The message Coach Kyle Simmons has preached to the Westfield football team is simple: “Don’t panic.”
That is harder than it sounds in high school football. Games are fleeting. Weeks fly by. A loss lasts for an eternity — especially for a team accustomed to winning nearly every time it takes the field.
And so before Westfield defeated Robinson, 29-28, on Friday, the Bulldogs’ two losses in their last three games seemed an existential problem even for a team fresh off a state title. Just as troubling, Simmons said his team still lacked an identity more than halfway through the season.
The Bulldogs are known for their defense, but it also allowed 34 points toStone Bridge, 35 to Briar Woods and another 29 to Robinson. The offense is promising, Simmons said, but hasn’t found consistency in the air or on the ground.
“We have really under-performed at those positions up until this Friday night,” Simmons said. “I told them in our pregame meeting, the window is kinda closing on this.”
“This” is Westfield’s season, with the playoffs now three weeks away. It’s more than the chance at a championship run; it’s the football careers of some seniors. Wins to close out the regular season give the Bulldogs (5-2) a better postseason draw, and the chance to play more games deeper into November.
“We know what we’re capable of,” senior wide receiver Ivory Frimpongsaid. “It’s all about executing. We just have to do it on the field on game day.”
And in the face of those problems, Simmons cannot have his team panicking — not about the season’s final weeks, not about a 10-point deficit to Robinson (3-4) with two minutes to play.
Instead, Westfield’s defense forced the Rams to punt and quarterback Rehman Johnson led a quick-strike touchdown drive.
After a failed two-point conversion, Westfield recovered an onside kick and drove to set up Brian Delaney for a winning 42-yard field goal as time expired.
“That might be the thing we need to get us over the hump mentally,” Simmons said. “It’s not only getting the win, but how we did it.
“I like the fact that we’re not panicking and we’re being calm and methodical about going about our business, but you do start to panic a bit when you’re under-performing week after week. We have to get it right and I think this could be the start of it.”
So this Friday’s game against Centreville has even higher stakes, Frimpong said. It is not just a rivalry, it’s another chance to get a head start on sports’ oldest playoff mantra: survive and advance.
“It’s a must-win for us,” Frimpong said. “It’s more than a must-win. It’s a game that’s been circled on our schedule for weeks.”
The Big number: 129.4
Northern Virginia player of the week
Funaki was everywhere — really, everywhere — for South Lakes in a win against Madison on Friday. On offense, he had five catches for 105 yards, both game-highs. On defense, he had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and five tackles, tied for a team high. And he blocked a field goal for good measure.
Showdown shaping up in Conference 7
Lake Braddock and South County are both 6-1 and undefeated in conference play. They’re headed for a showdown on Nov. 4, the final game of the regular season in Lorton.
The Stallions draw Annandale and West Potomac the next two weeks, both conference games. The Bruins also have two conference games with West Springfield on Friday then high-scoring Mount Vernon in two weeks.
A loss by either team opens the door for the Wolverines — also 6-1, but 3-1 in conference play — who face T.C. Williams, South County and Mount Vernon to end the season.
All three teams are primed to make the playoffs, and Mount Vernon and T.C. Williams are also in the mix.