The Rocks Football Team looked to redeem their state championship loss in 2020 with another run in the IHSAA playoffs.
November 30, 2021
After another great regular season for head coach Jake Gilbert and his Westfield Shamrocks Football team that ended with the Rocks finishing with an 8-1 regular season record, it was yet again time for the competitive IHSAA playoffs to commence.
Sectional Round One: @ Noblesville (2-7)
The Rocks, high off of a 14-point win against conference foe Franklin Central High School and a much-needed bye, drew the Noblesville Millers in the first-round sectional play. The Rocks, having beat Noblesville in the regular season by 27, were eager to once again dominate their cross-county rival.
In an incredibly ugly night weather-wise, the Millers were set to receive the opening kickoff, and they proceeded to go on a 9-minute opening drive, including a goal line score. Westfield was faced with some early adversity; however, they scored a quick touchdown on the next drive and never looked back. Westfield proceeded to score 7 straight touchdowns, ending the game with a 49-6 victory, and setting them up for a battle with a frisky Hamilton Southeastern team in the sectional championship.
Sectional Championship: vs Hamilton Southeastern (8-2)
The week leading up to the sectional championship did not lack any smack talk; the Westfield Rocks Boys and Barstool HSE accounts traded shots back and forth, both teams anticipating a close win. The HSE student section leaders even got a Cameo from Lavar Ball, father of NBA stars Lonzo and Lamelo Ball, cheering the Royals to victory. Westfield, however, remained undaunted.
The Rocks opened things up with a quick touchdown from star running back Micah Hauser, but they were quickly matched by an HSE touchdown as well. With the time winding down in the first half, Rocks quarterback Maximus Webster punched in a QB run to make it 14-7 heading into halftime.
Westfield got the ball to start the second half but stalled out before punting. HSE once again matched the Rocks with a touchdown, in large part to their incredibly dominant running game. The ball game was squared up at 14 heading into the fourth quarter. After a great stand on 4th and 1, it was time for the Rocks to shine. From about midfield, Webster found WR Jackson Wasserstrom in triple coverage deep down the field for the touchdown.
The Royals proceeded to go on a lengthy drive, in hopes to score a game-tying touchdown with seconds left and send the game into overtime. HSE scored with 35.9 seconds left, after a few questionable calls along the way; but perhaps the most questionable call came from HSE head coach Michael Kelly, in which he decided that the Royals were going to go for a 2-point conversion, essentially a game-deciding play. Luckily for him, the Royals were able to convert, making it a 22-21 game in favor of them. It was looking grim for the Rocks and their hopes to get back to the state championship.
The final drive of the game started well for the Rocks; an HSE pooch kick set Westfield up with favorable field position. A couple of quick passes and a well-designed wheel route for Hauser had the Rocks in field goal range pretty easily, and with under 10 seconds left, kicker Caleb King drilled a short one to ensure the win for Westfield. It was certainly a gutty performance from the Rocks and ultimately one that kept their dreams alive.
Regional Championship: @ Fort Wayne Carroll (10-1)
It was then time for regional play, where the Rocks were slotted to face off with an unfamiliar foe. Westfield made the trek up to Fort Wayne to take on Fort Wayne Carroll, a game that was a sign for things to come. Westfield easily took care of business, nearly holding the time of possession for double what the Chargers had. The Rocks left Fort Wayne late on Friday night with a 37-14 win, led on offense by a phenomenal day from freshman star Gabe Aramboles, who had 112 yards on 5 catches.
Semi-State: vs Merrillville (12-0)
Just like that, the Rocks were one win away from the state championship, and the only thing that was between them and a trip to Lucas Oil was the Merrillville Pirates. Westfield traveled to Merrillville the year before as well to take them on in semi-state, and there was certainly some anticipation for a good game in the rematch.
On a cold Friday night at Riverview Health Stadium, the crowd was rowdy; many felt that it was time to earn redemption in the state title. It was a big night for a lot of Westfield players; considered to be a senior-heavy team, many players were ready to give it their all in their last home game. The Rocks got on the board early after a couple of long rushes, capped off by a 30 yard run from Hauser, and Westfield never looked back. They followed it up quickly with another rushing touchdown, this time from Webster. The Rocks did give up a score but ended up with a 20-7 lead heading into the break. Some more solid play in the second half had Westfield ending up with a 48-19 win. As the students rushed the field, the only thing on the team’s mind was beating the team that stripped their pride the year before.
