop that.”
The Wildcats looked plenty mean on defense Saturday. They kept Nanuet without a first down until the third quarter, spurring a 35-8 rout in a rematch of last year’s Section 1 Class B championship.
Westlake, the defending champ, forced six three-and-outs in the first half and finally began to find some offensive rhythm in the second behind the running of junior Rob DiNota and senior Joe Ferri.
The Wildcats improved to 5-0 and will host Briarcliff/Hamilton on Saturday for homecoming.
“We had a bunch of great guys coming back,” DiNota said. “Our amount of skill level we have, I think it’s the same as last year or even better. Our offense is just rolling and our defense is up to speed with our offense now.”
Player of the game: Rob DiNota, Westlake. The first-year starting quarterback continued his strong junior season. He needed just 13 carries to rush for 196 yards and a touchdown and anchored a strong defensive performance from his safety position.
“The kid is just a phenomenal football player,” Castellano said. “And he’s as good defensively as he is offensively. We’re panicking a little bit keeping him on defense, but we have to keep him out there.”
Turning point: After an early Wildcat touchdown, the game evolved into a defensive stalemate. Westlake suddenly gained some offensive momentum when it breezed through a three-play, 60-yard drive that was highlighted by DiNota’s 49-yard run. Andrew DiBiase carried the next play in from 5 yards out and allowed the Wildcats to hold a 14-0 lead at halftime. They scored on their next three possessions to build a 35-0 lead.
Stat line: Westlake (5-0) — It didn’t matter that the Wildcats didn’t complete a pass all game. They rushed for 396 yards and outgained Nanuet 395-110. … Ferri had 11 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown and Andrew DiBiase rushed for 53 yards and two scores. … DiNota, Andrew Borrero and Ferri all had sacks. Nanuet (3-2) — Jake Stein had a team-high 56 yards on the ground. He helped set up Connor Breit’s 2-yard touchdown plunge. … Breit (right leg) and quarterback Thomas Fay (concussion protocol) missed the majority of the game.
Quotable: “We’re coming,” Ferri said about his team’s Oct. 15 game at unbeaten Pleasantville. “We’ve been waiting all year for that game and we’re going to come out firing. We’re going to show them all about Westlake football.”