ThunderRidge, top-ranked in the CHSAANow Class 5A football poll, showed a television audience and the rest of the state why the Grizzlies have a contending team again this season.
The Grizzlies, a 2012 state playoff semifinalist, notched a convincing 21-7 non-league victory over No. 4 Grandview in a Sept. 13 showdown at Shea Stadium.
ThunderRidge's offensive line was dominating, the defense led by linebacker Tyler Seno was solid, quarterback Brody Westmoreland and wide receiver Mark Hopper sparked a big-play passing attack and Matt Stanley provided some running punch.
“There's always a learning aspect to every football game,” said Westmoreland. “You have to do what needs to be done to fix the mistakes and come out next week and beat Bear Creek (in a Sept. 21 road game).”
Grandview, now 2-1, had allowed just seven points in its first two victories, and coach John Schultz put faith in the Wolves' defense by attempting an on-sides kick to open the game.
Stanley, however, recovered the kick for ThunderRidge (3-0) and then Westmoreland took over in leading the Grizzlies to their third win of the campaign.
Westmoreland completed his first six passes, including 23- and 25-yard hookups with Hooper and a 63-yard completion to Jon Jones as the Grizzlies put TDs on the scoreboard on their first two possessions.
Tristan Powers scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard run, and Stanley's 5-yard plunge into the end zone helped give ThunderRidge a 14-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first quarter.
ThunderRidge took a 21-0 lead before Grandview scored with 4:41 remaining in the game.
“We came out hard; we knew what we had to do,” said Westmoreland, who was 10-16-0 for 191 yards passing. “We knew what we had to pick up with their blitzes. They are really a hard-nosed football team, especially on defense. Our offensive line had great communications of what we had to pick up and we came out and hit them in the face.
“The big plays definitely kept the momentum on our side. We wanted to carry it on more, we made some bad mistakes on offense here and there, but we'll learn from it.”
Stanley, taking over from Steve Ray who is suspended for the first four games, rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
“He was mostly a JV guy last season,” acknowledged coach Joe Johnson. “He's more of a fullback but he's learning to run at tailback. He is getting better. I'd like to see him break out, score and gain a few more yards when he hits those huge holes. He's definitely improved each week.”
Those huge holes were created by the Grizzlies' offensive line of Brandan Chase, Blake Jacobs, Daniel England, Sam Jones and Ben Murray.
“Our offensive line play is just lights out,” said Johnson. “They are tough. We have some huge, huge holes out there. I give all the credit to those guys for our run game.”
Westmoreland and Hopper, teammates on the Grizzlies' state championship baseball team, deserve most of the credit for the ThunderRidge aerial attack.
Hooper, who also kicks extra points, had six receptions for 112 yards in the game against Grandview. He's grabbed 15 passes for 298 yards and two TDs in three games. He is averaging 19.87 yards per game.
“He's a very dangerous receiver,” insisted Johnson. “If you are going to commit one man on him, he's going to hurt you. You are going to have to play zone and get people over on him. If you do that, we're going to run, and if you don't, we're going to throw him the ball.”
Westmoreland has completed 27 of 37 passes for 489 yards and four scores this season, plus he has run for 211 yards and three TDs.
“There are a lot of things we can do better,” said Johnson. “Our offensive backfield play is one of those things. We have to be a little more balanced in some of the things we do.
“We have some receivers that can catch the ball and hurt you. They just need to gain confidence so we don't always have to throw to Hop.”