The Westlake Lions improved to 7-1 overall on the season after defending their home turf against the North Atlanta Warriors 56-18 Friday night.
Friday night was the Lions homecoming and the Warriors felt disrespected coming into this game as their opponents. As many teams that are scheduled for their opponents’ homecoming, it is a sign of their opponent believing them to be an inferior or less competitive team.
The hype and talk between both teams were at a high coming into this game but the Warriors needed this game more, coming in at 2-3 on the season. A win against the Lions would be a huge upset and break their three-game losing streak after starting the season 2-0.
The Lions Den filed in with alumni and fans dressed in blue, black, and white to cheer on their Lions.
Westlake’s offense gave the crowd a lot to cheer for in this game. On the opening drive, running back Ahmad Butler scored on a four-yard rushing touchdown, putting the Panthers ahead 8-0.
After Warriors quarterback Jack O’Kelley threw an interception on the Warriors’ first drive of the game, the Lions were given great field position and capitalized on it.
This time, Georgia Tech commit and Westlake receiver Leo Blackburn cashed in on a 20-yard touchdown reception from quarterback RJ Johnson, increasing the Lions lead to 16 with 5:33 to go in the first quarter.
Everything went the Lions way early and the Warriors did not seem like they could compete or catch up. Their ensuing drive proved that they belonged and came to play.
O’Kelley found his most popular target in tight end Ned Coleman for a 30-yard touchdown pass cutting the Lions lead 12 after a failed two point conversion.
The Lions matched the Warriors with another score. This time, Johnson went deep for receiver Nate Wiggins who caught a 34 yard touchdown pass, flexing on the Warriors defensive backs and “rocked the baby” as he could not be stopped. This put the Lions ahead 24-6 with 9:03 to go in the second quarter.
That did not deter nor stop the North Atlanta Warriors from responding again. This time, Warriors sophomore running back Jayden Stimpson scored on a 21 yard jet sweep, cutting the Lions lead to 12.
Everything was going the Warriors’ way as you could sense a heightened belief of momentum and victory after they forced and recovered a Lions fumble on the kickoff.
That was until O’Kelley got picked off again and Lions defensive back Jared Stephens took it all the way back for a pick six, giving the Lions a 30-12 lead with 55 seconds until halftime.
Ultimately, it proved to be the game changer for the Lions and in the Warriors case, a huge drop of momentum and hopes for an upset victory.
The Lions went on to score 14 unanswered points after halftime. Johnson rushed in the endzone untouched from five yards to lead 46-12 with 8:07 to go in the third quarter.
Lions running back Corzavius Smart added another touchdown, rushing in from seven yard out making the score 50-12.
Late scores by both teams late including a kickoff return by the Lions as time expired made the score 56-18.
The Warriors will seek to end their losing streak next week at home against Morrow while Westlake will host Lovejoy next Friday at home.