Tommy Bebie took no prisoners Thursday night.
The sophomore Rocky River running back came out firing in the second half and, after a quiet three carries for nine yards in the first half, torched the Westlake defense for 141 second-half yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
His output, along with an additional insurance touchdown from receiver Cristain Dean late in the fourth quarter, was more than enough to guide the Pirates to a 41-14 victory over the Demons.
This wasn’t just any old season-opening victory, however. The two schools squared off for the first time since 2014, playing for the inaugural Westwood Cup sponsored by Westwood Country Club.
Rocky River coach Josh Wells prided both the corps of young players on the Pirates (17 freshmen, 17 sophomores and 11 juniors) and the leadership from his nine seniors for holding strong and getting the job done.
“The first half was a little rough; (Westlake) had a great gameplan,” Wells said. “(Westlake) coach (Dan) LaRocco and coach (Chris) Milano kept us on the field defensively. We weathered some storms, put ourselves in some bad situations with penalties at the wrong times but give it to a group of young kids to fight through adversity and respond that way in the second half.”
Going into halftime, the Pirates (1-0) trailed 7-6 and momentum was squarely for the Demons (0-1). Rocky River struck first, however.
On Westlake’s opening drive, the Demons were driving and had successfully converted on two fourth-down chances. Two plays later, facing heavy pressure, starting quarterback Travis Monken was intercepted by James Byall. Even with a cast on his right hand, the senior raced 67 yards into the endzone to give the Pirates a 6-0 lead before their offense even saw the field.
Near the start of the second quarter, Monken threw his second interception with the Demons still down just 6-0. Monken finished the game 16-for-27 passing for 200 yards and three interceptions. Although he is a senior, LaRocco said the Florida prep school transfer might have let the opening-night stage get the better of him.
“I love his leadership, I love his composure. He never gets too high and he never gets too low,” LaRocco said. “But this was his first varsity football game. We’re old, but we’re young. We’re senior-laden, but we’re young. These are kids who have not played football before. So to come out here with the band and the cheerleaders and the street signs and the lights, it just got away from them a little bit.”
With just less than four minutes left in the first half, Westlake finally scored. Junior tailback Conner Gregory scored from the 4. The extra point put Westlake up 7-6 going into halftime.
That was the last time the Demons held the lead.
Starting the third quarter, the Pirates’ gameplan was clear: Feed Bebie. Starting the second half, he ran the ball four consecutive times for 42 yards and a five-yard touchdown to give Rocky River a 13-6 lead.
Following a Westlake punt, it was more of the same for the Pirates. This time, it took just three rushes and was capped off by a 46-yard trek into the endzone. Rocky River scored 14 points in a span of seven plays and two-and-a-half minutes. All seven plays were Bebie rushes. For his efforts, Bebie was named Rocky River’s MVP of the Westwood Cup.
“Tommy Bebie is a special player, Owen Bebie is a special player. Those kids are a different breed,” Wells said. “They just like to win. They compete. Great kids, great family and you see just the nonstop effort and energy from those kids. They didn’t come off the field. We’re privileged to have those kids.”
Westlake cut the lead to six on the following drive on a two-yard Gregory rush. Despite that being the last touchdown for the Demons, Gregory was named Westwood Cup MVP for Westlake.
The Demons grabbed an interception with five minutes left in the third, but made nothing of it and had to punt. Following it, Bebie scored his third and final touchdown of the game.
Rocky River added scores on another interception return by Owen Bebie and a 71-yard touchdown pass from Braedon Spies to Cristain Dean, both in the fourth quarter. For the night, Spies completed 8 of 28 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Wells said he allowed his players to enjoy the win Thursday night, but that they had to immediately get refocused for their first Great Lakes Conference game against Valley Forge Friday night at home.
“To win the first game with three returning starters on offense, four on defense, I think it sets the tone for the rest of the season,” Wells said. “We’ve got to watch the film and move on. It’s Valley Forge now.”
The mindset is similar for Westlake. Despite the tough loss, LaRocco doesn’t want his team to get too down on themselves after one loss. They now have to prepare to square off against the one team they beat last year, North Olmsted, Friday on the road. And LaRocco knows there’s no love lost there.
“They’re a pissed off football team,” he said. “We kept them out of the playoffs last year. They’ve circled us on the calendar for 365 days. (When) we drive down Dover Center, we’re not going to be welcome with open arms exactly. We’ve got about 18 hours to get over this deal, and we’ve got to get down to North Olmsted because that’s a good football team … that’s going to be prepared.”
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