Western, hosting its first playoff game in three years, planned on treating its fans to a big show.
Instead, the Pioneers provided a lackluster effort in the second half and held on for a 28-19 victory over Sunny Hills in a first-round Division IX game.
Tailback Trevell Jackson carried the Pioneers into the quarterfinals, rushing for 208 yards in 23 carriers and three touchdowns, including an 80-yard sprint that gave Western the lead for good in the first quarter. Western’s other score came on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jason Baughman to Jamiah Williamson.
But the Pioneers, who led 28-7 in the third quarter, could not put the Lancers away. A fumbled punt gave Sunny Hills life midway through third quarter, and the Lancers turned it into a touchdown on a 14-yard, fourth-down pass from Jared Bruce to Steve Rhoads.
Bruce drew Sunny Hills closer on another fourth-down play, running 47 yards for a touchdown with 9:17 left in the game. But on both touchdowns, Sunny Hills failed to convert its extra- point attempts.
The Pioneers, led by Jackson, outgained the Lancers, 380 to 272 and were able to stop Sunny Hills when they had to.
That didn’t make Western Coach Toby Howell happy, however.
“When we fumbled that punt, for some reason we lost our focus,” Howell said. “If we play sloppy like that again next week, we will have problems trying to go further [in the playoffs].”
Jackson agreed the Pioneers could have played better in the second half.
“I hope that [bad second half] is a wake-up call,” Jackson said. “Because it gets tougher from here on out.”
Western improved to 9-2 and goes will play the winner of the tonight’s Pacifica-San Dimas game. Sunny Hills ends its season at 6-5.
“We didn’t have enough buttons to push on offense against them,” Sunny Hills Coach Tim Devaney said. “But it wasn’t from lack of effort. And it was still a good year for us.”