News Examiner: Devils and Eagles battle for first place

westmorelandBlue Devils, Eagles battle for first

By Craig Harris for The Gallatin News Examiner (see the full article featuring all Sumner County games here)

The White House High football team is looking to extend the streak.

The Westmoreland football squad is hoping this is the year.

One of the two will be the final remaining unbeaten team in District 9-AA and will take a significant step toward winning the district championship with a win this evening as the two teams clash at Eagle Stadium.

“The kids understand what we’re up against this week,” Blue Devil head coach Jeff Porter said. “We have tremendous respect for their program.”

White House has won five consecutive games over the Eagles.

The Blue Devils (6-1 overall, 4-0 in District 9-AA) will actually clinch the district title with a win over Westmoreland.

Conversely, the Eagles (6-1, 3-0) need a win over White House and will then need to win one of their final two games as well in order to claim the district crown.

“What I’m pleased about is how our young men have worked so hard,” Westmoreland head coach Steve Harris said. “They have bought in to what we are trying to do. Now, they are seeing the rewards of their commitment.”

The two teams have relied heavily on their defenses to win six of their first seven games.

“We are very similar in how our seasons have progressed,” Harris said.

Porter added, “They lost to a really good team in East (Nashville, a 40-26 setback), and we lost to a good football team (a 31-6 loss at Lipscomb Academy). That’s a similarity there. We both have been able to win some close games involving Greenbrier and Sycamore.”

The two teams played much earlier in the season last year, with the Blue Devils capturing a 19-7 victory over the visiting Eagles in week 2. White House won the district championship, and Westmoreland placed second in 9-AA.

The Eagles’ last district/region championship came in 2008, a three-way tie for first place in Region 4-2A along with Smith County and York Institute.

The Blue Devils are coming off of their second shutout of the season, a 31-0 victory at Harpeth last Friday. White House has allowed a total of 14 points over its last three games.

“The whole year, our kids have played hard,” Porter said. “Our kids understood that we were behind on the offensive side of the ball. In order for us to have a chance (to win games) earlier in the year, we were going to have to be solid on defense and in the kicking game. It’s a conscious effort of trying to give yourself the best chance to win. That’s a credit to the kids.”

Harris added, “It looks like their defense is really outstanding. They are just not allowing very many points. They are very disciplined in what they do, and they always have a good game plan. They have a good mix of size and athletes.”

After going through a three-game stretch in which the Blue Devils combined for 33 points, White House has totaled 85 points over its last three contests.

“Harpeth played extremely hard,” Porter said of last Friday’s contest. “We were just able to make a few plays, especially one right before half (a 25-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Ryan Pool to senior split end Alex Lyon) to get up two scores.

“Returning the (second-half) kickoff was huge (junior Josh Mullins’ 85-yard return for a touchdown).”

The Eagles held on for a 14-13 victory over visiting Greenbrier last Friday.

“They play hard,” Porter said. “They play hard every snap. They look like they are very sound in everything they do. They’re very well-coached.”

Westmoreland had the football inside the Bobcats’ 20 three times in the second half last week but came away scoreless on those opportunities. The Eagles committed three turnovers, two interceptions and a fumble.

“Traditionally, against White House, you will get very few opportunities,” Harris said. “However, when you do get opportunities, you better capitalize if you expect to have a chance to win the football game.”

The Eagles are hosting their seventh consecutive opponent, concluding the regular season on the road against district foes Harpeth and Cheatham County.

Conversely, White House is in the middle of a three-game stretch of road games before hosting non-district foe Pope John Paul II in its regular-season finale.

The Blue Devils are as healthy as they have been in a while, with sophomore tailback Trey Hyde returning last week after missing the previous three games with an injury. White House junior offensive tackle Kyle Cantrell was also back in action last Friday after playing just one series in the previous week’s victory over White House Heritage.

The Blue Devils have won the last five meetings between the two programs – including victories of 28-14 and 19-7 the last two seasons – and lead the all-time series 20-6.

Westmoreland’s last win over White House came in 1991, a 19-6 victory (resulting in the only time that the Blue Devils have not made the playoffs since failing to reach the postseason in 1983).

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

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