State Championship: vs Center Grove (13-0)
A feeling of anxiety surrounded the city of Westfield in the week leading up to State Championship Saturday. Although students were only in school for Monday and Tuesday because of the pending Thanksgiving Break, the football team had practice scheduled for all 5 weekdays, including a trip to Lucas Oil for a practice on the big stage.
Center Grove was the squad that Westfield was slated to face, and if their 38-14 pounding of Westfield in 2020 was not daunting enough, the Trojans were ranked in the top-15 of the COUNTRY according to the widely credible website Maxpreps (Cough - the same site that ranked HSE over Westfield despite a Westfield regular season win - cough).
“We are ready to compete with them this year,” junior Jameson Lutz noted. “Last year we were just happy to be there, which came back and bit us. This year, we are ready to give them a game.”
After a blowout win for Mount Vernon in the middle game on Saturday, the Rocks took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. On the west half of the stadium, Center Grove fans arrived early, hoping to see a glimpse of their bright stars during warmups. From 4-star Tennessee commit Tayven Jackson, younger half-brother of Indiana basketball star Trayce Jackson-Davis, to 4-star senior Caden Curry, the Trojans were loaded with talent that had the whole city of Greenwood excited.
The Rocks were certainly underdogs in this 6A title matchup; however, they were ready to go once the clock hit 7:49 pm. Westfield was set to receive the opening kickoff.
With the entire crowd in anticipation, Westfield quickly went 3 and out; not the start that anyone was wanting or expecting. On 4th down, a not-so-great punt led to the Trojans opening up their offensive possession with great field position.
The Jackson-led Center Grove squad easily maneuvered the ball down the field, leading to a 1-yard run from Jackson.
The Rocks got the ball back, and once again stalled out. Another bad punt had CG in favorable field position.
It was beginning to look like Groundhogs Day for Westfield.
All of a sudden, as if someone had turned on a light switch, the Rocks ramped it up on both ends.
It started with a fumble recovery, which allowed the Rocks to get the ball back on their own 32. A few short completions and physical carries from Hauser had the Rocks on the Center Grove side of the field. Webster completed another nice pass, which was followed up with a 15-yard touchdown run from Hauser.
Westfield was back in it.
It did not take long for Center Grove to get back on the board. A Caden Curry touchdown run gave the Trojans a 13-7 advantage.
Webster converted a big 3rd down for the Rocks as they were back in CG territory. On the very next play, Micah Hauser took another one up the gut and to the house, giving the Rocks the 14-13 lead.
With time winding down in the half, the unstoppable CG offense was once again driving. Jackson found receiver Harrison Stomps for a 30-yard score.
Webster helped the offense matriculate down the field once again, setting them up for a field goal to end the half. Caleb King slightly missed his attempt, and the Rocks went into the half down 6.
On the very first play of the second half, Center Grove kick returner Brandon Wheat took the kickoff to the endzone; however, one of the backside referees threw a flag- a holding call that would save Westfield from losing some quick momentum.
Center Grove marched the field and quickly scored, making it 27-14. On Micah Hauser’s third touchdown of the game, the Rocks brought it back to one possession.
A couple of drives stalled out, and Westfield had the ball back with plenty of time to spare. It was a tough decision for Coach Gilbert, whether or not to try and score quickly to assure the lead or take time off the clock so that CG would not have a chance to win it.
With over 6 minutes left in the game, Maximus Webster began leading one of the most important drives in the history of Westfield football. The Ball State commit was cooking on offense, finding his plethora of receivers.
Just like that, after a few huge third down conversions, Westfield was deep into CG territory.
It would be an understatement to say that everyone in the student section was standing. The apprehension throughout the Westfield crowd was equivalent to that of a tightrope walk over Times Square. Nobody knew what to say; everyone seemed to be dissecting every play call, celebrating every yard gained as if it was their birthday party.
Webster took the ball slightly up the field on first down. Second down, the Rocks drew up the perfect play, but Webster and senior WR Ian Bruch could not connect in the endzone.
On third down, the Rocks looked to run a similar play.
Webster moved up in the pocket, targeting Bruch once again, and a Center Grove linebacker jumped the route and picked off his pass.
The Center Grove fans went ballistic.
The Westfield fans went silent.
Center Grove ran a few more plays before taking a knee and ending the game; their second state championship in 2 years.
It was certainly a devastating end but after a heck of an effort from the Rocks.
Although the loss will sting for a little while, it was a season, a journey, a game, that will live in the minds of the Westfield community forever.