Westside players rang the school bell as coach Steve Hibbitts tried to dry out from his ice bath minutes earlier.
Needing a win to get into the playoffs, along with a little help from across the area, the Patriots savored their 45-0 victory over Josey on Friday night.
Four days before the game, Westside lost its appeal with the Georgia High School Association and had to forfeit four wins due to the use of an ineligible player on a paperwork mistake. The Patriots entered their regular-season finale one game behind Harlem and Screven County in the region standings.
But everything fell into place for the happiest 3-7 team this side of Georgia, as Laney defeated Harlem and Dublin knocked off Screven County.
With the tiebreaker, Westside enters the Class AA playoffs next week as a No. 3 seed at Thomasville.
“In my eyes, it’s flip-flopped. We’re 7-3,” said Patriots senior Naquan Brooks, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns and added a 14-yard run for a score. “We’re happy that we made it to the playoffs, but we made it last year. We’re going to try to make some noise.”
Hibbitts added: “This week really hasn’t been bad. We just wanted to make sure we took care of what we could take care of. And then we’d worry about everybody else.”
While Westside’s coaching staff did plenty of scoreboard watching, the players took care of business on the field. The Patriots scored on their opening drive when Jalen Lampkin tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass over the secondary to Quinton Phillips in the end zone. After a Marvin Montgomery interception, the Patriots scored again on a 4-yard run by Aaron Commings. A Keaton Craw 29-yard field goal staked Westside to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.
Josey rushed for just 27 yards. The Eagles also committed six turnovers.
In the second half, Brooks returned interceptions of 55 and 40 yards for touchdowns.