The Westlake football team will be a man down for the CIF State Open Division bowl game against Concord De La Salle at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.
Kicker Alex Ball, who has 19 field goals and produces touchbacks on 93 percent of his kickoffs, has a torn ACL in his left leg and won’t be able to play. He broke the state record with 36 field goals in his career and is tied for second in the Southern Section record book with Kai Forbath of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame with 19 field goals in a single season.
Ball injured his leg in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship game against Oaks Christian on Friday night. The torn ACL is in his non-kicking leg, but he can’t plant his left foot to kick.
It takes away a dangerous weapon for Westlake (14-0) against one of the best teams in the country. De La Salle (12-1) is ranked No. 11 in the ESPNHS national poll.
Sophomore Jonathan Weilbacher took over the kicking duties for Ball in the Northern Division championship game and made five extra-points attempts. Ball was injured in the second quarter of the game covering a punt.
Weilbacher was a playoff call-up from the junior varsity team. While he filled in admirably for Ball on the extra-point attempts, Weilbacher does not have the leg to produce touchbacks or long field goals on a consistent basis.
“Hold on to your hats,” Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “He’s a youngster. He’s going to learn and try to make it happen. He can do some of the things we need.”
Westlake had to rely on pooch kickoffs to keep the football away from the dangerous returners on Oaks Christian. Benkert might have to employ a similar strategy against De La Salle.
De La Salle has won three bowl games in the past four seasons. Westlake, ranked No. 13 in the nation by ESPNHS, is making its first appearance in a state bowl game. Benkert said his players have no idea about the winning tradition at De La Salle, but they do know De La Salle is a good team.
“My kids look at it as another opponent,” Benkert said.
He also said De La Salle runs an offense completely the opposite of Westlake’s. De La Salle likes to run the ball and uses a lot of play action and split-back sets.
“Their bread and butter is to run the ball and come at you running downhill,” Benkert said. “But they’re very good at what they do.”
The quarterbacks for Westlake and De La Salle are very similar. Both are dangerous runners and effective passers.
Westlake’s Justin Moore has passed for 2,330 yards and rushed for 1,052 yards. His totals could be much higher, but he played only one half in many of Westlake's one-sided games.
De La Salle’s quarterback, Bart Houston, has 1,818 yards passing and 292 yards rushing. He has thrown 15 touchdown passes and scored 17 touchdowns on the ground.
Moore also plays defensive back and has picked off three passes this season. He had two interceptions against Oaks Christian in the Northern Division championship game.
Westlake might have a deeper receiving corps, but De La Salle has a star in Anthony Williams. He has 921 yards receiving and has scored 10 touchdowns.
Moore spreads the ball around more. Four receivers have at least 20 catches this season. Cody Tuttle leads the team with 32 catches for 449 yards and four touchdowns.
Connor Cook makes the most of his catches, with 20 receptions for 301 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Jake Rothschiller has 25 catches for 401 yards and two touchdowns.
Westlake’s Dashon Hunt leads the team in rushing with 1,231 yards and 18 touchdowns. He and Moore have combined for 2,283 yards and 31 touchdowns on the ground.
Tiapepe Vitale leads De La Salle in rushing with 1,180 yards and 18 touchdowns. He rushed for 176 yards and scored six touchdowns against San Ramon Valley in the CIF North Coast Section championship game.
De La Salle recently won its 20th CIF section championship in a row and will be making its sixth straight appearance in a CIF state bowl game.