Westfield Head Coach Tom Verbanic answered reporters’ questions with a disappointed tone after a blocked field goal foiled his team's comeback and ended in a 21-18 loss to Stone Bridge High School on Sept. 4. Verbanic, however, cracked a smile when asked if he chose the game-opener, double-pass gadget play because of its success in Westfield's final game last season.
"No comment," he said coyly.
On the game’s first play, junior wide receiver Mack Spees caught a pass from senior quarterback Danny Fenyak and then heaved the ball 70 yards to senior wide receiver Gary Turner for a touchdown.
The aggressive play call surprised the other Westfield coaches and the Stone Bridge defense.
"It was what we needed to get the jump on [Stone Bridge]," Turner said. "It helped because we were on the road and it gave us life."
The play also sent a message to the standing-room-only crowd that Westfield was not a pushover despite being in a rebuilding year after a 9-3 season in 2008 and losing key seniors to graduation.
"We knew we could hang with these guys," Fenyak said. "We knew we had a chance. It got our confidence up."
Westfield also had a 42-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore Kendall Anderson, but the Bulldogs struggled to establish an offensive rhythm and were unable to hold a lead in the second half.
THIS WAS THE FIRST meeting of the two schools that opened in 2000. The two programs have been dominant programs in recent years and have three state football championships between them.
It was only fitting that Stone Bridge Head Coach Mickey Thompson matched Verbanic with the exact same gadget play to open the second half, resulting in the game-winning touchdown.
"We talked about the double pass and they came out and hit it. We thought we could run it on them," Thompson said. "Thankfully, we were able to trump them and hit our own double pass. That's a play you open with, and it's a deflator when you hit it."
The trick play caught Westfield off-guard, but Turner said that he never felt like his team was out of the game.
"[The trick play] choked us up a little, but we didn't put our heads down," Turner said. "We kept pushing forward and kept at it."
THE GAME FINISHED in dramatic fashion as Stone Bridge turned over the ball on the Westfield 40-yard line with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, setting up a final drive for Westfield.
"We just had to get into field goal position," Fenyak said.
Fenyak marched the Bulldogs down the field and survived a third and long situation created by a Stone Bridge sack.
But Stone Bridge defender Spencer Rositano foiled the fourth-quarter comeback attempt by blocking senior James Crossett's the game-tying field goal.
"We told each other we've got to be a family here and hold them," Rositano said. "Then when we came out and blocked the field goal, it was just a great feeling."
Rositano's field goal block was the second block of the day for Stone Bridge. The Stone Bridge defense blocked an extra point attempt earlier in the game.
Despite the loss, Westfield is taking the season game-by-game and not overlooking future opponents.
"We have to work on getting better every week," Verbanic said. "This was our biggest game this week, and next week our biggest game is West Potomac."
Though the Westfield players were disappointed by the loss, many said the team would learn from this experience, a feeling Verbanic echoed in his post-game talk.
"It's either a good loss or a bad loss," Verbanic said "If we get better from this loss, then it's not a bad loss at all."