WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- Revenge is sweet. And no one understands this better than the members of the Westlake High football team.
All signs pointed to the Warriors finishing up regular-season play with an undefeated record. Ventura St. Bonaventure, however, had other ideas and the Seraphs ended up playing the role of spoiler earlier this year with an unexpected victory over Westlake.
On Friday night, at long last, the Warriors earned a bit of redemption with a 37-27 victory over visiting St. Bonaventure in a Southern Section Northern Division semifinal playoff game.
"Oh yeah, we remember when they beat us, that was a tough loss, you don't get over something like that, it sticks with you for a while,'' Westlake senior Nick Isham said about the Seraphs' 32-31 double overtime victory over the host Warriors in a Marmonte League back in early November.
"We came into this game confident, there was no way we were going to let St. Bonaventure get the best of us again, at our place. We wanted this win and nothing was going to stop us from getting it. We got our revenge.''
With the victory over the Seraphs (11-2), the Warriors (12-1) advance to next week's title game against Westlake Village Oaks Christian, a 42-33 winner over Valencia in the other Northern Division semifinal.
Westlake didn’t appear to be at all satisfied with a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Accordingly, Dashon Hunt scored on a 14-yard touchdown run with 4:57 left on the clock to increase the advantage to 37-20.
The Seraphs’ Shaun Wick scored on 15-yard touchdown run with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 37-27. On the subsequent kickoff, St. Bonaventure attempted an onside kick but failed. And with that, Westlake secured the win.
"St. Bonaventure caught us off guard the first time we played and we weren't going to let that happen again,'' Westlake senior Nelson Spruce said. "We came out and took it to them for all four quarters. They say revenge is sweet and it is, I can tell you that much.''
In the closing moments of the third quarter, the Warriors’ Jared Fry returned a punt to the Seraphs' side of the field. Isham took things from there. He found Tre’Shon Wilson wide open in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 23-14 as time expired in the third quarter.
Things got worse for St. Bonaventure. Marc Evans was picked off by Casey Bliss, who returned the interception 30 yards for a score to give Westlake a 30-14 advantage with 11:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Seraphs responded. Evans threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Souza. Evans, however, was stopped short on the two-point conversion and St. Bonaventure trailed 30-20 with 7:08 left.
Trailing 14-13, the Warriors were in search of some much-needed momentum and Isham delivered. First, he scrambled for 16 yards to pick up a crucial first down. And then, he completed passes of 40 and 23 yards to Cody Tuttle and Spruce, respectively, to keep the chains moving.
Thanks in large part to Isham‘s standout individual efforts, Westlake moved into field-goal range and Alex Ball kicked a 23-yarder to give the Warriors a 16-14 lead with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.
The Seraphs received a bit of good fortune to start the second half. Tavior Mowry had a pass slip through his fingers and right into the arms of Cameron Penny, who returned the interception to the Westlake 32-yard line.
St. Bonaventure made sure to capitalize on the good field position as Wick gained 28 yards on the ground andJosh Grajeda scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Seraphs a 14-13 lead with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
The Warriors faced a daunting task when they started a second quarter drive at their own 2-yard line. A 57-yard pass from Isham to Wilson changed things in a hurry though. And ultimately, Ball kicked a 38-yard field goal to cap things off and give Westlake 13-7 lead at halftime.
Westlake came up with the first big play of game. Evans dropped back to throw in the first quarter, but the ball was dropped by his intended target, Angelo Russo. David Ortiz was at the right place at the right time, came up with the interception and returned it 60 yards, deep into Seraphs territory.
Two plays later, Isham found Spruce for a 7-yard touchdown to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead with 2:08 remaining in the first quarter.
St. Bonaventure answered, Wick in particular. The junior running back picked up yards in bunches, highlighted by runs of 12 and 18 yards, to move the Seraphs into the red zone. Fittingly, he capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the score, 7-7, with 9:19 left in the second quarter.
Isham and Spruce got right back to work. The tandem connected on a 29-yard pass play and a Seraphs penalty moved the ball to the St. Bonaventure 20-yard line. Minutes later, Ball booted a 39-yard field goal to give the Warriors a 10-7 advantage with 7:38 remaining in the first half.
"This win was redemption for us,'' Ball said.
Chris De La Pena did a good job on special teams for the Seraphs in the first half. The junior punter made things difficult for the Warriors, pinning them deep on two different occasions, once at 5-yard line and the other time at the 2-yard line.
Isham completed 16-of-23 passes for 325 yards. Spruce finished with seven catches for 122 yards. Wilson ended up with 113 yards on four receptions.
Wick gained 159 yards on 21 carries.