Friday night’s football game between Westminster and Dundalk was full of big plays on both sides of the ball. But one mattered more than the rest.
Only 1.5 seconds remained with Dundalk, trailing by five, sitting on Westminster’s 6-yard line.
Westminster quarterback Kyrece Walker did all he could to put his team in position to win, but he could only watch with his heart “beating, racing” during the final moments.
But with guys like Nicolaus Koumentis manning the defense, he could breathe a little easier.
Dundalk quarterback Ja Bonner’s arm kept his team in the game and gave his Owls a chance. But on the final play, Koumentis broke through the line and flushed Bonner out of the pocket, forcing a desperate toss into the end zone that fell incomplete as Westminster held on for a 17-12 win.
“Lot of nerves on the sidelines, lot of nerves on the field,” Koumentis said. “Our defense, we’re screaming at each other. We just had to lock down and get ready to play ball. It’s the last play of the game, we got to do something.”
Westminster took a two-possession lead, 17-6, on Owen Harris’ 25-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. But on the ensuing drive, Bonner hit Joey Kasprzak for a 56-yard gain, then a 15-yard touchdown to pull within 17-12.
Dundalk forced a Westminster punt and got the ball back with 1:34 to play on its own 25. Another 50-yard pass got Dundalk to the Westminster 10.
“We practice two-minute drill pretty consistently and I thought we executed pretty well, getting some good completions,” Dundalk coach Tom Abel said. “Ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”
One of those chances was a pass that was broken up in the corner of the end zone. Then Bonner was stopped for a short gain on a scramble before the final play.
“That has got to be the most intense five minutes of football I’ve played in a while, maybe forever,” Westminster’s Mason Fisher said. “Our team held together. We all looked at each other, we knew what was going on. We all locked in and played football those final minutes.”
“We trust in our process and what we do,” Westminster coach Chris Bassler said. “They got down to the 10, but I trust my guys. They played great all game. I had confidence they would make a play and they did.”
Dundalk, last year’s Class 4A/3A state runner-up, came in unbeaten this season averaging more than 32 points per game, with star running back Jordan Fiorenza averaging 156.7 rushing yards per game. But the Westminster defense held Fiorenza to just 77 yards on 15 carries.
“There’s no secret to it,” Koumentis said of the defensive effort. “You just got to come out and be the more physical team.”
Both defenses held strong through the first quarter and into the second until Bonner and Kazprzak connected on a 55-yard touchdown. The extra-point attempt, however, was blocked, making it 6-0.
Bonner was 14-for-24 for 256 yards, and Kazprzak caught seven passes for 192 yards.
“We knew Westminster was going to stack the box against us,” Able said. “Jordan is a great talent on our team, been a leader for four years. He laid it all out there. But we anticipated the bear front, the four-down front and we knew what they were going to do and let Ja do his thing and showcase his talents, which was awesome.”
Westminster, also struggling to get a run game going, found success through the air. Walker hit Fisher for a 28-yard touchdown and the home-standing Owls took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
“This is our first year together as quarterback and receiver,” Fisher said of his connection with Walker. “We just build that chemistry in practice every day.”
Midway through the third quarter, Walker found Canton Rutters for a 27-yard touchdown catch for a 14-6 lead.
“Those are my guys and we got that great connection,” Walker said. “We were watching film every day of the week and we were prepared.”
Walker finished 10-for-15 for 131 yards and the two scores. Fisher caught six passes for 75 yards.
“They’re a good defense and they blitz a lot,” Bassler said of Dundalk. “We knew we’d have some one-on-one matchups and we have good receivers. We were able to make enough plays to win the game.”
Westminster was coming off a heartbreaking loss to South Carroll a week ago, but came back to score a huge win over one of Maryland’s best teams. It’s a victory the Owls will look to build on over the coming weeks.
“This shows our potential and shows how good we are,” Walker said.