WESTWOOD — When Westwood started to prepare for Holliston, second-year coach Ed Mantie wanted his team to be confident. In a winner-take-all matchup for the Tri-Valley Large title, Westwood’s mind-set set the tone in a 42-14 victory over Holliston at Flahive Field Thursday.
“To win your last game, on Thanksgiving, to win a championship, there is no better feeling,” said Mantie.
“We felt a little disrespected that they didn’t give us any credit and despite the past when Holliston has beat us, this was a different year, a different team, new coaches, and everyone was ready to get after it today,” said Westwood quarterback Alex Berluti.
Westwood (8-3) will take on Wayland in the Division 3 playoffs on Tuesday. It’s Westwood first playoff appearance since 2004.
The Wolverines were aggressive and it paid off. Leading, 14-7, with less than a minute to play in the first half, Westwood went for it on fourth and 10 from the Holliston 15, and Berluti found Pierce Dierker for a touchdown.
“That’s the play of the game,” said Mantie.
Berluti was 13 for 16 for 233 yards and three scores, and he had help from his receivers. In the second quarter, Berluti connected with his brother, Bo, on a perfect slant route for Westwood’s second TD. In the fourth quarter, Dierker made a diving catch for a 31-yard score to make it 42-14.
“That’s how you win championships,” said Mantie. “You call upon guys to make plays and they did every single time. I’m so proud of those guys.”
When Holliston tried to stop Westwood’s passing game, the middle of the field was left open. Daniel Roache rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and Brandon Rodenbush added a pair of scores on the ground.
With the exception of two big plays, a 26-yard TD run by Max Athy and an 85-yard pass from Matt Jeye to Zach Elkinson, the Westwood defense shut down Holliston and limited Athy, the TVL MVP, to 55 yards rushing.
“I think we controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well and I think we tackled good for the most part, which is huge because Athy is such a dynamic kid,’’ said Mantie.
“And in the end it came down to us being able to cover their guys. We gave up a little bit toward the end but we definitely made the plays when we had to.”