Westlake quarterback Caleb Dixon threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Tillman to give the Lions the lead with 8:39 left in regulation and they made that stand, holding on to beat the East Coweta Indians 14-12 Friday night in the Region 2-AAAAAAA opener at Garland Shoemake Memorial Stadium.
EC falls to 4-2 overall and 0-1 in the region, while Westlake improves to 3-3, 1-0.
The Indians started the game on fire. They went 65 yards in only five plays, capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by running back Gerald Green. Peter Walker missed the point-after attempt, so EC only led 6-0.
Westlake, the defending region champion, wasn’t fazed. The Lions had their own long drive on their first possession with the bulk of the load coming from senior running back Gino Appleberry (21 yards on the drive). The drive ended with Dixon throwing a 28-yard TD pass to Markcus Johnson to tie the game at the 4:46 mark of the first quarter. James Miller’s point-after was good and Westlake led 7-6.
Westlake had a chance to increase its lead midway through the second. The Lions had fourth-and-goal from the EC 3-yard line, but Appleberry’s pass sailed over the head of wide receiver Malachi Miller and out of the end zone and EC got the ball back.
The Indians didn’t capitalize on that opportunity, but they did break through later in the period. Dixon fumbled on a fourth-down play and the ball was recovered by EC’s Dantarius Chunn. The Indians struck quickly with some trickery, as running back Juan Calipolitti threw a 49-yard TD pass to a wide open Brayden Carey to reclaim the lead with 1:22 left before halftime. But Green was inches short on the two-point conversion try and EC went into the half with only a 12-7 lead.
Neither team dented the scoreboard in the third quarter as both defenses played well. Westlake’s Myles Sims had an interception and EC defensive lineman Jalen Smith was all over the place, making several tackles and getting a huge sack to thwart Westlake drives.
The Lions came up big in the fourth quarter. The defense stopped EC’s Green on fourth-and-inches and two plays later, Dixon threw his second TD pass of the game — a 36-yard strike to Tillman. The point-after was good and Westlake led 14-12.
EC had another fourth-down try on its ensuing possession, but after calling a timeout, Indians head coach John Small decided to punt the ball to Westlake with 5:18 remaining.
The Indians’ defense had a chance to stop Westlake on third-and-10, but Dixon completed a 10-yard pass to Amir Spivey to keep the drive alive with 2:27 left. That was a big play, because Westlake ran the ball and chewed the clock, forcing EC to use all of its remaining timeouts. Westlake ran the clock down to 17 seconds remaining before punting the ball back to EC.
EC got the ball with 7.9 seconds left and ran two plays before time ran out and Westlake escaped with the win. Green finished with 108 yards rushing and a TD for the Indians, whose next game is at region foe Wheeler High at 7:30 p.m. Friday.