With a chance to complete an undefeated season Oct. 26 at the Stutler Bowl, Smoky Hill (10-0, 9-0 in conference) took on their final test against rival Westminster (7-3, 7-2 in conference). Despite a …
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With a chance to complete an undefeated season Oct. 26 at the Stutler Bowl, Smoky Hill (10-0, 9-0 in conference) took on their final test against rival Westminster (7-3, 7-2 in conference).
Despite a solid fight by the Wolves, chunk plays for the Buffaloes’ offense in the second half proved the decider in the 35-28 victory.
In an evenly-fought first half, Smoky Hill jumped off to a 7-0 lead after their first possession behind an 11-play, 78-yard drive headlined by junior running back Obasanjo Sanni’s nine-carries and 59-yard. Capped by a 12-yard touchdown with 3:51 left in the first quarter, the powerful back had his way in the first half on 18 carries for 95 yards.
However, Westy battled back with a game-tying 11-play drive of their own, traveling 73 yards. Without leading senior rusher Nic Lopez (lost on the second play of the game with a knee injury), other backfield pieces carried the load on the drive nine times, finished off by a five-yard TD scamper from senior Miguel Villalobos.
The following SH possession, the home team answered right back with a twelve yard TD from the dynamic sophomore duo of quarterback Leslie Richardson lll and receiver Alec Pinkowski (eight catches for 165 yards on the night). Richardson threw the ball just five times in the first half, completing all five for 68 yards.
Westy didn’t go away though with 2:37 remaining in the first half. Junior quarterback Romeo Rodriguez and senior receiver Matt Harris hooked up for the 36-yd TD to tie things again, at 14.
With the score knotted at the intermission, Westminster coach Kerry Denison expected the Buffaloes to change their game plan from the first half’s constant ground-and-pound game, and did he ever see it.
Throwing the ball 15 times, completing nine and recording 220 yards, Richardson lll was airing the ball out all over the field in the second half. On three touchdowns, Kaleb Starling (56 and 44-yard receptions) and Pinkowski (54-yard reception) put the Wolves’ secondary in fits.
“I figured in the second half they were going to come out and throw,” Denison said. “We did a good job on the first series coming out of halftime, and then they started hitting deep. I thought we did a pretty good job defensively except for them hitting some long passes, which was a big difference in the game.”
The secondary had their issues for the Wolves, but the front seven led by senior Manuel Avitia (sack, fumble recovery) and junior Eddie Vang kept their offense in the game. Behind just seven points on 22 snaps for the Westy offense, seven points on a 45-yd pick-6 by junior Leenardo Montoya put the game in striking distance with 4:25 left, down seven.
The all-conference back Sanni was held down to 20 yards by the Westminster front the first 17 minutes and 35 seconds of the second quarter. On the final lengthy drive for SH, Sanni carried his team as he has all year. On the nine-play drive to run the clock out on Westy, Sanni recorded eight carries for a hard-earned 25 yards.
“I’m proud of these kids,” Denison said. “I told them that we overcame adversity with some injuries and we stuck around, and that’s all I can ask from them. No one gave us a chance in this game, but we believed we could win. They have no reason to hang their head.”
As twenty seniors played their last career high school game for the Wolves Friday night, the impact and legacy of this group won’t be understated to a school that is on the rise.
“They have been from the bottom of the barrel and have risen to the top. They set a standard for us, and I’m proud of my seniors. They have done an unbelievable job, and we are going to miss them.”
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