The Westwood Panthers fought through some bad breaks and treated a Homecoming crowd with a 34-6 win over Eustace in their home opener on Friday.
Running back Tremelle Rhodes was the Panthers' workhorse on the ground, with three rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Dalton Books brought his A game, connecting with multiple players and passing for one touchdown and one PAT conversion. Penalties nullified two other apparent scores, but the Panthers kept their focus and wound up with their first W, improving to 1-2 on the young season.
The Defense took care of business all night, led by Cory Elton, TJ Herndon, Aeneas Page and Jordan Brown.
The Panthers' first drive ended when a tipped ball led to an interception. The defense put up a wall and stopped Eustace inside the 10-yard-line. Books then marched his team back upfield, with passes to Devonte Downie and Jordan Owens, and good runs by Rhodes. Rhodes punched it in from the 2 to put the Panthers on the scoreboard early in the second quarter.
Westwood's next drive ended when Rhodes was stripped of the ball at the 8-yard-line. Eustace strung together five first downs but Page shut them down with a pick and a 70-yard run, but a flag erased the apparent score. The clock ran out before the offense could capitalize, and the teams went to the locker room with WHS up 6-0.
The Panthers opened the second half with a fresh head of steam and a quick 75-yard scoring run by Rhodes. Book connected with Page on the conversion.
Page finally got his touchdown, a 33-yarder, on a jet sweep.
Eustace scored their lone touchdown on a quarterback keeper by Cooper Cates late in the third.
Westwood immediately answered with a 16-yard pass and run from Books to Owens. Elton added the PAT kick.
Rhodes added his third TD on a one-yard dive late in the game.
Head Coach Richard Bishop told his team, "Wins are hard to come by -- this was the offense, the defense, special teams -- it was a team win." He later added, "At times it wasn't pretty -- we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times -- but the kids were resilient. They stuck together and stuck with the plan. They did a great job, and I'm so dang proud for our kids."
The Panthers host West Rusk next week in the final pre-district contest.