Los Angeles Preps: Bart Houston

Open Bowl: De La Salle 35, Westlake 0

December, 17, 2011

CARSON -- Westlake coach Jim Benkert was putting the finishing touches on his postgame speech when, suddenly, one of his players shouted, "At least we got a ring!" Laughs followed, and even Benkert cracked a smile.

At last, a positive.

Previously undefeated Westlake, the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division champion, stumbled early and never recovered, losing to perennial power De La Salle, 35-0, Saturday night in the 2011 CIF State Football Championship Open Division Bowl game presented by Farmers. It was so ugly that a running clock was used at the start of the fourth quarter -- a state bowl game first -- and Warriors fans streamed out of Home Depot Center well before the final whistle blew.

"It was a big stage and our kids did their best," Benkert said. "We just made too many mistakes."

De La Salle (13-1), ranked No. 11 in the ESPN High School national poll, captured its third straight Open Division bowl championship. The Spartans recently won their 20th consecutive CIF section championship and were making their sixth straight appearance in a state bowl game.

Westlake got a taste of what Crenshaw and Servite experienced the last two years. The Warriors (14-1) didn't necessarily get manhandled, moving the chains 14 times in the first half. For proper perspective, the mighty Servite Friars didn't get a first down on De La Salle until midway through the third quarter in last year's 48-8 loss.

"De La Salle is a great football team," said Westlake's Dashon Hunt, who was held to only 48 rushing yards. "Our mistakes turned into touchdowns."

Another sour note for the Marmonte League champs: Westlake was the only Southern Section representative to lose during the bowl weekend. Sierra Canyon claimed the Division IV title with a 27-13 victory over Le Grand and Santa Margarita beat San Jose Bellarmine 42-37 for the Division I crown.

Warriors junior quarterback Justin Moore will have plenty to think about during the offseason. He had thrown only four interceptions heading into Saturday, but was picked off twice on Westlake's last two drives of the first half. Both throws were intercepted inside the end zone.

"We didn't make the plays when we needed to," Moore said. "If you do that it's going to come back to hurt you."

Spartans running back Tiapepe Vitale opened the second half with short touchdown run, making it 28-0. Loud chants of "D-L-S" echoed from the stands. Minutes later, it was Wisconsin-bound quarterback Bart Houston diving past the goal line to give De La Salle the 35-0 lead.

The Warriors had their chances early. A fumble recovery in the second quarter gave them new life, but a 27-yard touchdown pass from Houston to a wide-open Michael Hutchings -- on a fourth-and-11 call, for good measure -- had the Warriors cheerleaders looking the other way.

De La Salle showed its dominance in the blink of an eye, breaking the scoreless tie on Vitale's 37-yard touchdown scamper. Westlake was forced to punt on its first possession and, moments later, Houston followed with a sneak for the two-touchdown lead midway through the first quarter.

"That's a good football team over there," Benkert said as De La Salle players carried the trophy. "We didn't take them out of their game."

But, like the player pointed out after the game, at least Westlake got some bling this season.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

Open Div.: Westlake vs. De La Salle

December, 15, 2011
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.”

(Read full post)