August 23, 2009 12:41:00 AM
The soggy conditions Friday night couldn''t stop Heritage Academy''s Will West from discovering where his passion on the football field lies.
Heritage Academy coach Brad Butler said West has played nearly every position but has finally found his role as a senior.
"I asked him earlier in the fall, ''Do you like being a wide receiver or do you feel like a tight end?'' " Butler said. "(Will) said, ''Well, I feel weird about it, but coach, I like being a wide receiver.'' "
West scored two touchdowns and blocked a punt in the Patriots'' 47-14 victory against Oak Hill Academy in the season opener for both teams.
"Will West did everything tonight," Butler said. "He worked hard, and he deserved this. Great kid, good attitude, and this is an awful good note to start out on."
West scored on a pass from quarterback Will Swedenburg late in the first quarter. He credited the offensive line and Swedenburg for the touchdown.
"I think he got some needed confidence," Butler said. "He has played so many different positions in his career.
"I felt like he was more suited to play out wide. He''s a big target and his speed has increased."
Early in the second quarter, the 6-feet-2 West helped the Patriots increase their lead to 34-0 when he intercepted a pass by quarterback Davis Clayton and returned it 39 yards for his second touchdown.
"When (the football) landed in my hands, I thought I better get it in the end zone," West said. "I saw one guy. I couldn''t let him tackle me, so I just ran as hard as I could."
Butler felt the Raiders would rely on a short passing game, so the Patriots had worked in practice on getting their linebackers back to interfere.
West isn''t one to slack off during practice, and it showed on the interception, Butler said.
"(Will) was aware enough to tip that play and knew what to do with it when he caught it," he said.
Butler said West noticed an opportunity in the Raiders'' punting early in the game and felt like he could get a block.
"I almost got one earlier in the game," West said. "I knew I could get it the second time I saw it."
Heritage Academy running back Chris Uhl said West was the game''s most valuable player. Not only was West great on the offensive side of the ball, but Uhl said he also is the team''s hardest hitter on defense.
Butler said it took West a while to find a position on defense.
"I moved him to linebacker," he said. "Ability wise, I felt like he was more suited for outside linebacker than on defensive end. It looks like that is where he needs to be."
Uhl said it was a great win for the Patriots because The Clarion-Ledger had picked his team to lose the game.
"It''s great to start off with a win and proving (The Clarion-Ledger) wrong," he said.
Butler said the only problem with the victory was the Patriots had 14 penalties, but he said he would chalk it up to first-game jitters.
"I think it is something we will be able to solve as the season goes on," Butler said. "If I were in their shoes, I would have been jumping offside too."
Regardless, Butler said it was great to win the first game at home.
"This is great for the spirit of the fans, community and team," Butler said. "It gets everybody on a roll," he said.
Oak Hill Academy coach Leroy Gregg said the Patriots were better prepared.
"(Heritage) is a well-coached team," he said. "They are all big and fast. (The Patriots) will win a lot of games this year."
Butler agrees, but he said the players can''t get overconfident.
"I felt like we were the better team, but if we did not play hard they had a good enough team to beat us," he said. "It isn''t going to get any easier, (so) our kids have to stay level-headed and come to work every day."