Westminster Christian wins, becomes playoff eligible

It was just three short years ago that Westminster Christian lost its first homecoming football game 67-0.

Oh, how things have changed.

The Warriors have done almost a complete turnaround and on Friday night they not only celebrated this year's homecoming with a 56-6 Northeastern Athletic Conference win over visiting Hiawatha but also became playoff eligible. A win at Williams Bay (WI) next week will secure the program's first postseason appearance.

Westminster racked up 317 yards rushing and 5 different players found the end zone. Senior Noah Anderson, who has been on the varsity team since the start, led the way with 112 yards on 7 carries and scored 3 touchdowns.

"We are out to prove that we are a football school and this is a big step for the program," Westminster head coach John Davis said. "We really needed to have a successful season to continue to stimulate excitement. Because we are such a small school there is not a big talent pool of kids so we need as many kids coming out as we can get and hopefully this will help the program continue to grow."

Like they have done all year the Warriors scored in a variety of ways and it all started on the first possession. Westminster had wide receiver Scotty Graziano line up behind center to run an option offense at the start of the game. It caught the Hiawatha defense off guard and on the second play he connected with Connor Albrecht on a 36-yard touchdown pass.

Westminster (5-2, 5-2) went back to its standard offense and went on to score touchdowns the first five times it had the ball. After Hiawatha (3-4) scored on a long 71-yard touchdown pass to pull to within 7-6, the Warriors struck right back with a 50-yard drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown run by Xavier Brown. The junior tailback, who is the Warriors' leading rusher on the season, later added a 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Anderson added first-half touchdown runs of 9 and 34 yards. He also had a 35-yard touchdown run in the second half.

"My sophomore year I can remember being on the opposite end of the scoreboard," Graziano said. "It feels really good to be on this end. We always believed we could get to this point. There were some tough times along the way, but the guys who have stuck with it have shown a lot of perseverance and toughness."

The Warriors earned a running clock midway through the third quarter with touchdown runs of 50 yards by quarterback Tannor Park and 10 yards by Bobby Scott.

"Our offense is designed to not just rely on one or two people," Davis said. "It starts with Xavier but we have several other guys who can also run the ball. It was great to see them all run well tonight."

After giving up the big-play touchdown on Hiawatha's first possession the Warriors' defense shut the door only allowing the Hawks 98 yards of offense the rest of the way.

"Our defensive coaches did a fantastic job," Davis said. "I'm very happy with the way everyone played on defense and it really starts with our middle linebacker Nick DeMaira. He's the anchor and he played another great game."

Graziano had an interception and fumble recovery for the Warriors.

  Westminster Christian's Bobby Scott runs the ball against Kirkland Hiawatha in Elgin on Friday night. Patrick Kunzer/
  Kirkland Hiawatha's Braden Watson, right, is tracked down by Westminster Christian's Markus Grasemann, left, in Elgin on Friday night. Patrick Kunzer/
  Kirkland Hiawatha's Braden Watson, left, is tackled by Westminster Christian's Markus Grasemann in Elgin on Friday night. Patrick Kunzer/
  Kirkland Hiawatha quarterback Evan Williams is tracked by Westminster Christian's Xavier Brown, left, in Elgin on Friday night. Patrick Kunzer/
  Kirkland Hiawatha's quarterback Evan Williams, right, is hit by Westminster Christian's David Bloom as the ball comes loose during a varsity football game at Elgin on Friday night. Patrick Kunzer/
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