Westbrook Wildcats deny May Tigers in end zone to win Class 1A Division I state title game
ARLINGTON — In a game in which offense was at a premium, the Class 1A Division I state title game came down to one defensive stop.
Westbrook’s Jimmy Roberts forced an incompletion on May's fourth down attempt in the red zone with 2 seconds left in the game, sealing a 72-66 win and the underdog Wildcats’ first state football championship.
“We’re beyond excited,” Westbrook head coach Homer Matlock said. “We believed that we could compete with anybody, and we never gave up on that.”
With four losses, Westbrook battled unbeaten and No. 1-ranked May in the title game. The Wildcats came away with their ninth-straight win.
Westbrook led the entire fourth quarter. But with time winding down, that advantage was in jeopardy. Down 72-66, May stopped Westbrook on fourth-and-goal with 5:04 remaining.
The Tigers methodically drove the field, milking the clock and pinning the Wildcats’ backs against the wall. With 1:45 left, May had possession at Westbrook’s 18.
That’s when the Wildcats’ defense rose to the occasion.
May moved the ball 10 yards, bringing up a 4th-and-5 situation with 11 seconds left.
On the fourth-down play, May quarterback Blake Harrell scrambled left and tossed the ball toward Kaysen King and Roberts.
As the ball sailed toward the end zone, Roberts’ thought process was simple.
“I have to knock it down,” Roberts said. “I have to do something. That’s all really.”
Roberts was there to rip the ball out of King’s hands before he could secure possession. Westbrook took over on downs, took a knee and walked off the field as state champion.
“Jimmy made a really amazing play to knock that ball down and make that play,” Matlock said.
Several other moments earlier in the back-and-forth battle were key to Westbrook’s winning effort.
May took a 44-38 lead with 16 seconds left before halftime but a few seconds later, Westbrook answered. Shammah Stark threw a dart to Aiden Sullican for a 60-yard touchdown pass, giving the Wildcats the lead and momentum heading into halftime.
“How pretty was that pass?” Matlock said.
May again led in the third quarter before a Cedric Ware rushing touchdown for Westbrook tied it 60-60. The Wildcats recovered the ensuing onside kick, and a few plays later, Ware scored again.
This gave Westbrook a 66-60 lead — one that it never surrendered.
“It was a huge turning point,” Matlock said. “It had a bunch of momentum shifts, and we kept preaching to the kids to keep it steady.”
Neither team had trouble moving the ball. Westbrook and May combined for 138 points and 1,068 total yards of offense.
Ware carried the load for Westbrook’s offense. He rushed for 304 yards and seven touchdowns on 25 carries, threw a 9-yard touchdown pass and made a 35-yard reception.
“I’m super tired,” Ware said.
Matlock added, “Cedric, he had an amazing game today. Our line has started believing in themselves. I can’t give them enough credit.”
Stark, Westbrook’s quarterback, also had a strong game, throwing for 175 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His top target was Sullivan, who made two receptions for 65 yards.
For May, Kaden Halk and Avery Williford led a formidable rushing attack. Halk and Williford rushed for 171 and 170 rushing yards, respectively, each running for three touchdowns.
Harrell finished the game with 4-of-9 passing for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
For May, the loss is devastating.
It marks the second year in a row the Tigers finish as runner-up in 1A Division I after entering the game 14-0 with a No. 1 ranking.
“That’s the hard part,” May head coach Craig Steele said. “These kids worked really hard and made it their mission to get back. They came literally within an inch of doing that, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. I’m super proud of them and their effort.”
As for Westbrook, the state title is groundbreaking.
Before 2021, the Wildcats never had reached the state semifinals. In their first title game, they looked like a team that had been there several times in the past.
Westbrook has now built a foundation for future dominance.
“It’s unbelievable what it does for our community,” Matlock said. “We had a vision, and it's huge for our school. There were definitely some tense moments, and the kids handled it well.”
► Turning point: With two seconds left, Westbrook's Jimmy Roberts made a game-winning pass deflection on a May fourth down in the red zone. Blake Harrell threw the ball right into Kaysen King's hands, but Roberts stripped it right out. All Westbrook had to do after that was take a knee.
► Players of the game: Cedric Ware, running back, Westbrook — Ware carried the load for the Wildcats offensively, scoring eight total touchdowns. He averaged 12.2 yards per carry.
► Key stat: 304 rushing yards for Cedric Ware. The junior running back couldn't be stopped, rushing for 304 yards and seven touchdowns. He also threw a nine-yard touchdown pass and made a 35-yard reception.
► Coach Matlock said: “We’re beyond excited. We believed that we could compete with anybody, and we never gave up on that. We had a vision, and it's huge for our school.”
► Coach Steele said: “That’s the hard part. These kids worked really hard and made it their mission to get back. They came literally within an inch of doing that, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. I’m super proud of them and their effort.”
► Impact: Westbrook wins the Class 1A Division I state championship
Westbrook 72, May 66
Westbrook … 22 … 24 … 26 … 0
May … 16 … 28 … 16 … 6
WEST — Cedric Ware 14 run (Jeremiah Ramirez kick), 8:00
MAY — Avery Williford 50 run (Kaysen King kick), 7:09
WEST — Colton Walters 55 pass from Shammah Stark (kick failed), 6:51
WEST — Ware 13 run (Ramirez kick), 4:56
MAY — Halk 57 run (King kick), 3:29
MAY — Williford 18 pass from Harrell (King kick), 9:52
WEST — Hadley White 9 pass from Ware (Ramirez kick), 8:36
MAY — Williford 31 run (kick blocked), 5:58
WEST — Ware 60 run (Ramirez kick), 5:47
MAY — Halk 48 pass from Harrell (King kick), 4:44
MAY — King 41 pass from Harrell (kick failed), 0:16
WEST — Aiden Sullivan 56 pass from Stark (Ramirez kick), 0:04
MAY — Halk 2 run (King kick), 8:46
WEST — Ware 56 run (kick blocked), 8:27
MAY — Williford 21 run (King kick), 7:03
WEST — Ware 7 run (Ramirez kick), 5:59
WEST — Ware 10 run (kick failed), 5:02
WEST — Ware 1 run (kick failed), 0:38
MAY — Halk 8 run (kick failed), 8:32
..................... Westbrook ... May
First Downs ... 17 ... 18
Rushes-Yards ... 38-395 ... 45-343
Passing ... 184 ... 146
Comp-Att-Int ... 6-11-0 ... 4-9-0
Fumbles-Lost ... 0-0 ... 0-0
Penalties-Yards ... 9-70 ... 5-40
RUSHING: Westbrook, Cedric Ware 25-304, Jimmy Roberts 9-68, Jeremiah Ramirez 3-24, TEAM 1-(-1). May, Kaden Halk 20-177, Avery Williford 12-176, Braden Steele 3-10, Blake Harrell 9-(-2).
PASSING: Westbrook, Shammah Stark 5-10-175, Cedric Ware 1-1-9. May, Blake Harrell 4-9-146.
RECEIVING: Westbrook, Aiden Sullivan 2-65, Hadley White 2-29, Colton Walters 1-55, Cedric Ware 1-35. May, Kaysen King 2-80, Kaden Halk 1-48, Avery Williford 1-18.