With both teams coming off of impressive wins last weekend, Friday's showdown between East and West at West High for the inner-city bragging rights promised to be better than usual.
The promise was broken.The Panthers of West mauled their east side rivals, as Panther quarterback Ben Byrd tossed four touchdowns and West registered 10 sacks of Leopard signal-caller Bryan Wood. When the dust had settled, West held the bragging rights by a score of 35-14.
The Panthers dominated play from the opening kickoff, marching methodically down the field on the first drive of the game, until Brandon Adams broke loose for 30 yards on a short pass from Byrd. Less then two minutes later, West's Rod Madsen intercepted a pass in East territory, setting up a 30-yard scoring strike from Byrd to Matt Watanuki, the first of three touchdowns passes received by Watanuki.
The Leopards pulled to within seven points late in the second quarter when Bryan Wood, under pressure in the pocket, found Christian Mickelson alone in the end zone, making the score 14-7. West immediately answered, as Watanuki returned East's kickoff to midfield and as an encore, caught a 48-yard bomb from Byrd on the very next play.
"The protection was great," Byrd said. "They had some blitzes on, and we were able to read them. The line did a real good job. Except for couple of times when I had to scramble out, I had plenty of time to throw."
The emphasis on passing is a departure of sorts for the West High program. "This year we're a more balanced team," West coach Don Holtry said. "In the past we've been more of a running team, but this year we have the receivers, we have backs who can catch the ball . . . we have guys who can catch 'em and a guy who can throw 'em, so we're trying to use them more."
West added its final TD on a 2-yard plunge by Chris Keddington. In the closing minutes, East drove the length of the field and Bryan Wood hit fullback Joe Adams on a short 5-yard pass to cap the drive. "Even though I'm disappointed in the outcome, I'm still proud of my kids," East coach John Holaday said.