Westminster spoils Pace’s homecoming

In the second ever meeting between Westminster and Pace, tensions were high as Westminster spoiled Pace’s homecoming with a 15-14 overtime win. Coming into the game, Westminster was 1-1 in the region, and Pace was 2-0. Not only did this game have serious region implications but it was also Pace’s homecoming. Before the game, Pace had a homecoming rally that included a wildcat being pelted by objects, and Pace offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer had “Bought not Built” written on his back plate.

“I definitely saw the back plate that said ‘Bought not Built’ when I went out to shake hands with the captain, so that was just motivating for me,” said senior Truman Jones. “Once I heard it was their homecoming, I was pumped because I always like to ruin another team’s homecoming.”

Westminster had two whole weeks to prepare for the Pace game, as they had their bye week the week before. It was key for the team after a 41-10 loss to the reigning state champion Cedar Grove, and injuries had mounted up for the team.

“It got some guys healthy and gave them a chance to get their legs back, and it also gave us more practice time,” said assistant coach Red Dobbins.

Coming into the game, Westminster decided to start junior Chance Loeffler at quarterback over senior Ward Croft, after Croft threw two interceptions the previous game.

From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, the game was very close. As a matter of fact, there was no point where either team was winning by more than seven points. Westminster was shut out by Pace for 46 minutes and 17 seconds until senior Joe Egan’s 38-yard touchdown tied the game at 7 with 1:43 to play. The game was surely a defensive battle, and on Westminster’s side, Jones had a lot to do with that.

Jones finished the night with eight tackles, one tackle for loss, and a countless number of quarterback hurries. Jones was matched up against Salyer, the #11 ranked player in the country (via 247 sports).

“I just had to be quicker than him because he’s definitely got me in size, but I got in the backfield because of my speed,” said Jones.

Salyer is listed at 342 pounds while Jones is 197 pounds. Both teams heavily relied upon rushing attacks, as a total of 32 passing plays were attempted by both teams compared to the 76 total rushing plays from both teams. For Pace, Keyshawn Perryman led their rushing attack with 154 yards, and Egan led Westminster’s with 58 yards.

“The kids stepped up and played their tails off,” said Dobbins. “Size wise and who they had on their team, we were out manned. If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the game that it would be 7-7 going into overtime I would’ve said you were crazy.”

When the clock hit 0:00 in the fourth quarter, the teams were gridlocked at 7. Pace got the ball first, and within a few plays, Perryman found his way into the end zone, giving Pace a 14-7 lead. Then, Westminster got the ball back, needing a score. After two plays, Westminster ran a read option play where Loeffler kept the ball and scampered into the end zone to put the score at 13-14 Pace. Westminster could choose to either go for two and the win, or they could kick the extra point and send the game to another overtime.

“We knew if they scored, and then if we scored, we were going for 2,” said head coach Gerry Romberg. “I wanted to go for 2 on our first touchdown because I just felt like if the game had gone to overtime, their powerful line would’ve grinded on us like they had all night.”

Although Pace’s offensive line did exactly that, Westminster responded by going for a two-point conversion and a win. With Westminster down one, Loeffler took the snap, rolled out to the right, and threw the ball all the way to the left side of the end zone to a wide-open Jones for the win.

“I was supposed to fall down on the front side and then slip to the backside and it worked just like we drew it up in practice,” said Jones.

Westminster had been practicing the play and waiting to use it for weeks.

“We’ve had that play and we’ve practiced it every week, and it finally came to fruition tonight,” said Romberg.

On the play, no one was near Jones as Westminster was able to fake Pace’s defense into not covering him.

“He was blocking and fell on the ground and then hides a little bit and then moves out,” said Romberg. “We knew it was going to be there.”

Not only was the win huge because of the rivalry, it also helped Westminster tremendously in the region standings. With both teams fighting for the #2 seed in the GHSA 5-AAA division, the game set both teams’ region records at 2-1. At the end of the season, Westminster would own the tiebreaker against Pace if their records were the same in the region.

“It’s huge for our region implications because if we win the rest of our games, we can get the two seed,” said Jones.

The win helps Westminster turn the corner into the second half of the season.

“This game could be the turning point and it could be a tale of two seasons,” said Dobbins. “That win is going to give us momentum going into the second half of our season.”

Even though the game was close at times, the players had confidence in each other and the team.

“We knew we had outworked them, for we’ve had a great summer and some great practices this week,” said Jones. “We came out here and we had confidence in what we were going to do.”