JUSTIN, Texas -- Stephenville’s Holton Westbrook was playing a hybrid defense -- “part-man, part-zone’’ -- when he made the decisive play in his team’s 48-30 playoff victory over Lake Dallas.
After taking a deep drop, Westbrook, a senior linebacker, cradled an interception to his chest and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown and a 28-9 lead in the second quarter of Friday’s Class 4A Division II regional playoff at Northwest ISD Stadium.
“It felt like momentum was slipping away a little bit from us and I knew we needed a big play,’’ Westbrook said. “The ball came right to me. Scoring was a little more than I planned on the play. But that’s the fourth week in a row that we’ve scored on defense.’’
Stephenville coach Joseph Gillespie said he couldn’t remember losing a game when his defense scored. And Stephenville kept alive an amazing streak of never losing in 12 appearances in the third round of the playoffs.
The Yellowjackets (11-2) intercepted two other Lake Dallas passes, including one by Brice Gunter in the end zone in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory.
“Those interceptions start with the pass rush we get from our down linemen,’’ Gillespie said. “Our defensive coaches did a good job mixing coverage. Chasing that Lake Dallas quarterback [Dalyn Williams] all over the field is tiring. Our guys were so exhausted at the end they couldn’t even celebrate.’’
Going into the game, Lake Dallas (9-4) had thrown only five interceptions all season.
“It was not a good time to play a bad ball game,’’ said Lake Dallas coach Michael Young. “We made a lot of mistakes we haven’t made all season. We dropped passes and missed open guys. I really don’t think we had to play over our heads to be in this game. All we needed to do was play to our capability.’’
Young said the size of the crowd might have contributed to his team’s nerves.
“Stephenville is used to big crowds" he said. "We aren’t.’’
Young said he really wanted to win the opening coin flip so he could avoid starting the game with the ball deep in the Falcons' own end going into the wind. But it didn't work out that way. Two possessions yielded no first downs and Lake Dallas trailed 14-3 by the end of quarter.
Take away the three interceptions and Lake Dallas senior quarterback Dalyn Williams put up some big numbers: 19-of-35 passing for 341 yards and three touchdowns and 101 rushing yards and a score.
Most of Williams’ rushing yards came before Stephenville’s halftime adjustments.
Stephenville quarterback Tyler Jones was at his best in third-down passing situations. He threw for 226 yards and four touchdowns.
In just his second week after returning from injury, Stephenville running back Aiavion Edwards rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns and caught six passes for 67 yards and two more scores.
Lake Dallas never found a consistent running game. That put more pressure on Williams and the passing attack. And the Falcons were unable to force any turnovers.
Aledo's 42-14 regional playoff victory over Canyon Randall Saturday night in Midland sets up a yet another Stephenville-Aledo showdown in a Class 4A Division II state quarterfinal at 3 p.m. Saturday at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium in Midlothian.
It will be the second meeting of the teams this season and the sixth time in the last three seasons. Aledo's record is also 11-2.
"I know Aledo better than they know themselves,’’ Gillespie said. “And it is the same way on the flip side. There’s a lot of mutual respect. We’ve played great games in the past. If you were to take somebody to a game to show them what Texas high school football is all about, this would be the game.’’
Stephenville, at home, defeated Aledo in the late-August season opener, 48-47.
Said Westbrook on the prospect of another Aledo encounter: “We’re looking forward to it. They’ve knocked us out the playoffs the last two years, but we think we’ve got it figured out.’’