Westlake 76, Lakeside-Dekalb 20

On a local radio show Friday morning, a Westlake player said at the end of his team’s Class AAAAAA first round playoff game against Lakeside-DeKalb the score would be 60-0. He was wrong on two accounts.

Lakeside-Dekalb scored 20 points and at the end of the game Westlake didn’t have 60 points. That would come by halftime. The Lions went on to put up two more touchdowns en route to a 76-20 pasting of Lakeside (4-7) in spoiling the Vikings’ first trip to the state playoffs in 18 years.

As for Westlake (9-2), the win further drove home the point that the south Fulton school has arrived. No longer a mere collection of talented players, Westlake (9-2), winners of back-to-back Region 3 championships, has served noticed that the Lions officially are a football program in head coach Bryan Love’s third season.

“We feel very blessed at this point,” said Love, who has compiled a record of 23-10 at Westlake. “The kids have bought into our system and they are doing the things they need to do for us to be successful.”

Those things include strict discipline and a concerted effort to focus on the details, down to the manner in which the team exits the field. Win or lose, after the postgame huddle and breakdown, the Lions line up and exit the field two-by-two.

Friday they made Lakeside’s exit quick and inevitable. Midway through the first quarter, Westlake already held a 21-7 lead after a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Marquez Lauder from junior quarterback Malik Willis, a 40-yard pass from Willis to senior Stephen Jackson and a 15-yard run by Willis.

Then AJ Terrell joined the fun. The receiver/defensive back, considered one of the state’s top juniors, returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown and seconds later, scooped up a fumble and skipped into the end zone from 15 yards out to make the score 35-7 after one quarter.

“We got off to a fast start, which is something we’ve been working on doing,” said Love. “We’ve been wanting to do a better job of starting fast and we were able to do that tonight.”

Lakeside’s Maxwell Guggemos scored the first of his two touchdowns to narrow the gap to 35-13, after the point after kick was blocked. But Westlake scored the next 20 points on a 70-yard run by senior Marquez Burdette Jr., a 22-yard pick-six by senior Jarrett Cornelius and a six-yard score by junior Jalen Simmons made the score 55-13 five minutes before halftime.

After a short touchdown run for Lakeside by Guggemos, Terrell capped the first half scoring with an eight-yard touchdown catch and run on a tunnel screen for a 62-13 lead at the break.

“Any time you can get a win in the playoffs is a good thing,” Love said. “It’s great to get that first round win because it helps you build confidence going into the next round.”

In Round 2, the Lions will face a program that is largely foreign to them with a player they know very well. Westlake will host Peachtree Ridge (8-3), the No. 2 seed from Region 7, in the first ever meeting between the schools. Peachtree Ridge, also nicknamed the Lions, features one of the nation’s top senior defensive backs, Nigel Warrior, who transferred from Westlake late last spring.

While Love said he and his staff will stress the importance of playing the team, not Warrior, senior defensive back/return specialist Ronnie Blackmon said there is no need for a lecture.

“We know we have to stay focused and keep working hard,” said Blackmon, who has committed to Colorado. “We want to keep it going and take one game at a time.”