When Westby faced Lancaster in non-conference action in September they fell 56-34, but when the Norsemen got a second chance to play Lancaster in post season action they knocked the wind out of the Flying Arrows with a stunning 38-29 victory to advance to the Regional final game against Lake County Lutheran on Friday, Oct. 27.
The Flying Arrows run the option offense with great success, but it was Westby that capitalized on six turnovers by Lancaster (5 fumbles and one interception), plus found success with its own multiple option plays for huge gains on the ground and several touchdowns.
The Westby crowd went wild every time the Norsemen defense forced turnovers. On two of those occasions, Ryan Daines snagged the lose ball and ran it in for the score with 33 and 60 yard jaunts downfield. The Norse also did a happy dance when the Westby offense timed its option play perfectly allowing Quarterback Alex Gluch to pick up 124 yards rushing including three touchdowns for the Norsemen.
In September, Westby trailed by one point at the half, 21-20, but struggled with fatigue in the second half, which wasn’t the case on Oct. 20. The Norsemen knew going in that its biggest challenge would be stopping Lancaster’s senior full back Evan Gates who tallied up seven touchdowns and 256 yards in the team’s first meeting.
Gates still managed to gain 207 yards and scored four touchdowns, on 45 carries, but he also coughed up the ball on several occasions. In total, Lancaster fumbled the ball six times, but recovered two of them. They were also picked off twice, once by Westby’s Joe Armbruster and later in the game by Dawson Marshall.
Westby Head Coach Andy Hulst said the Norsemen adjusted its defense to a 4-4 look against Lancaster to put more pressure on Gates and it really did help to keep him in check. Westby typically uses a 3-4 defensive formation.
Offensively Hulst said it’s hard to sustain anything against Lancaster’s big defensive front, but Westby found some openings on the outside running its veer and in-the-quick passing game. Gluch’s three touchdowns for Westby came off runs of 48, 84 and 29 yards.
“Overall this was a huge win for us this year and our program. The team did a great job and capitalized on multiple opportunities to make big plays. Westby guys played very physical and gritty, which was great to see,” Hulst said.
Hulst said nothing is going to get any easier moving forward, but if the team can stay focused, connect on plays, force turnovers and capitalize on any mistakes the opponent makes they can win just like they did against Lancaster, who was seeded third going into the post season. Westby is seeded sixth.
Hulst said a team’s seeding doesn’t win a game, its the final points on the scoreboard that determine who advances and whose season ends. Lancaster led 22-19 at the half, but Westby won the game 38-29.
Westby travels across the state to face Lake Country Lutheran (2nd seed), located near Milwaukee, in the WIAA Division 5 Regional final game on Friday, Oct. 27. Game time is 7 p.m.