The West High football team showed that it's not just a passing team Saturday in a 59-36 bruising of Wasilla in the quarterfinals of the state large-school football playoffs.
The Eagles can play defense.
And they can run the ball.
West's defense scored the go-ahead touchdown and its running game scored five of the Eagles' final six touchdowns in a convincing victory at Wasilla's Veterans Memorial Field.
The pivotal play was Lincoln Tulimasealii's 55-yard interception returns with just more than four minutes left in the first quarter. West trailed 9-7 before the big play.
"Lincoln's pick-six definitely gave us all hope," West quarterback Conor Feckley told the Frontiersman. "Coming into this game, the defense was trying to make a statement, trying to let people know it's not all about the West High offense."
And as it turns out, the West High offense is not all about Feckley and the passing game.
Though Feckley had a fine game -- he completed 17 of 25 passes with no interceptions and racked up 217 yards and one passing touchdown -- the running game was even more potent.
Led by Nathen Sailele's 193 yards on 15 carries, the Eagles rushed for 300 yards and six touchdowns. Feckley scored twice on one-yard runs, Sailele scored twice on long runs (41 yards in the second quarter, 26 yards in the fourth quarter), Tulimasealii added an offensive touchdown by scoring from 12 yards out and Terry Holtman bolted six yards for a touchdown.
"We weren't expecting to run the ball as much as we did," Feckley said. "For our line to step up and prove we're not just a passing team meant a lot.
"... It takes a lot of pressure off me when we're able to run the ball so well."
West coach Tim Davis said the offensive line created opportunities and the backfield made the most of them.
"The line opened up huge holes, we saw that," he said. "A few things on the inside run game were open and we just kind of kept going at it."
By gaining more than 500 yards of total offense, West was able to survive a 360-yard passing game by Wasilla quarterback Ben Fielder.
Fielder completed 17 of 30 passes, including four long strikes that went for touchdowns. Two of his touchdown passes went to Zach Adair, who scored on a 65-yard play in the second quarter and a 12-yard play in the third quarter. But he also threw three interceptions.
The Eagles owned a 35-16 lead at halftime but Wasilla outscored them 14-7 in the third quarter to make it a two touchdown game, 42-30, after three quarters.
"We were just amazed at how Wasilla came out, no matter what the score was, and just played a great second half of football," Davis said.
Wasilla ended the season with a 6-3 record. West will take a 5-4 mark into next weekend's semifinals.
West 21 14 7 17 -- 59
Wasilla 9 7 14 6 -- 36
West -- Feckley 1 run (Troxel kick) 10:33.
Wasilla -- Teeling 5 run (Perry kick) 5:22.
Wasilla -- Safety, 4:22.
West -- Tulimasealii 55 interception return (Troxel kick) 4:08.
West -- Feckley 1 run (Troxel kick) 0:29.
West -- Vandervort 6 pass from Feckley (Troxel kick) 6:28.
Wasilla -- Adair 65 pass from Fielder (Perry kick) 4:57.
West -- Sailele 41 run (Troxel kick) 3:40.
Wasilla -- D. Kuiper 36 pass from Fielder (Perry kick) 9:28.
Wasilla -- Adair 12 pass from Fielder (Perry kick) 1:55.
West -- Tulimasealii 12 run (Troxel kick) 0:07.
West -- Sailele 26 run (Troxel kick) 10:14.
West -- Holtman 6 run (Troxel kick) 7:19.
West -- Troxel 34 field goal, 3:04.
Wasilla -- Anderson 25 pass from Fielder (kick blocked) 2:39.
RUSHING -- West: Sailele 15-193, Tulimasealii 6-81, Feckley 6-6, Dion 1-9, Holtman 1-6, Tui 1-5; Wasilla: Teeling 20-53, Rilatos 10-82, Fielder 7-4.
PASSING -- West: Feckley 17-25-0--217, Bozzini 1-1-0--1; Wasilla: Fielder 17-30-3--360.
RECEIVING -- West: Dion 6-63, Lawrence 4-38, Vandervort 3-39, Brown 3-31, Buster 1-36, Tulimasealii 1-11; Wasilla: B. Kuiper 5-79, Adair 4-159, D. Kuiper 4-64, Anderson 2-34, Rilatos 2-24.
Anchorage Daily News