Following West Hall’s 35-14 rout of White County on Friday night in Oakwood, coach Tony Lotti stood tall in the postgame huddle and announced he is certain of two things: His Spartans need to fix some mistakes before next week, and they are headed to the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
"The West Hall Spartans are headed to the dance," shouted a smiling Lotti as he held up four fingers to the crowd.
It drew loud cheers from fans and players resting on their knees at Spartan Field. Perhaps the loudest in that crowd was West Hall’s senior class, which goes down in school history as the first group to accomplish that feat.
“We’re gonna take this time and we’re going to be thankful, and also, we’re gonna make sure we enjoy this because I’m old enough to know that whenever you get them, you better dadgum enjoy them,” Lotti shouted to his team.
The win puts the Spartans (6-3, 2-1 Region 7-AAAA) as the region’s No. 3 playoff seed.
Lotti said it has been quite a building process in his five seasons, and he has come across a lot of people on the journey. But he highlighted that first group of seniors responsible for “turning the ship.”
“I keep going back in my mind to that first group of that I had here, because I was telling them one thing, and everything they have been told for their whole life was the total opposite. And they showed up every day and went to work, and they started to change the mindset of our program,” Lotti said.
“It feels good,” said senior quarterback Jacob Satterfield, who threw for three touchdowns in the win. “Freshman year, we all knew we had a job to do over the next couple of years. The leadership on this team is great, the O-line is great. It was just great the entire game.”
It could not have been a more fitting setting. On the team’s Senior Night, the Spartans scored 35 unanswered points and outgained the Indians 300-71 in the first half. Their ball-hawking defense added a pair of forced turnovers in the second quarter and held the Warriors to a pair of first downs for the half.
A select group of upperclassmen made the most of the spotlight. Senior running back Tyrese Osborne (nine carries, 62 yards) capped the Spartans nine-play, 80 yard opening drive of the game on a 1-yard run. Satterfield completed his first five throws of the game before putting the Spartans ahead by two scores with a 42-yard strike to fellow senior classmate Will Dague (three catches, 78 yards).
Dague snatched the back-shoulder pass along the sideline, separated himself from the defender and scampered down the home sideline and into the end zone with 2:41 left in the opening quarter.
Satterfield (11 of 13 passing, 168 yards, three touchdowns) went on to add touchdowns of 36 and 10 yards to seniors Tanner Ahmad and George Lira right before the half. Ahmad’s first-career touchdown reception stretched the Spartans’ lead to 28-0 in the second quarter. He snatched Satterfield’s deep heave in midair and over the shoulders of a White County defender before breaking his backward fall in the end zone.
Satterfield accredited the first-half success to the guys up front.
“It starts off down in the trenches, in the O-line,” he said. “You can’t forget about those guys. They don’t get enough credit as they need to. Andrew, Josh, Jackson and Jetrin and Cory, they’ve been working their tails off all summer, and I just love every single one of them.”
Junior linebacker Damien Fouts recorded the game’s first takeaway when he punched the ball out of White County quarterback Dillon Wilson’s grasp inside the Warriors’ 18. His 10-yard scoop and score put the hosts ahead by 21.
Senior AJ Favorite erased White County’s only potential scoring drive of the half with an interception from inside the 10. The play came two plays after White County’s biggest gain of the night, a Malik Cannon 59-yard kick return that put the Warriors deep inside Spartan territory under a minute to go in the half. But the gain was cut by 15 yards due to a horse-collar foul.
The Warriors finally scored to start the second half on a 14-play, seven-plus minute drive, capped with a Wilson 17-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Warren at the 3:04 mark. Wilson added a 19-yard bullet thrown up the middle to Sam Smith for the Warriors’ final score with 4:43 left.
Lotti indicated his team is far from arrived, and expects his Spartans to be ready for a tough week of practice leading up to the regular season finale with the region’s unbeaten Blessed Trinity (7-2, 3-0) next Friday.
“We got some things we gotta work on both sides of the football,” he said. “But I think the good thing is that they are correctable, and we’re just gonna try to keep our eyes forward.”