It's finally here. Westlake (Westlake Village)
, which has yet to be seriously challenged in the Marmonte League — not by Oaks Christian, not by Moorpark, not by Thousand Oaks, not in its one nonleague game against Oxnard — will finally face an opponent that many feel will finally push the Warriors.St. Bonaventure (Ventura)
It's a familiar role for the Seraphs (7-1), who in 2006 were served up Oaks Christian as the definitive opponent only to get clobbered 59-13 in the defining game for Jimmy Clausen and Co.
"We're really chomping at the bit for a challenge," Westlake coach Jim Benkert told the Los Angeles Daily News
. "I think we've been up by 40 points or more at halftime four times so far, so the challenge is to play four quarters against a good football team. We're excited to play this team. It will be a good game, I'll tell you that. We're good, they're good. It's two good teams playing each other."
Westlake, which has a 22-game winning streak, is ranked No. 5 in the state by MaxPreps, and No. 9 in the Xcellent 25, presented by the Army National Guard.
Westlake's season-low scoring total is 31 points, in a 31-3 victory over Thousand Oaks and a 31-12 win over Oaks Christian; the Warriors also beat Moorpark, 35-14. Behind quarterback Nick Isham
and running back Tavior Mowry
, Westlake is averaging 41.7 points per game and allowing only 8.6. Isham, averaging 176 yards per game passing and 44 rushing, has completed 74 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions. Mowry has averaged 8.4 yards per carry.
Surprisingly, Westlake's scoring offense is less than St. Bonaventure (44.1), and the defense is allowing just 10.6 points. St. Bonny's average margin of victory is 33.5 points, Westlake's 33.1.
The Seraphs, who lost to Oaks Christian in overtime, 33-32, and narrowly beat Moorpark, 28-25, have outscored their last three league opponents (Agoura, Thousand Oaks, Calabasas) 165-6.
If St. Bonaventure wins the game, it will create a three-way tie for first place with Oaks Christian (6-2) – and just imagine what that might do to the Northern Division playoff bracket! If Westlake (8-0) wins it will easily be the No. 1 seeded team in the playoffs. If it wins big, well, you can just give them the championship plaque.
The game at Westlake will likely be a sellout, so fans should try to buy advance tickets through the school. MISSION VIEJO GETS TESTED BUT COMES THROUGHMission Viejo
looked to be in trouble in the first half of its game against South Coast League rival San Clemente. The Tritons, who had earlier led 14-0, took a 17-12 lead with 32 seconds left in the second quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Alex Alvarez
. But Mission Viejo, ranked No. 10 in the Xcellent 25, countered before halftime with junior Alex Bridgford's
35-yard touchdown pass to Mack Powell
on the last play of the half. It sparked a 26-point run, as Dallas Kessman
rushed for 234 yards and three touchdowns and the Diablos won for the 20th time in 21 games.
The Diablos are playing at Tesoro (Rancho Santa Margarita)
this week. The last time Mission Viejo lost a league game was at Tesoro in 2008. The host Titans are coming off their most impressive performance of the season, a 38-3 victory over Dana Hills, a team that hung with Mission for a half and had a two-touchdown lead on San Clemente before losing.SANTA MARGARITA CONTINUES TO ROLL
Servite, ranked No. 6 in the state by MaxPreps, will next play No. 7 Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita)
with the Trinity League title on the line. It's the Eagles' first season under Harry Welch, who won eight section titles and two state bowls with different teams, Canyon (Canyon Country) and St. Margaret's (San Juan Capistrano). The impact Welch has had has been obvious: Santa Margarita was 3-7 last season and failed to win a league game for the first time in school history.
Santa Margarita is playing for the title because it staged its biggest comeback in school history, down 20-0, to beat St. John Bosco in overtime, 42-41. River Cracraft
batted down a pass on a 2-point conversion attempt that would have given Bosco the victory. Santa Margarita trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Its only loss this season is 32-21 to Tesoro in the second week after committing five turnovers and blowing a 21-7 third quarter lead.
The victory over Bosco came with the second-string quarterback, Johnny Stanton
, who replaced injured Adam Young. Stanton passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. Impressive.SERVITE SERVES UP GOLDEN MOMENT
In the 50th year of their rivalry, Servite (Anaheim)
defeated Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
, 21-14. The Friars, who are ranked No. 20 in the Xcellent 25, scored twice in the second half to pull away. One of those touchdowns was a brilliant 87-yard run by Malik Felton
in his second varsity start at tailback. He rushed for 199 yards a week earlier in a victory over St. John Bosco, and followed with 188 against Mater Dei.
But the difference in the game was the 26-yard interception return for a touchdown by Troy Niklas, a highly recruited defensive lineman who also doubles as a left guard. Last year he played tight end before missing the last seven games with a concussion.
Most notable about Niklas' return, though, is that Servite got points from somewhere other than their offense for the second time in three league games. In the Trinity opener against JSerra, Karlton Dennis returned a blocked punt 16 yards for a score, and another blocked punt set up an eight-yard drive that turned around a close game in the final two minutes of the half.
In nonleague games, Butch Pauu had a 13-yard interception return against La Habra and against Oceanside Jody Thomas had a 10-yard fumble return, both for touchdowns.
Coach Troy Thomas was obviously happy with the victory, not just because of what it meant this season in the standings, but also because the victory over Mater Dei came on the night when surviving members of Servite's first varsity team – the 1960 Small Schools co-champion – were honored at halftime. It was the second victory in a row after going 20 years without a win against Mater Dei.
The rivalry began the the following season, but Mater Dei won the first three games so no member of the inaugural team ever beat the Monarchs.
