THORNWOOD – Andrew DiBiase took a handoff in the shadow of the goal post early in the second half, plowed through a small opening in the line and was quickly surrounded by a swarming defense.
He refused to yield.
In a matter of seconds, the entire Westlake offensive line was pushing the pile up the field, picking up the most important 10 yards of the game.
Valhalla simply had no leverage.
Rob DiNota eventually capped the 98-yard statement drive with a 20-yard scoring run, giving the Wildcats needed momentum.
Westlake rolled from there, posting a 35-3 win in a Section 1 Class B semifinal and is now in position for a repeat. The defending champions played lockdown defense after the intermission and scored four unanswered touchdowns.
It was a fitting exclamation point.
“That sent a message,” said DiNota, who set up the drive with his third interception of the game. “We let them know they weren’t going to stop us as long as we kept doing what we do.”
Next up is another meeting with unbeaten Pleasantville at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Mahopac High School. The Panthers won a back-and-forth showdown two weeks ago.
Joseph Ferri had the Wildcats on the board after he covered 36 yards in two plays, but the Vikings were in a stubborn mood.
Westlake only picked up 17 yards the rest of the half.
“It was as simple as execution,” Wildcats coach John Castellano said. “At halftime when we looked at what we were doing, we just weren’t staying on our blocks. We weren’t committed to doing what we were doing.”
A little motivation from line coach Jose St. Victor inspired the early push.
The second Westlake possession covered 61 yards and resulted in a DiNota touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. Valhalla was unable to move the ball. The Wildcats ran for nearly 250 yards in the second half.
Andrew Borrero, a defensive tackle, made a memory when he latched onto a screen pass and returned the ball 34 yards for a touchdown.
“It was third and long so we knew the screen was coming,” he said. “I saw the back coming out of the backfield, stepped in front and took that ball right out of his hands. I knew I had to get to the end zone. I’ve never gotten there. It was the first touchdown of my whole life. The whole thing was a blur. I have to go watch it on film.”
Player of the game: DiNota was all over the place. He came up with three interceptions and ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Turning point: The Wildcats had a 7-3 lead when they fumbled away the opening kick in the second half, but DiNota came up with the interception, the line began to fire out and Westlake moved 98 yards for a touchdown.
Stat line: Ferri had a game-high 122 yards on just nine carries. … DiBiase had 55 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries. … Valhalla was limited to 73 yards on 22 carries.
Quotable: “We really wanted that one bad,” DiNota said. “We’ve all worked so hard and we really want to get back at Pleasantville and win the section two times in a row.”