It took nearly half the game, but the Westminster Wildcats finally found an answer to the Lovett Lions run game and also came up with one of their own, leaning on Isaiah Malcome to win 17-10 on Friday at Alfred E. Thompson Stadium.
The Region 5-AAA win all but clinches a No. 1 seed for the No. 3-ranked Wildcats (6-2, 5-0 in 5-AAA), who are AAA’s defending state champions. The No. 5-ranked Lions fell to 5-3 and 3-2 in league play.
Malcome, a senior running back who stands at 5-foot-5, 170 pounds, rushed for 211 of his 256 yards in the second half, including a go-ahead touchdown run from 28 yards out to put Westminster ahead 14-10 with 7:33 remaining. He also had a 50-yard run and a game-clinching 25-yard run and added a 16-yard pass out of the Wildcat formation for good measure.
“He just makes plays,” Wildcats coach Gerry Romberg said. “There was a couple of plays (where the offensive linemen) weren’t there and he was able to make something out of nothing. He’s done that all year and we did enough to find a way to win.”
Rallying behind Malcome wouldn’t have been possible had the Wildcats defense not adjusted to Lovett’s run game, led by scrambling quarterback Brady Tindall. The Lions took a 7-0 lead into halftime thanks to Tindall, who rushed 17 times for 114 yards and the game’s only score to that point, a 23-yard run. But Tindall was held to just 45 yards on 12 carries in the second half, and the Lions could only muster a 36-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which gave them a 10-7 lead with 11:36 remaining.
“We finally just started doing our jobs,” said Romberg of the Wildcats defense. “In the first half it was kind of like last year (a 26-23 Westminster win), the first series he went right down the field…I told the guys if you just settle down and do your job we’ll have a chance to be successful.”
Westminster got on the board with 8:47 remaining in the third quarter when Nance Hill caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Ward Croft to tie the game. After Lovett reclaimed the lead on McGowan’s field goal, the stage was set for Malcome. His 28-yard run was made possible when Westminster faked a punt on fourth and 6. On that play, the ball was snapped to David Edmiston, who completed a 7-yard pass to Charlie Bennett to keep the drive alive. Six plays later, Malcome broke free and as he approached the goal line, he somersaulted and landed in the end zone, earning a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty in the process.
The Wildcats brought the score to its final margin with a Jack Schlafly 26-yard field goal with 2:50 remaining.
On Lovett’s next possession, Tindall fumbled the ball and Westminster recovered it, all but dashing the Lions’ hopes of a win. The Wildcats would run out the clock and Malcome’s 25-yard run on fourth and 2 ended the game, as there were less than 15 seconds left and Lovett had no timeouts.
Aside from Malcome’s performance, Croft completed 8 of his 18 passes for 81 yards and an interception.
Tindall rushed for 159 yards on 29 carries and threw for 144 yards on 18 of 30 passing.
Westminster travels to Towers next week while Lovett hosts Pace Academy.
Lovett 7 0 0 3 - 10
Westminster 0 0 7 10 - 17
L - Brady Tindall 23 run (Jack McGowan kick)
W - Nance Hill 41 pass from Ward Croft (Jack Schlafly kick)
L - McGowan 36 FG
W - Isaiah Malcome 28 run (Schlafly kick)
W - Schlafly 26 FG