By Johnny Falduto of Friday Night Final - only on The ROAR
The Westside Rams (1-1) ended a 5-game losing streak to rival TL Hanna (2-1) in dominant fashion with a 45-7 victory over the Yellow Jackets at Jim Fraser Field on Friday night. The matchup marked the 65th meeting between the two historic programs, with TL Hanna leading the all-time series by a score of 47-18, dating back to 1972.
Westside starting quarterback Cutter Woods, a sophomore transfer from Eastside, understood exactly what this rivalry meant to the two programs: “I knew how big of a game this was,” he said, “All week, I felt it from my teammates and coaches, and even my dad, who went to Hanna.”
Woods and the Westside offense opened the scoring in the contest with a 27-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Bola Gil and followed that up on their next offensive possession with a Woods 33-yard strike to junior wide receiver Josh Williams to extend their lead to 10-0 going into the second quarter.
Williams, a standout two-sport athlete in football and basketball for the Rams, finished the game with 7 receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns. “Cutter and I used to go to the field and work on our chemistry during the summer,” he said of the two’s strong connection despite it being only their second game together, “I feel like it’s getting better with every practice and every game, and it shows.”
Shortly into the second quarter, TL Hanna’s senior running back Sasheen Latimer, who finished the game with a team-high 78 yards on nine carries, scored the Yellow Jackets’ lone touchdown of the game on a 48-yard run up the middle. From that point on, it was all Rams, as a pair of 60-yard touchdown catches by Nehemiah Smith and Tank Boston gave Westside a 24-7 advantage going into the half.
“We executed on offense, simple as that,” said Westside senior running back Hunter Puckett on the team’s dominant first half performance after scoring only 17 points in their season-opening loss, “We had dropped passes and missed opportunities to score last week, and when we execute and do those things, you see those kinds of results.”
The Rams continued that same execution right from the jump in the second half, with Cutter Woods finding Josh Williams for his second score of the night on the team’s first possession of the third quarter to extend the lead to 31-7. Senior running Hunter Puckett, who finished the game with 19 rushes for 93 yards, added two of his own rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to bring the final score to 45-7 in favor of the Rams.
“They always make holes for me, but tonight was different,” said Puckett of the Rams’ offensive line, “This game was personal for all of us, so they were making sure those holes were there for me the whole game.” Quarterback Cutter Woods, who finished the game 13/18 completions for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns as well as 65 yards on the ground, echoed the same sentiment on the team’s offensive line and execution on offense as a whole: “I think we executed great tonight, our offensive line was great tonight… it felt like what it should have felt like last week,” he said. “We believe in our team and what we are capable of after tonight, and we know that if we keep doing this, everything will be alright.”
“This game meant a lot to us and a lot to the city,” said Josh Williams of the Westside fans, who filled the visiting bleachers to capacity, “We had to win this game to redeem ourselves. Coach (Earley) told us that if we block out all the distractions, put a chip on our shoulder, and play together, this would be a huge win for us going forward the rest of the season.”
Westside looks to build on this momentum as they return home next week to face 2A Abbeville (2-1), while the Yellow Jackets travel to Piedmont to take on the 3A Wren Hurricanes (0-2) as they look to get back in the win column.
Tune in to our Tri-County Tech High School Football Game of the Week, Friday nights at 7pm.