CLIFTON — Coaches love to say that a team plays like it practices during the week.
On Friday night, Westville coach Guy Goodlove saw that trite but true statement come to fruition as his Tigers couldn't overcome their myriad of mistakes in a 24-13 loss to Clifton Central in a Vermilion Valley Conference Alliance football game.
"We made a lot of mistakes — but we made them all week long,'' Goodlove said. "We were lining up in the neutral zone all week in practice. We were fumbling the football. The things you saw tonight, we have been doing all week long.
"When you play a lesser opponent, you can get by with some of that stuff, but not with someone that is as good as Clifton Central.''
And each miscue — small or large — played a factor in the final outcome.
But, it was definitely the big ones like a snap over the punter's head in the first quarter, three consecutive 15-yard penalties (two personal fouls and one unsportsmanlike conduct) in the second quarter, a fumble in the third quarter and then a missed defensive assignment that resulted in 18 points for the Comets, who improved to 3-1 with the victory.
"We gave them a touchdown right before half with those 15-yard penalties,'' Goodlove said. "We marched them right down the field and basically put them in the end zone.''
Still, Westville (3-1) was in a position to escape with a victory thanks in part to an 81-yard kickoff return by Will Terry to open the second half.
The Tigers had five possessions in the second half where they could have taken the lead with a touchdown. Two of them stalled out in Clifton Central territory, and a third ended with Westville quarterback Julian Ledesma fumbling at the Comets 18-yard line.
"We had them on the ropes,'' Goodlove said. "We were ready to score and we made another mistake.
"You can't play your opponent, when you are also playing against yourself.''
Clifton Central quarterback Luke Shoven, who was 14-of-21 for 179 yards and three touchdowns, delivered the ultimate backbreaker with 4 minutes, 16 seconds left in the contest when he hit a wide-open Tristan Schmidt for a 46-yard touchdown pass giving the Comets a 24-13 advantage.
"Eventually, you are going to pay for your mistakes and we paid tonight,'' said Goodlove, who hopes that Friday's setback can turn into a learning lesson.
"You can go two ways. One way is where we quit caring and quit working. In which case, you will not be part of the team. Or, we can decide to be better and get these things cleaned up.''
Everything started off well for Westville.
Junior Landen Haurez capped a six-play, 71-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 6:06 left in the first quarter.
But the next 10 possessions for Westville resulted in four punts, an interception, a fumble and four turnovers on downs, including a 25-yard loss late in the first quarter as a snap sailed over the head of punter Andre Johnson.
On the very next play for the Comets, Shoven was hookied up with Schmidt for an 18-yard touchdown and Clifton Central had pulled within 7-6.
Both Westville and Clifton Central open conference divisional play next week.
The Tigers will travel to Hoopeston for a 7 p.m. contest against the Cornjerkers, who are 2-2 after a 28-6 victory over the Watseka Warriors. Clifton Central is also on the road with a Friday contest at Watseka.