Tim Irvin, in his first game back since fracturing his ribs three weeks ago, made a 38-yard diving catch that led to a touchdown.
Jordan Cronkrite, Westminster Christian’s other four-star uncommitted recruit, also showed his toughness, re-entering the game after sustaining a bloody chin and finishing with 22 rushes for 113 hard-earned yards.
But while Cronkrite and Irvin — Nos. 1 and 2 in Westminster jerseys — seemed to do enough to impress the college scouts and casual fans in attendance, it was the less-heralded defense that deserved much of the credit for the Warriors’ 21-0 win over visiting Gulliver on Friday afternoon.
“The defense — that’s our ‘dark side,’” said Irvin, who plays running back and cornerback. “We have players all over who can cover and can sack the quarterback. We have a dark defense.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Westminster (4-1) recorded six sacks and held Gulliver to minus-20 yards rushing.
Gulliver (2-3) hurt its own cause by getting called for 17 penalties for 155 yards in a nondistrict game that was nonetheless heated with trash talking and hard hitting.
Westminster set the tone in a scoreless first quarter, holding Gulliver to a combined total of just 3 yards from scrimmage, including minus-9 rushing.
“Our defense came out here and showed that we are not a two-man team with me and Tim,” Cronkrite said.
In the second quarter, the Warriors’ Christian Matos scored on a pair of quarterback sneaks.
The first touchdown was set up after a Gulliver roughing-the-kicker penalty on a Westminster field goal. Westminster’s second TD came after a 20-yard run by Cronkrite and Irvin’s diving catch, which put the ball at the Gulliver 3.
“That was pretty nice,” Irvin said of his catch. “Everybody thought my ribs were going to break again, but it didn’t hurt at all. I wasn’t scared because I had padding.”
Unfortunately for Cronkrite, he said his equipment failed him when he took a shot in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve got to go to the hospital to get some stitches,” Cronkrite said. “I think my chin strap slid off and then it was like a late hit coming in, but I’ll be OK.”
Matos also took a hard hit later in the fourth quarter and left the game with what he believed was a bruised sternum.
After his exit, backup quarterback Michael Costa put the finishing touches on the convincing win with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Akil Oliver, who beat a Gulliver cornerback who was playing defiantly tight coverage at the line of scrimmage.
Next up for Westminster is a game at Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna on Oct.3 that will decide the Class 3A District 8 title.
Westminster defensive coordinator Helder Valle said his unit, which already has two shutouts this season and is holding opponents to an average of 10.4 points per game, will be ready.
“We feel our defense is our strength,” Valle said. “We are not many [in terms of depth], but we’re strong.”
WC - Matos 2 run (Reed kick)
WC - Matos 3 run (Reed kick)
WC - Oliver 23 pass from Acosta (Reed kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- GP: Hasan 6-(-23), Watson 1-(-3), Hassan 1-0, Burns 8-3. WC: Matos 6-(-19), Jones 7-1, Irvin 3-18, Cronkrite 22-113.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- GP: Watson 3-7-0, 46, Hasan 7-14-0, 65. WC: Acosta 1-1-0, 23, Matos 4-14-0, 103.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- GP: Hassan 2-16, Mullins 3-35, Mayfield 5-60. WC: Irvin 2-48, Oliver 3-78.