WHITE HALL — Trailing by eight and facing a fourth down with about six minutes left in the game, White Hall head coach Mike Vaughn was debating going for it.
But with two timeouts left, Vaughn believed there was enough game remaining to not have to risk going for it.
Hope senior Javon Westmorland had other plans as he returned it 83 yards for a touchdown to give Hope (7-2, 5-1 5A-South) a 28-13 win over White Hall (7-2, 4-2) at Bulldog Stadium Friday night.
“Javon made some great cuts and we got some great blocking down field and got into the end zone,” Hope head coach Jay Turley said.
It is the second straight win for Hope as they remain tied for first in the conference with Camden Fairview and Watson Chapel.
“Our kids stepped up and did a great job,” Turley said. “I’m super proud of them.”
Vaughn said it all came down to the punt return.
“We are in the ball game and just one score down,” Vaughn said. “We couldn’t move the football and we had to punt it.”
Westmorland finished the game with 262 total yards of offense and three total touchdowns.
“He’s a great running back, he truly is,” Vaughn said. “Those things happen.”
Hope led White Hall 7-0 at the end of the first half but scored two touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half to take a 21-0 lead.
Following a failed fourth down attempt by White Hall, Hope scored on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior Channing Kight to take a 13-0 lead with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
Kight finished with 13 carries for 102 yards with one touchdown.
White Hall failed again to get a first down on its next possession and Hope took advantage on a 2-yard touchdown run by Westmorland. The two-point conversion was good and Hope had a three-score lead with 7:05 left in the third quarter.
“You are always afraid you would have a game like that,” Vaughn said. “You just hope it is not in the big games like this one.
“Everything was off.”
Junior quarterback Kirk Baugh finally put White Hall on the board with a 5-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. It trimmed Hope’s lead to 21-6 following the missed extra point.
Following a good defensive stand by White Hall, Baugh completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior Kaseem Smith to trim Hope’s lead to 21-13 with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter.
“We just couldn’t get into a rhythm,” Vaughn said. “We had some missed blocks here, this would happen to us and we would miss a pass here.
“All kinds of things happened to us.”
Vaughn said once “Kirk got into a rhythm you could see a difference in us.”
Baugh finished the game 17-of-30 for 182 yards with one touchdown. Junior running back Kendrick Edgerson finished the game with 18 carries for 92 yards.
After getting the game to just a one-possession deficit, White Hall was able to get the defensive stop it needed — forcing Hope into a three-and-out with 7:16 left in the ball game.
“Give Hope a lot of credit,” Vauhn said. “They are a good football team and we knew that going in.
“They have some great athletes and some good coaches.”
White Hall was unable to pick up a first down, which led to Hope’s game sealing punt return.
“I knew once we had the lead, I felt like we could hold it,” Turley said.
White Hall will face winless De Queen next week in the regular season finale, while Hope will host Magnolia.