By Will Willems
---- — Crawfordsville — If there was any question about how the Western Boone football team would respond to a loss, it didn't last very long.
The Stars scored early and often Friday night against Crawfordsville, routing the Athenians 55-9 to improve to 3-1 and 1-1 in the Sagamore Conference.
"We needed this win after losing a dog fight to Frankfort last week," Western Boone head coach Justin Pelley said. "Crawfordsville has some dangerous players too, they are more dynamic than people realize. But our defense played really well. We moved a couple of guys around and they played well and I thought Garrett Alexander had a great game defensively. We played well in all facets of the game."
For the second-straight week, the Stars' defense held an opponent to less than 120 yards of total offense.
After Crawfordsville only racked up 52 yards in the first half, the Stars defense was actually better in the second half, holding them to negative seven yards of offense on their first four possessions of the second half.
It was only against the Stars' second-stringers that Crawfordsville's first-team offense got anything going, scoring on a 67-yard drive when the score was 55-3. The Athenians finished with just 112 yards of offense.
"The defense is the heart and soul of our team," Pelley said. "They are a veteran group and Travis Brunes does a great job getting them ready to go each week. We really locked down on our passing defense. We were excited for the secondary to get a chance to play against the pass because our first three games have all been against downhill running teams. The defense did a great job tonight."
Western Boone took the opening kickoff and went 64 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 5-yard run by Logan Wethington.
After a three-and-out by Crawfordsville, the Stars went right back to work, this time using a 12 play drive to score on a 3-yard run by Cameron Cline. Cline carried the ball of the final six plays of the drive.
Western Boone tried an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff that was recovered by Crawfordsville. The Athenians got the ball down to the 8 yardline, but the Stars' defense held them to a 27-yard field goal to make the score 14-3.
It didn't take long for momentum to go back to the Stars.
On the second-play of the next drive, Wethington found Riggs Baxter on a crossing route and Baxter out-ran the Athenian defense for a 63-yard touchdown.
After the teams punted on the next three possessions, Western Boone added one more tally before the half when Cline scored from a yard out to make it 28-3 at the halftime break.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts in the third quarter. After a controversial stop of the Stars on WeBo's opening drive of the second half, the Athenians had a short punt to their own 38.
From there, it took just three plays for WeBo to score on a 16-yard run by Baxter. Crawfordsville fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Stars capitalized when Baxter scored two plays later to make it 42-3.
Cline scored his third touchdown of the game from 38 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter. Zach Martin finished off the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown run later in the final quarter.
Wethington finished the game 7-of-11 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown. He added 59 yards rushing.
Cline led the Stars rushing attack with 104 yards and the three touchdowns. Nathanial Bye added 64 yards rushing on just five carries, and Baxter had 50 yards on five carries.
Pelley was extremely happy with the offense — especially contributions from players such as Bye who haven't had their breakout game quite yet.
"It is huge," Pelley said. "We also had a big night in the passing game. But we got a couple of really big runs by Nathanial. He is still learning some stuff because we are having him do somethings that he has never done before. We are playing a lot of sophomores that are doing good things. We are just asking them to continue to learn and grow."
Last Friday, following the team's 7-6 loss to Frankfort, Pelley had said he was interested to see how the team would respond.
He liked what he saw.
"We had a great week of practice," Pelley said. "The kids were upbeat. That was something I was worried about. These kids haven't lost much the last couple of years and we lost to a team they are used to beating. But the kids were up beat and our senior leaders — Logan, Cameron, Garrett, etc. — they got the kids fired up for tonight."
The Stars are on the road again next week when they travel to Danville.
The Warriors are 1-3 on the season after losing to Tri-West Friday.
"We have to continue to get better every week," Pelley said. "We have no easy games left — every game in this conference is a meat grinder. We are hopefully going to get healthy. We just have to do what we do. We can't worry about what other teams do. If we do what we do well, then we will give ourselves a good chance to win."