Heritage School advances to 1st state championship game
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
A decade after winning one of his own as a player, Kevin Prisant was on his way to another GISA championship game following The Heritage School’s 42-10 rout of Westfield School on Friday, this time as a head coach of a first-time finalist in the Hawks, who are now on their way to play Prisant’s alma-mater, Deerfield-Windsor in next Friday’s Class AAA title game.
Squeezing his way through the celebratory crowd among players, parents and grandparents, Prisant looked up, found Larry Rich and made sure to give the grandfather of the player who scored his team’s first four touchdowns a giant hug.
But his feeling was mutual for every Hawks player in uniform during a convincing semifinal victory over the Hornets.
“It makes for a good story, but this is all about them. They’ve earned this,” Prisant said. “I thought it’d be much closer. I thought if we could score three touchdowns, we win. After three games of struggling defensively, we were able to put on the throat of somebody and keep it there. Coach [D.J.] Clay came up with a heck of a gameplan against them.”
The Hawks turned a 7-3 first-quarter lead into a rout with a combination of big plays on both sides of the ball, scoring three times on gains of over 75 yards and equally turning Westfield’s Wing-T into a pass-first, run later offense — not what the Hornets had hoped to accomplish.
“After three games of struggling defensively, we were able to put on the throat of somebody and keep it there,” said Prisant. “Our defense read their keys exactly how they were supposed to. We were going to take away what they were going to do. We knew if we could take that away.”
Meanwhile, senior Candler Rich scored four consecutive times in the first half, including two in the final minute, as Heritage School converted a pair of Westfield turnovers — both of which landed in the hands of sophomore linebacker Trevor Sawyers — into second-quarter touchdowns, turning momentum into the Hawks favor for good in what expected to be a close game between a pair of 10-1 lineups.
Sawyers’ goal-line interception on Westfield’s deepest drive of the game initially took the wind out of the Hornets after trying to close within a score to close a nine-play drive with a minute left in the first half. The sophomore linebacker — one of Heritage’s smallest defenders — anticipated a throw from Hornets quarterback Evan Williams quick enough to step in front of his intended receiver facing 3rd-and-Goal from the 6-yard line in a 14-3 game.
After Sawyers interception, the Heritage School needed six plays just to pick up two first downs, the latter at its own 25. But on the following snap, Rich broke free into the open again off the right side and outraced the rest of the Hornets for his third touchdown and a 21-3 lead with 1:00 left until halftime.
“That was a big turnaround that stop we had at the goal line,” said Rich of Sawyers’ interception. “After that, we really jumped on them. I thought it would be a closer game. Those couple of scores late in the first half were huge.”
Sawyers’ second recovery was also a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Westfield’s Williams coughed up the ball with the Hornets facing 3rd and 22 following a 13-yard sack by defensive lineman Tyler Henson and the fumble rolled right to the linebacker to regain possession with 28 seconds left.
Heritage School quarterback Joe Bonner heaved a 33-yard pass that Rich went up to grab at the Westfield 10-yard line and two plays later, the running back went in off the right side after making a quick cutback to make it 28-3 to 10.3 seconds before halftime.
Remarkably by the break, Heritage School had outgained Westfield by 360 yards to 131, though the Hornets had seven first downs to the Hawks’ four. Westfield’s running game, though, was held to 62 yards on 21 carries through the first-two quarters.
“If we do what we’re supposed to do, it’s hard to score on us,” said Clay, who felt Sawyers’ interception, “sucked the wind out of them. They would have been able to cut the lead and they had a lot of momentum there with our guys going both ways. It just rolled back to the offense. The offense and defense, we just feed off each other.”
It was as tight as predicted for the opening 18 minutes with Heritage making the most of two big gains to score its first 14 points without a first down. Rich’s broke free for a 92-yard score off right tackle facing third down on its second offensive series, having gone three-and-out to open the game.
Instead it was the first of three consecutive scoring plays of 75 yards or longer for Heritage’s wing-T offense.
“That first series we looked a little tight and even in warmups we weren’t real crisp in what we were doing,” admitted Prisant. “But we got out and were able to bust a big play here and there. We’re usually don’t big play [people]. We drive the ball and then get a big play or two. But that was big play after big play.”
Bonner and Rich initially connected on a 84-yard catch for a touchdown on the senior quarterback’s first completion of the game. After throwing two incompletions on Heritage’s first three possessions of the game, the second of which was lost on a Hawks turnover, Bonner hit Rich crossing from right to left in stride and Heritage’s No. 7 raced untouched to the end zone to push a 14-3 lead with 6:54 left in the first half.
Following a defensive stop on a three-and-out to begin the second half, Heritage’s senior quarterback opened the third quarter with a 24-yard strike to David Bready to cap a six-play 60-yard drive that pushed the Hawks further ahead 35-10 with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
After forcing another 3-and-out after the Hornets gained a mere 2-yard while attempting a halfback pass that failed, Heritage went on its longest scoring march. A 11-play drive that included a key third-down pass from Bonner to Henson ended with fullback Dalton Trammell scoring his first offensive touchdown of the season on a 5-yard run up the middle with 14 ticks left in the period for a 42-3 advantage.
Sophomore quarterback Brad Macke — who led Heritage to a 6-0 start in place of an injured Bonner — took over in the fourth quarter with the Hawks’ second teamers and the victory well in hand.
SCORING SUMMARY – Heritage School 42, Westfield School 10
Westfield School 3 0 0 7 — 10
Heritage School 7 21 14 0 — 42
HS — Candler Rich 92 run (Ben Dudley kick), 6:50
WS — Landon Beamon 41 field goal, :31.2
HS — Rich 84 pass from Joe Bonner (Dudley kick), 6:54
HS — Rich 75 run (Dudley kick), 1:00
HS— Rich 10 run (Dudley kick), :10.3
HS — David Bready pass from Bonner (Dudley kick), 7:24
HS — Dalton Trammell 5 run (Dudley kick), :42.1
WS — Stuart Smith 33 pass from Evan Williams (Beamon kick), 7:25