After doing extensive damage with his strong arm, West Eagles senior quarterback Joshua Stoltz used his legs to administer the final blow Friday night in a 42-28 nonconference victory over the winless Bartlett Golden Bears.
Stoltz passed for five touchdowns and more than 400 yards to keep West in the lead all night at the Nest on the Hillcrest, and his seven-yard touchdown run in the waning moments sealed the win.
West evened its record to 2-2 while sending the Golden Bears to their fourth straight loss.
The Eagles built a 28-6 halftime lead thanks to the tremendous playmaking of Stoltz and his primary target and fellow senior, Dhar Montalbo. They hooked up 11 times for 205 yards on the night and connected for three long scoring plays in the first half.
Montalbo was electrifying and ferocious every time he got his hands on the ball. His longest touchdown came on a 93-yard jaunt to the end zone after catching a quick pass, getting a key block from a fellow receiver and outrunning the entire Bartlett defense to pay dirt.
He’s a violent runner with soft hands, and he uses his 6-foot-1 and nearly 200-pound frame to his advantage. On his second touchdown, Montalbo caught the ball short of the goal line and proceeded to drag three defenders on his way across it.
“I’ve been in the weight room,” he said. “I’m like a gym rat now, trying to encourage all these boys.”
West’s three-touchdown lead at halftime seemed insurmountable, but Bartlett pounded away with its running game and scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to narrow the gap to a single possession.
“Our guys were saying real positive stuff at halftime,” Bartlett coach John Jessen said. “They believe that they can win, and then they came in and backed up their talk and they fought to the end.”
As Bartlett running backs Amoma Ah Sam and Elijah Lilio fought and clawed for yardage to help whittle West’s lead, it was an eerily familiar scene for the Eagles. A week earlier they jumped to an early lead over the East T-birds only to watch another run-based offense batter its way to a come-from-behind victory.
This time, West withstood a second-half rally. Bartlett’s final possession ended when the Eagles defense forced it to turn the ball over on downs, putting Stoltz in good field position for his game-clinching run.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” Stoltz said. “We came together as a team. We’ve been lacking that these last few weeks.”
Stoltz bounced back quickly from negative plays and dropped some beautiful dimes downfield, including a perfectly lofted scoring strike to Montalbo in the left-back corner of the end zone.
Senior wideouts Zion Mendoza and Malyk Davis gave Stoltz plenty of options and made tough grabs over the middle as well as down the field, with Davis catching a pair of touchdown passes.