STAMFORD — Commitment to an athletic goal is an admirable quest.
But at some point there needs to be a reward for all the hours of sweat equity.
That day, that moment and that wonderful feeling of success arrived Saturday for the Westhill football team.
The Vikings put together enough clutch plays in a second-half comeback to defeat Central, 14-8 at J. Walter Kennedy Stadium before a thrilled partisan Homecoming Day crowd.
It was the first victory of the season for Westhill (1-5, 1-4 FCIAC).
“The guys have been putting in the time and effort since winter workouts. Go out and earn it was our motto,” said junior quarterback Matt O’Connor. “We want to be known as the hardest working team. And to get a win for Homecoming is special.”
Westhill trailed 8-0 at halftime but was opportunistic over the final 24 minutes to earn a full-blown celebration at the final horn.
The Vikings’ defense forced a fumble on the opening play of the third quarter. That put the offense in business at the Central 49.
Six plays later, O’Connor raced into the end zone from nine yards out to close to 8-6. The pass for two points failed.
Central responded only to fumble on the Westhill 14. The Hilltoppers were intercepted by Jordyn MacDonald on the Westhill 20 and then had a bad punt snap stopped on the Central 20 on their next two possessions.
On second down and 17 on the Central 27, O’Connor passed to Sam Edouard (eight receptions, 64 yards) for 22 yards. O’Connor (15 of 24 passing, 90 yards) then found Jack Engel on a five-yard quick slant for the touchdown.
Nasir Thornton bulled in for the two-point conversion run and 14-8 with 10:00 left to play.
“It was a great throw by Matt (O’Connor),” Engel said.
“Jack (Engel) was the first read,” O’Connor said. “We have so much talent in our wide receiver corps. The offensive line gave me more than enough time and Jack was open.”
Central’s offense had one last chance at a tying touchdown.
A 45-yard pass from quarterback Raphael Garcia to Jean Desir put Central on the Westhill 19 with 2:34 to play.
But a holding penalty and stout Westhill defense left Central at fourth down and 25 on the Westhill 37 with 1:05 to go. The Vikings’ Omari Lewis intercepted at the Westhill 3.
“We have four sophomores and a freshman on the defensive side. We just ask everybody to play hard,” said Westhill coach Joe DeVellis said. “The kids are buying into being a team.”
Central (0-6, 0-6 FCIAC) took the early lead thanks to Juan Guzman. The senior made an interception at the Westhill 16 then caught a 16-yard scoring strike from QB Garcia for 6-0 with 1:14 left in the first quarter. Central’s defense added a safety in the final minute of the second period on a quarterback sack in the end zone.
“We’ll be back next week (at home against intracity rival Bassick),” said a disappointed Central coach Derrick Lewis.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It took a village for Westhill to grab its first win of the season.
“We work just as hard as any football team. To get the win is validating. I’m so proud of our young guys. I’m so happy for our seniors,” Westhill coach DeVellis said. “Getting our first win is awesome. Our schedule the first half of the season (losses to East Lyme, Ludlowe, Darien, Danbury, Greenwich) was so tough. This victory could catapult us to a good second half of the year (games left with Norwalk, Trinity Catholic/ Wright Tech Co-op, Trumbull, Stamford).”