By Jim Irish
Bastrop head football coach Jake Griedl stood on the synthetic turf at Memorial Stadium on Friday and complimented Round Rock Westwood players as they trotted off the field.
It was a magnanimous gesture considering that Class 6A Westwood had just pulverized
previously unbeaten Bastrop 59-7 in a non-district contest.
“We got baptized,” Griedl said several times to his athletes and to reporters after the game. “It needs to happen… because it exposes areas whether it be on offense or defense. That’s going to allow us the opportunity to fix that. Hopefully, other teams won’t do the same thing.”
"We got baptized. It needs to happen... because it exposes areas whether it be on offense or defense."
-- Bastrop head coach Jake Griedl after suffering first loss of season
The game went haywire against Bastrop on the opening kickoff. Westwood’s Scott Uffelman received the kick, burst through the middle, cut right and dashed 94 yards untouched for the touchdown.
It was a Groundhog Day moment. Griedl recalled Westwood (3-0) pulling it off on the opening kickoff in last season’s 49-42 loss on the road.
“From the naked eye, the kick wasn’t placed where we wanted it, and, at that point, your angles are off,” Griedl said.
Westwood head coach Anthony Wood said the kickoff return is called “House Party ‘cause we want to have a party in the end zone.”
The momentum shift was electric.
“If you somehow can step on ‘em early and get them to question (themselves), you have a better chance to be successful,” said Wood, whose team practices kickoffs 30 minutes during every practice. “The opening kickoff did a lot to help us.”
“It takes all 11,” Wood added. “If all 11 do their job, it’s going to be very hard for defenses to have success on that play. I think our guys executed it to perfection. We had ‘em pinned. We had everybody blocked. It was a heck of a return.”
The blitzkrieg was only starting. Westwood scored on its first three possessions and led 28-0 after one quarter and 42-0 at halftime.
Westwood running back Demani Stewart proved to be the dagger to the heart of Bastrop (2-1). The 5-foot-11, 214-pound senior rushed for 276 yards on 20 carries and scored from 23, 45, 1, and 75 yards. Stewart hails from Jamaica and is punishing in the style of former NFL star Earl Campbell and fast. Wood said he had clocked 22 miles per hour on Catapult and 10.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash in track. Isn’t everyone from Jamaica fast? Think Usain Bolt, three-time Olympic champion in the 100 and 200.
"... He's fundamentally sound. He studies the game. He's not going out there guessing. He understands the blocking schemes, and he knows where the holes are going to open up."
-- Westwood coach Anthony Wood describing running back Demani Stewart
“In football, (Stewart) plays at that speed,” Wood said. “He’s fundamentally sound. He studies the game. He’s not going out there guessing. He understands the blocking schemes, and he knows where the holes are going to open up.”
Stewart hasn’t been highly recruited yet by colleges because last season was his first in football. Westwood coaches found him in a physical education class.
“Lots of schools are calling,” Wood said. “There’ll be more coming this week.”
Griedl saw enough of Stewart to assess his talent.
“He’s a big kid, and obviously he can run,” he said. “We need to see that kind of speed. When we play Veterans Memorial’s James Peoples, the No. 3 running back in the country, we’re going to get the same type player.”
Westwood quarterback Owen Norrell threw touchdown passes of 32 yards to Lane Wood and seven yards to Brian Perkins.
Wood was impressed with Bastrop sophomore nose tackle Tiki Hola.
“Did you see the play he made on the sprint out (pass by Norrell), where he knocked the ball down?” Wood asked. “I told our coaches, ‘That’s why that guy is good.’ He was one of the best football players on the field.”
Bastrop slot back Keyshon Moore starred with five receptions for 141 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown reception — the Bears only score — from quarterback Braden Tuck.
Tuck completed 7-of-18 passes for 147 yards before exiting with a limp after being tackled in the third quarter. Freshman Weston Nielsen entered for the first time this season and completed 4-of-7 passes for 59 yards.
"We put him in early with the (starters)," Griedl said about Nielsen. "I think he's learning the speed of a varsity football game. Once they put their backups in and he settled down, you kinda saw a little more of his arm talent."
The Bears’ running game was non-existent with five total yards.
"We gotta heal up. We gotta get ready for district."
-- Griedl addressing the absence of three starters, including quarterback Quintaelyn Joyner
Three starters — quarterback Quintaelyn Joyner, linebacker Wesley Donner, and defensive back Brett Cannaday — missed because of injuries. Griedl said none had a serious injury, as far as he knew.
“We gotta heal up,” Griedl said. “We gotta get ready for district. If they’re not 100%, we gotta get ‘em back to 100%.”
Bastrop plays host to Pflugerrville (0-3) at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Jim Irish is a freelance writer in Bastrop, Texas