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Defense rests after Westminster football moves to 4-0, takes care of Century

Westminster’s plan to keep things basic on defense is paying off in a big way.

The Owls won for the fourth time in as any games and their defensive unit put together a strong performance Friday in a 33-6 victory at Century.

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Westminster shut out the Knights through the first half and enjoyed a 27-point lead at the break. The Owls’ defense has given up 21 points this season, an average of 1.3 points per quarter. They have a shutout victory (35-0 over South Carroll in Week 2), beat Liberty 21-6 in their opener, and took care of Manchester Valley 33-9 a week ago.

“We’ve really tried to keep it simple, and just run to the football,” Westminster coach Chris Bassler said. “The kids have embraced that. The thing that’s been encouraging for me, it’s been all three levels. ... This year I think we’ve really bought into 11 hats to the football.”

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Westminster's Jack Cross tries to get past Century lineman Chris Gernand to pressure quarterback Landon Bruce during a football game at Century High School on Friday, March 26, 2021.
Westminster's Jack Cross tries to get past Century lineman Chris Gernand to pressure quarterback Landon Bruce during a football game at Century High School on Friday, March 26, 2021. (Brian Krista)

Bassler said his defensive line has shined, which in turn helps the linebackers and defensive backs. Alan Jean-Joseph and Noah Glass, a pair of seniors, anchor the D-line. Senior Erick Stranko and junior Jack Sabo roam the middle. And the Owls rotate through a handful of defensive backs ― senior Austin Bainbridge had two interceptions, and junior Josh LoPiccolo came up with a fumble recovery.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, of course, but we’ve just worked hard every practice,” Bainbridge said. “Everyone does their job. And yeah, good things happen when everyone does their job.”

Westminster’s defense carried the day, and its offense surged early by taking advantage of short-field situations throughout the first half. After a bad snap in punt formation by Century (1-1), Westminster’s first drive started on the Knights’ 13 and quarterback Jack Gruenzinger connected with Mason Fisher on a 9-yard touchdown pass.

Century fumbled in its own territory late in the first quarter, and the Owls struck again. Gruenzinger ran for 11 yards on fourth-and 10 to extend the ensuing possession, and moments later Christian Heck plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out on another fourth-down play.

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Century turned the ball over on the kickoff one play later, and Westminster went on the move again. Stranko plowed through Century’s defense for a 9-yard touchdown, his second score of the half.

Westminster's Erick Stranko tries to strip the ball from Century's Landon Bruce while tackling him from behind during a football game at Century High School on Friday, March 26, 2021.
Westminster's Erick Stranko tries to strip the ball from Century's Landon Bruce while tackling him from behind during a football game at Century High School on Friday, March 26, 2021. (Brian Krista)

The Knights played their first game since March 5. Century had its Week 2 game against Liberty canceled because of COVID-19 concerns around the county, and had a bye last week.

The Knights defeated Manchester Valley 12-0 in their opener. Landon Bruce, Erik Harrell, and Dereik Crosby combined for more than 180 rushing yards against the Mavericks.

Bruce managed about 40 rushing yards Friday, Crosby had about 10, and Harrell 3. Crosby had four receptions for 39 yards, unofficially. Gavin Batts gave the Knights their points on a 1-yard touchdown run with less than 5 minutes to play in the third quarter.

Westminster is off next week while Century hosts Winters Mill on Thursday, April 1. Bainbridge, who has six catches Friday at receiver, said the Owls are enjoying themselves so far.

Westminster's Austin Bainbridge brushes aside a tackle attempt Century's Bryce Ferguson during a football game at Century High School on Friday, March 26, 2021.
Westminster's Austin Bainbridge brushes aside a tackle attempt Century's Bryce Ferguson during a football game at Century High School on Friday, March 26, 2021. (Brian Krista)

“We’re feeling great. We’re going to work on finishing games in the second half,” he said. “The offense is starting to really [click], our run game is amazing. And the passing game is starting to come together too.”

SCORING SUMMARY

W-Mason Fisher 9 pass from Jack Gruenzinger (Cam Doolan kick)

W-Erick Stranko 4 run (kick failed)

W-Christian Heck 1 run (Doolan kick)

W-Stranko 9 run (Doolan kick)

C-Gavin Batts 1 run (conversion failed)

W-Heck 17 run (kick missed)

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