The Westlake Lions began their 2021 football season by beating Archer 29-14 in the 2021 Corky Kell Classic.

Lions quarterback R.J. Johnson led the way for the Tigers finishing with four total touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) and one interception.

While much hype was around the Lions coming into the season, there were many questions surrounding the team after losing multiple talented D-1 players to graduation. As the clock hit zero, many doubts and questions were answered.

A weather delay pushed the gametime back almost an hour but both teams were ready to go after the rain passed. No coin toss was needed as Westlake wanted the ball and Archer differed.

It took Johnson and the Lions less than five minutes before they were in the red zone and completed their opening drive for seven. Johnson completed an 11 yard slant pass to senior receiver T.J. Booker for a touchdown as the Lions led 7-0 early.

The Tigers came out aggressive early. On their first play, what looked to be a wide receiver screen instead was a receiver pass from Al Edwards to Derrick Moore who took it down into Lion’s territory. The Tigers were unable to cash in on the drive thanks to a stoudt Lions defense who stopped the Tigers on fourth and short.

The Lions went three and out before the Tigers answered. This time Tigers quarterback Caleb Peevy completed a 20 yard pass to Moore for a touchdown, tying the game at seven with 10:07 to go in the second quarter.

Needing to regain the lead, the Lions offensive line took over by establishing the running attack for Jai’Den Thomas which led to Johnson excelling in the passing game. Johnson rushed in from the goal line to put the Lions up 14-7 with 2:48 to go in the second quarter.

A series of odd events turned to be in favor of the Lions in the end. On fourth down, the Tigers punt was blocked setting the Tigers up deep in Lions territory. Johnson went to the endzone looking for his receiver but was picked off by cornerback Nathan Morales.
A block in the back by the Lions gave the Panthers a safety since the foul occurred in the endzone making it a nine point lead for the Lions.

After the Lions were given another possession because of the safety, a mishandled snap led to a Tigers recovery in Lions territory. As the Tigers tried to get points before the half, a deep throw by Peevy turned into a Lions interception by cornerback Aveion Terrell. The Lions let the clock run out as they went into halftime up 16-7.

The Tigers received the second half kickoff but could not generate anything offensively, leading to a three and out.

The Lions went to work as Thomas broke a long run setting the Lions up in Tigers territory. Johnson finished the drive with a 26 yard touchdown pass to receiver Jakari Christian. The PAT was no good but the Lions led 22-7 with 8:27 left in the third quarter.

Johnson finished the game with another rushing touchdown on the Lions next offensive drive, this time rushing in from four yards out to go up 29-7.

A late score by the Tigers made the final score 29-14.

“We knew we needed to get points on the first drive and that set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Johnson when asked about how the offense was able to be successful in this game.

“I think the energy in practice, the leaders on the team, getting everybody locked in making sure we know what we need to do [made a difference].”

Image by: Anfernee Patterson/The Atlanta Voice