NESHAMINY >> Fresh off a slow start to their season, the Downingtown West Whippets were seeking to make a statement Friday night against Neshaminy, which entered the evening ranked ninth in the Pa. Prep Live Top 20.
For the Whippets, the only way to accomplish that goal was to get a win against one of the top teams in the District in a hostile environment.
The contest came down to the wire, but the Whippets, led by Will Howard and Josh Willenbrock, were able to lead Downingtown West to critical 37-33 victory over the Redskins.
“This is a statement game,” said quarterback Will Howard. “After the first week, everyone doubted us, and last week in Wayne Valley, it was a good pick up for us, but no around here respected that. We knew we had to come out here and beat a good Suburban League team and we came out and played well.”
The Whippets came out firing.
Neshaminy quickly got the first points of the game as it drove down the field and punched one in with a 10-yard run from Oleh Manzyk. However, on the first play that Downingtown West put its offense on the field, Howard connected with Willenbrock on 73-yard touchdown pass.
From that moment, the game was a shootout. Both teams kept firing back and forth.
Neshaminy responded with a 48-yard pass from quarterback Brody McAndrew to Mike Garlick to take back the lead before the end of the first quarter. A Downingtown West field goal and a 56-yard pass from Howard to Dan Byrnes would give the Whippets the lead 17-13.
Unlike many offensive the momentum didn’t seem to switch from team to team with each score. West’s quest to upset a top team and the Redskins’ want to stay perfect on the season kept both teams focused. With a score of 19-17 headed into halftime, it was anyone’s game.
“The coaches made a great offensive and defensive strategy for the game,” said Byrnes. “Coming up here everyone knows, it’s heartbreak ridge. Everyone knows it’s going to be a tough place to play and we came out here firing. This was one of the top statement games on our schedule and I thought we’d come out and prove everyone wrong.”
It was all Downingtown West in the third quarter. The Whippets’ defense continued to hold the Redskins and the offense was able to take the lead back once again with a five-yard run by Willenbrock. However, it was only a matter of time before Neshaminy would bounce back. The Redskins’ Joel Stills burst up the middle of the field for an 85-yard touchdown run and took the lead back 25- 24.
After scoring again and forcing the Redskins to turn over the ball, West decided to take an intentional safety to get away from the danger of its own end zone, and relied on its defense to win the game.
“We were looking to punt out of the end zone and even with a great punt, they would get the ball on our side of the field at the 40 yard line,” said coach Mike Milano. “So, we decided to just take the safety and change the side of the field and we got a break. It flipped the field so it was huge.”
The safety payed off as the defense stopped the Redskins from scoring. After a 24-yard scamper from Howard, the game was pretty much over. The Redskins would score again, but it would be too late to matter.
“I’m ecstatic.” said coach Milano. “We’ve grown a lot in three weeks. To come up here and win, it’s inspiring.”