GREENVILLE – Friday night marked the first time this season that Westside standout quarterback Cutter Woods didn’t throw a touchdown pass. The way the Rams ran the ball and played defense, he didn’t have to.
DeMarco Evans ran for three touchdowns and Westside’s defense came up with three interceptions as the Class 4A No. 7-ranked Rams defeated No. 9 Greenville, 28-14, at Sirrine Stadium.
For Westside, what a difference a year – and a week – make. Much like the prevailing thoughts about this year’s game, there was a feeling last year that the winner of this matchup would be in the driver’s seat for the Region I-4A championship. That proved to be true. Greenville won at Westside, 63-33, on its way to an unbeaten run through the region.
So the Rams’ defense entered Friday coming off that score last year and last week’s score of a 56-42 win over Greer. But Friday was a completely different story for that unit, led by Zeke Marshall’s two interceptions and Jimmar Boston’s one.
“Our defense played great. I’m just so proud of those guys,” first-year Westside coach Brian Lane said. “It really should’ve been seven (points allowed). I gave them (Greenville) a short field there in the fourth quarter when we went for it on fourth down trying to put the game away.”
In last year’s meeting, Greenville led 35-27 at the half before pulling away in the second half. It appeared Friday’s game was on the same course as the first three possessions all resulted in touchdowns. But after the Red Raiders’ second possession reached the Rams’ 29, that trend snapped on an interception by Boston.
On Westside’s ensuing possession, it marched 82 yards on 13 plays. It culminated in Evans’ third touchdown of the game as the Rams pushed their lead to 21-7 with 2:58 left in the first half. Evans already had 76 yards on 17 carries by that point.
Greenville reached the Westside 31 on its next drive before Marshall ended that drive with an interception with 1:11 left in the first half.
“Our focus this week was the key tonight,” Boston said. “Last week, we got the W but it was unfocused. We did a lot of silly stuff like playing around before the game last week and we didn’t do what we should.”
While the Rams’ defense certainly came to play, Greenville also had to have felt snakebitten at various points Friday. Greenville played three quarterbacks – starter Bryson Drummond, backup Zack Pickelsimer and sophomore Banks Bouton, who was called up off the JV team this week because Drummond’s health status was questionable all week.
On the play after Boston’s interception, it appeared the Raiders got it right back on a fumble. However, officials ruled the runner down while the home crowd booed as they watched the replay on the video board.
Greenville receiver Brayden Renfrow had five catches for 66 yards in the first half, but missed the second half after being on the receiving end of a huge hit by Marshall 16 seconds before halftime. Renfrow’s helmet and mouthpiece went flying about eight yards away from where the senior was down on the field for several minutes before slowly walking off.
That snakebit feeling for Greenville only grew after halftime. The Red Raiders opened the second half with a 13-play drive that reached the Westside 10. It looked like it reached the one thanks to a twisting, churning run by Mazeo Bennett, but a holding penalty negated it. The drive ended with a 30-yard field goal attempt that bounced off the left upright no good.
After Westside extended the lead to 28-7 on Sharode Richardson’s 23-yard touchdown run, Greenville’s next possession was another 13-play drive. On 4th-and-5, Drummond and KD Mosley connected on what looked to be their second touchdown of the game. The taller Mosley simply went up and grabbed the ball above the defender, but he was called for offensive pass interference negating the score.
Greenville (3-3, 0-1) finally got on the board in the second half on Bennett’s one-yard touchdown run to cut the lead in half with 7:15 left. The Red Raiders’ defense then came up with the only three-and-out of the game and gave the always dangerous Bennett his only shot at a punt return Friday. You could feel momentum shifting as the home crowd dreamed of one of Bennett’s classic returns, but Boston stopped that when the N.C. State commit wrapped up the South Carolina commit for no gain.
“I somewhat baited him. I didn’t run full speed until I knew he was going to pick up the ball,” Boston said. “As soon as he picked it up, that’s when I kicked it in. I had to make sure I had him.”
That drive ended on Marshall’s second interception – and fifth this season – with just less than five minutes left and Greenville never possessed the ball again. Boston was Westside’s second-leading receiver last season, but a left hand injury has put that hand in a heavily wrapped club this season. That’s left him to typically play only defense. However, he was in on offense on the final series and he caught a 17-yard pass on third down that allowed the Rams to kneel out the clock three plays later.
“Jimmar did a great job for us. I’m just happy that he got to come back and contribute,” Lane said. “He’s been in that club all year, but it hasn’t stopped him from showing up in big games.”
Evans finished with 109 yards on 28 attempts to lead Westside (5-1, 1-0). Woods was 11-of-18 passing for 226 yards and no interceptions. Josh Williams had five receptions for 119 yards.