"It's great to beat your rival, especially when you bring back that 1960 team, having those guys in the crowd tonight," said Thomas, who met the Servite's first coach, Bill Miller, the night before the game. "I'm really happy for those guys, that they got to see us beat Mater Dei. It was important to us that we honor them, not just on the field but by how we played the game tonight."CENTENNIAL KNOCKS OUT NORCO
Remember that early season blowout that Centennial (Corona)
laid on Mater Dei (which scored twice late in the fourth quarter), 44-13, in which the Huskies very nearly gave the SoCal power its worst loss ever? That's still the closest game Centennial has played this season.
This week, after beating Big VIII rival Norco by a 45-0 margin, Centennial has surpassed Mission Viejo in the MaxPreps Freeman ratings as the No. 1 team in the state. De La Salle dropped to third, followed by Valley Christian-San Jose and No. 5 Westlake. The Huskies also made a huge jump among the human element, moving from No. 17 to No. 8 in the Xcellent 25.
It's only the second time in 113 games that Norco has been shut out, and the Centennial defense held Kelsey Young
to only 75 yards rushing and the team to 114 total. Centennial's Barrinton Collins
rushed 18 times for 176 yards and five touchdowns.
Centennial doesn't have a strength of schedule that matches Mission Viejo or De La Salle, but that's because of its league and the Huskies have only three nonleague games. Those were against Birmingham (Lake Balboa), the team that very nearly went to the State Bowl in 2007 instead of Centennial but has fallen on hard times; Mater Dei, which won five in a row before losing last week to Servite, and Chaparral (Temecula), the reigning Inland Division champion that put together an extremely difficult nonleague schedule. The records of Birmingham (2-6) and Chaparral (3-5) have tainted Centennial's strength of schedule.
Centennial quarterback Michael Eubank
has received a scholarship offer from Arizona State following his visit over the weekend. It's the first Pac-10 offer he has received.LAKEWOOD EYES THE PRIZE
One team that hasn't made a lot of noise lately is Lakewood
, which lost earlier this season to Long Beach Poly in a game that many thought the defending Moore League champion would win. With two weekends remaining in the regular season, Lakewood (8-1) has a bye this week and then the league finale against Wilson-Long Beach before it goes into the Pac-5 playoffs as the league's second-place team.
Quarterback Tyler Schultz
, in his first year as a starter, has put up a crazy stat: He has thrown 26 touchdowns with just one interception.
"If anything, the Long Beach Poly game, what it did for (Schultz) and for us, it just renewed our desire to compete and be better," coach Thadd MacNeal told the Long Beach Press Telegram.
The bye this week should help running backs Allie Long
(leg) and Rashad Wadood
(ankle) recover and get ready for the playoffs. If they're at full strength, and with their quarterback having a full season behind him, Lakewood may be poised to do even better than it did a year ago when it reached the semifinals.AND YOU WONDER WHY THEY GET ALL THE ATTENTION
It's hard to argue that the Pac-5 playoffs that begin in a few weeks aren't going to be the best collection of 16 teams in the state. At this point, there are eight teams from the division that are ranked in the Top 25.
Remarkably, St. John Bosco is ranked No. 26 but will not be in the playoffs. The Braves (4-4) are 0-3 in the Trinity League and will not receive one of the three automatic playoff berths, even though they are higher ranked than current first-place teams from the Moore and Sunset leagues.
The three Trinity teams that Bosco has already lost to are ranked in the top 15: No. 6 Servite, No. 7 Santa Margarita and No. 15 Mater Dei. Servite and Santa Margarita play this week.
The South Coast League has three teams: No. 2 Mission Viejo, No. 20 Tesoro and No. 25 San Clemente. Mission Viejo and Tesoro play this week.
The Serra League has two teams: No. 12 Alemany-Mission Hills and No. 14 Bishop Amat-La Puente. Additionally, Crespi is No. 27. Alemany and Bishop Amat play in two weeks.
The division also includes No. 29 Long Beach Poly, No. 50 Edison-Huntington Beach, No. 51 Los Alamitos and No. 60 Lakewood.
The overall strength of the Northern Division doesn't compare with the Pac-5, but it does have the 10-team Marmonte League that includes No. 5 Westlake, No. 10 St. Bonaventure and No. 16 Oaks Christian. Westlake and St. Bonaventure play this week.
Centennial is the only Inland Division team from in the top 25, though one of its Big VIII members is No. 28 Roosevelt-Corona, along with No. 34 Norco. Centennial plays Roosevelt in two weeks.
The Mission League has two teams in the top 25: No. 11 Serra-Gardena and No. 21 Chaminade.
That means three leagues in the Pac-5 are responsible for eight teams in the top 25 and five Southern Section leagues are responsible for 13 – more than half – of the teams, and that doesn't include No. 1 Centennial.
That leaves the other nine leagues to fill the 11 other slots.
RECRUITING NEWSDaniel Arellano
, a first baseman/outfielder at Centennial (Corona)
, has committed to Long Beach State. Teammate Devon Ralston
, an infielder, has committed to UC Riverside. ... Trevor Podratz
from Chaparral (Temecula)
has committed to Hawaii to play baseball. ... Brandon Martin
, an infielder at Santiago (Corona)
who previously committed to Cal State Fullerton, has instead committed to Oregon State. ... Tiffany Morales
, a junior libero at Redondo Union (Redondo Beach)
, has committed to Michigan for women's volleyball.Martin Henderson is a reporter for Patch.com. He began covering Southland preps in 1993 for the Los Angeles Times, and has written for several papers including the Orange County Register and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. He offers up motorsports opinions at racescribe.wordpress.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.