Westlake awaits CIF bowl berth

After Westlake’s 49-42 win over Oaks Christian in the Southern Section Northern Division playoffs, coach Jim Benkert and his players are awaiting to see if they will receive a berth in one of the CIF state bowl games at the Home Depot Center in Carson next week.

It’s more a matter of when than if Westlake will find out which team and which bowl game they will get invited to play.

Still Benkert said after the game he would be disappointed if his team didn’t get invited to a bowl game.

Westlake has been the dominate team in Southern California this season. It could be argued that Westlake has been the dominate team the past three seasons. The Warriors are coming off an undefeated 14-0 season that started with an overtime win over Del Oro in Loomis in Northern California in September.

Westlake only trailed three times this season. The first was to Del Oro. Oaks Christian got the jump on Westlake twice, the first time the two teams met in October and in the Northern Division championship game.

The Warriors are 40-2 over the past three seasons, the only losses coming last year to St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian. Oaks Christian has been one of the few teams that challenged Westlake over the past three seasons. The Northern Division championship game on Friday night was no different.

Oaks Christian had a 21-7 lead in the first half mainly because of the play of Francis Owusu. He had his best game of the season, with four catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns. He came into the game with 31 catches for 526 yards on the season, averaging only 40.4 receiving yards per game. He had season highs in yards and touchdowns.

But the quick strike Westlake offense scored twice in less than a minute in the second quarter and tied the score, 21-21, at halftime.

Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said he wanted to make the game more like a 7-on-7 passing tournament. It worked for nearly a half. But once Westlake’s running game got rolling, it was tough to stop.

Junior running back Dashon Hunt was the star of the game for Westlake with 125 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He also intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards for another touchdown.

Westlake rushed for 229 yards, mainly behind Hunt and quarterback Justin Moore. Moore rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns. He also intercepted two passes playing defenseive back. It could be argued Moore, who is also a junior, had his best game of the season.

His second interception came at a key point in the game. Oaks Christian climbed within a touchdown of Westlake, 35-28, in the fourth quarter. After forcing Westlake to punt on a three-and-out on the next possession, Oaks Christian took over on its own 46-yard line.

Quarterback Brandon Dawkins hit Owusu with an 18-yard pass to give Oaks Christian a 1st-and-10 on the Westlake 36, but on the next play, Moore picked off his second pass of the game.

He returned the interception to Oaks Christian’s 25-yard line. Four plays later, Westlake had a 42-28 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by Hunt.

Confidence is high with this Westlake team. Hunt said after the game he thinks his team can beat any team in the state.

“When we play our game, when we play together, we can beat anybody,” Hunt said.

One thing is for certain, whoever Westlake plays in the CIF state bowl game can expect a handful.