The big-play prowess of seventh-ranked
Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.)
High School is impressive. So is its quickness, precision and big, physical and talented offensive line.
But more than all that, Westlake is driven. It's on a mission. And all of it came to light on Friday night.
A year after a bitter one-point defeat to their arch rivals in the Southern Section Northern Division finals, the Warriors turned the tables with an absolutely wild 49-42 triumph at Oaks Christian (Westlake Village)
before a packed stadium and regional television audience Friday night. Dashon Hunt
, the best of the big-play players, scored five touchdowns leading Westlake to its 14th straight victory, one that all but assures it a spot in the Open Division
of the Bowl Championships next week at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
It also avenged a bitter 29-28 lost to Oaks Christian in last year's title game and when the Warriors fell behind 21-7 in the second quarter, history looked to repeat.
Hunt, a junior who doubles as a cornerback and has already committed to UCLA, said this driven group wasn't going to let it happen again. He rushed 26 times for 144 yards.
“Oh no, not at all,” he told Loren Ledin of the Ventura County Star
. “We know what kind of team we have. We’re No. 1 in the state for the
“My thought was we’re going to win. We have this.”
Westlake scored four straight touchdowns to take command and then held on for the wild win.
Hunt scored on runs of 26, 4, 1 and 1 yards and also returned an interception back for a touchdown. He was recruited before this season as a cornerback, but he might now be a running back in college.
He'll have to talk that over with Jim Mora Jr., who will be the new coach at UCLA it was reported on Friday.
Quarterback Justin Moore
, also a junior, scored on runs of 10 and 6 yards and also recovered an onside kick in the final minute to secure the win. Moore rushed for 85 yards and completed 13 of 20 for 136 yards.
“We’re the comeback kids,” Moore told Ledin. “If we just trusted
ourselves, I knew we’d be OK. We came back in that first game this
season, and won in overtime (30-27 over Del Oro-Loomis
). I think we
all remembered that tonight.
“It’s such an amazing feeling, because I definitely wanted our seniors to go out with a championship."
Not like last year, when Oaks Christian prevailed by a single point as a last-second field goal hit the upright.
Talk about painful.
Friday's win gives the Warriors their second title in three years and fourth overall.
Asked if he thinks his team belongs in the Bowl game, Moore said: "We play in one of the toughest leagues in the state. I think we definitely belong in the state game."
They might need to improve their pass defense a little. Oaks Christian sophomore quarterback
threw five touchdowns passes, three to Francis Owusu
of 72, 69 and 20 yards.
But then again, Westlake also intercepted five passes.
Dawkins' fifth touchdown - an 18-yarder to Ishmael Adams
- closed the gap to 49-42 with less than a minute to play and came after a 13-yard fumble return by Cameron Judge
and a successful onside kick.
But Moore recovered an onside kick, capping one
of the longest and most memorable Northern Division title games.
“We kept battling, even with all the mistakes,” said Dawkins, whose team finished 11-3. “Those
were mostly mental errors by myself, and we couldn’t overcome that.”
Dawkins was 15 of 34 for 313 yards and Owusu had four catches for 179 more yards.
Hunt capped a 74-yard drive that took just four plays to start the second half with a 26-yard touchdown run to give Westlake the lead for good 28-21.
All section champions are Bowl eligible. The state's 10 commissioners will handpick the 10 participating teams, five from the North and South.
The commissioners will choose Sunday morning and announce later that afternoon. The State Bowl Championships are Dec. 16-17.
Westlake coach Jim Benkert, one of the more understated and humble coaches around, told the Los Angeles Times
he believes his team is worthy to go bowling. But he's not picky.
"We've been one of the top teams in the state for a few years now and I
feel we have a strong claim to one of the games," he said. "We just want
to play another game and whichever one they put us in we'll be pleased