HIGHLANDS RANCH - ThunderRidge got off to an incredible start but coach Joe Johnson knows some things have to change.
The Grizzlies, the state’s top-ranked team, scored on their first two offensive plays en route to a 63-34 victory over Westminster in a first round Class 5A state playoff game last Friday night at Shea Stadium.
ThunderRidge (9-1) moves on to play Cherry Creek (6-4) in a second round game Friday night at the Stutler Bowl and Johnson realizes that 34 points was too many to give up against No. 32 seed Westminster, which ended its season with a 5-5 record.
“We won’t survive another week playing defensively like we did against Westminster,” said Johnson. “We have to play better. I know we can. I don’t know why we didn’t. I don’t understand.
“Hey, we won and half the teams that started the playoffs are out.”
Quarterback Brody Westmoreland made sure ThunderRidge got off to a quick start and put the underdog Wolves in a hole early.
On the first offensive play of the game, Westmoreland kept the ball on an option and broke free, made a midfield cutback and sprinted 65 yards for a touchdown.
Then on the Grizzlies next offensive play after forcing a Westminster punt, Westmoreland hit Jake Hand with a short pass over the middle and Hand went 70 yards for a touchdown.
That’s 135 yards of total offense on two plays.
“With our offense, we go fast, we have our tempo and we know our assignments,” said Westmoreland. “If you can get the lead real quick and get up on a team and usually get them in your grip, it’s hard not to win that game.”
Westmoreland accounted for four touchdowns. He was 8 of 14 passing for 188 yards and two TDs and he also ran for two scores while piling up 78 yards rushing.
Steve Ray finished with 136 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns for the Grizzlies.
“Watching film, we knew what we had to do,” said Westmoreland. “We knew we could hit some passes and we wanted to get off to a quick start so I just had to make my reads and knew my receivers were going to make the catch and my offensive line was going to give me tons on time.”
Westminster, however, recovered after falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter and played head-to-head with ThunderRidge for the remainder of the contest.
“It’s awful to give up two touchdowns on two plays”, said Westminster coach Kerry Dension, who felt the No. 32 seed his team received was a slap in the face. “When that happened, they woke up. I thought we could move the ball. I told the kids just fight and we’ll do what we can. They (the Grizzlies) have an unbelievable offense”
Westminster, led by quarterback Jordan Thompson and running back Ryan Belearde, actually outgained ThunderRidge 472-448 and that concerns Johnson whose team also had two extra-point kicks blocked.
“We have a lot of confidence on offense, we are just not very consistent defensively and that’s how it’s been all year. I hope we’ll be more consistent this week. We need to do what we are capable of doing on the other side of the ball.”
Westminster’s Thompson connected on 8 of 20 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Belearde ran for 140 yards that including a 74-yard TD gallop.
Patrick Wilson added 106 yards rushing and Humberto Loera caught both of Thompson’s scoring strikes.
Westminster had 52 underclassmen listed on its playoff roster.
“With those kids coming back, we should be good,” said Dension. “Back to back years we’ve had running clocks on us. We can compete. I just have to give my hat off to every one of the kids.”