LAINGSBURG – There’s been a one-way freight train coming from Pewamo-Westphalia since the football team’s season ended with a Division 7 state championship loss last November.
The Pirates, who brought back nine returning starters on both sides of the ball, have coasted through the first half of the regular season, outscoring their opponents by a combined 287-20.
P-W confronted its biggest challenge Friday night, a Laingsburg squad that, too, had yet to taste defeat in the 2016 season. The Pirates rose to the occasion.
On its authoritative quest back to Ford Field, Division 7 No. 2-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia navigated rugged field conditions and an early deficit to defeat the Division 6 No. 4-ranked Wolfpack, 40-7, at Laingsburg High School.
“This was huge for the team,” said quarterback Ryan Smith, who had three rushing touchdowns in the game. “Just to see, when we’re down, what the team is … Are we a team that’s going to fall a part when we’re down one touchdown? Or are we a team that’s going to come back, compete and win? And that’s what we did.”
The CMAC showdown got interesting when Laingsburg quarterback Nick Putnam found Jordan Jones for a 69-yard touchdown pass with 2:27 left to play in the first quarter. It was the first points the Pirates’ (6-0, 5-0) defense allowed since Week 1.
However, Pewamo-Westphalia found its footing – literally, as the rain-soaked field forced several Pirate fumbles in the first half – when Smith scored on a 41-yard touchdown run to help give his team an 8-7 lead. After a Putnam interception on the Wolfpack’s (5-1, 4-1) next drive, Smith scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to hand P-W a 16-7 advantage.
The Pirates quickly extended their lead early in the third quarter when defensive lineman Dominic Spitzley intercepted Putnam on the half’s opening drive. Two plays later, Smith scored on a 6-yard touchdown run.
“It just wasn’t our night tonight with what we try and do on offense,” Laingsburg coach Brian Borgman said. “We need a little bit more of a dry ball for us to spread the ball around a little bit, and (it wasn’t there). But had they had a dry field, there would have been a lot more Jared Smith that we would have had to deal with.
“I think (P-W) is a team on a mission, and for us to score on them – against the (starters) – when the game mattered, putting pressure on them, that’s a big step for us going in the right direction.”
Jared Smith, the Lansing area’s leading rusher, added to Pewamo-Westphalia’s total when he scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. The reigning State Journal offensive player of the year setup his 18th touchdown of the season with a 25-yard run two plays prior.
On his next carry, Jared Smith went 95 yards to hand his team a 27-point lead.
“There was a moment where I knew we were struggling with footing,” Jared Smith said. “Our offense relies so much on running the ball, and when the ground is like this, it’s hard to get footing. We just had to get north and south, and eventually our line got going and opened up holes.”
The Pirates’ Cameron Wirth put a bow on the contest when he scooped a blocked punt and returned it for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.