FORT PIERCE — Fort Pierce Westwood High School’s football team is headed back to the regional playoffs for the first time in 2010, in large part because of something they’ve struggled to do the past five years.
Make big plays.
Westwood scored seven touchdowns of 29 yards or more, including three touchdown runs by running back Marques Burgess and a pair of interceptions returns, in a 47-20 win over Port St. Lucie in the District 15-5A finale Thursday night at Lawnwood Stadium.
Westwood (3-4, 1-1 district) advances to the regional quarterfinals as the district runner-up, while Port St. Lucie (0-8, 0-2) was denied its first playoff appearance since 1990.
“This is great. To come back from the wreck we had last year (when Westwood was 1-8) to make the playoffs feels good,” said a beaming Burgess who had 15 carries for 152 yards. “It feels great to come back from a 1-8 season. This was because everybody was working together in one accord. This just feels awesome.”
The Panthers, who were playing without starting quarterback Raheem Lewis (suspension) and lineman Ra’shard Rucker (injury), got off to a fast start as Burgess had a 38-yard scoring run down the sidelines on the fourth play of the game. Dontavious Williams and Tarek Reaves scored on runs of 32 and 80 yards, respectively, in Westwood’s 21-point first quarter.
“It’s what we’ve been missing,” Westwood coach John Lima said. “My first year, we only had like five kids running better than a 5.0 (second) 40 (-yard dash). We’ve gotten progressively faster the last two years and now you’re starting to see that translate to points on the field.”
Port St. Lucie got a pair of rushing touchdowns from Tyrae Sessions in the first quarter and trailed 27-14 at halftime. Sessions finished with 19 carries for 118 yards.
The Jaguars received the kick to start the second half, but Edjuan Works intercepted Eddie Yearby’s pass on the first play of the third quarter and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.
Yearby threw for 139 yards and a touchdown pass to Amhad Butler, but also threw two interceptions. Port St. Lucie receiver Jamal Polk had a game-high four catches for 111 yards.
Westwood’s Theotis Holloman added a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a 40-20 lead.
“That was huge,” Port St. Lucie coach Ryan Solesky said. “We threw two picks for 14 points. We were starting to move the ball and we shut them out offensively in the third quarter, but the interceptions killed all our momentum.”