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Western Proves It Can Play Defense


It wasn't so much a stand as it was a statement.

When Western stopped Loara on fourth and goal with 42 seconds remaining Friday night at Glover Stadium, the defense not only preserved a 14-7 upset over the seventh-ranked Saxons, but put to rest any notion that the Pioneers can only win with offense.

"That's the one thing we've been missing [in the past], being one unit, working behind each other's backs and believing in one another," said defensive lineman Ramsey Fiapai, who nailed Loara quarterback Jonathan Diullo and forced an incomplete pass on the final defensive play.

"Then today, everybody had the heart to come out and say, 'I believe in you, I believe in you.' We had 11 players going all out and that's what counted."

Western (1-0) was forced into the goal-line stand after allowing a 40-yard reception by Rudy Acosta on fourth and 17 with about two minutes remaining. On second down from the seven, Diullo missed Billy Chavez on a pitchout and Chavez had to fall on the ball for a five-yard loss.

Diullo then missed Acosta on a fade pattern in the end zone, and a false start put Loara back on the 17 with one down remaining.

"We didn't make some plays we needed to down the stretch," Loara Coach John deFries said. "They had a good game plan. They took our speed out of the game by matching up pretty good with Rudy, but he wasn't in top shape."

Acosta, an all-county defensive back last season, came into the game nursing a sore hamstring and wasn't much of a factor until the final drive.

After fumbling three times on its first three possessions and losing two, Western took advantage of a Loara turnover early in he second quarter to take a 7-0 lead. Duane Parrish intercepted Ryan Gusman's pass and returned it to the Saxon 34.

On fourth and eight, wide receiver Eric Centanni made a fine overhead catch to keep the drive alive. The Pioneers moved the ball inside the five, where David Gober scored on a two-yard sweep, juking Acosta to the inside and beating him to the pylon.

"I'm sorry I had to do it to him," said Gober, who rushed for 64 yards in 10 carries. "I'm just trying to win the football game."

Loara took the second-half kickoff and marched 75 yards in 10 plays. Acosta made his first two receptions of the game on the drive, including a 24-yard gain on third and nine that put that ball at the one. Two plays later, quarterback Jonathan Diullo sneaked over and the Saxons tied the score, 7-7.

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