Los Angeles Preps: Jim Benkert

Reaction to Westlake QB's decision

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
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The Westlake football team was honored Tuesday night at the Conejo Valley Unified School District office for winning the Marmonte League and CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championships, but there was little reason to celebrate.

Earlier in the day, Westlake quarterback Justin Moore, the Northern Division player of the year and winner of two CIF championships, decided to end his football career and transfer to Royal High School in Simi Valley to finish out his junior and senior years.

Teammate Dashon Hunt, who is going to UCLA as a defensive back, said, "It was a big surprise to everyone."

Moore did not attend the award ceremony at the district office.

"He stayed home," Hunt said. "He didn't want to answer any questions about it. I kinda understand why he didn't go."

Hunt said Moore wants to enter the fire academy and become a firefighter, like his father. Hunt added that he didn't know if Moore wanted to go to college.

"All I know is he's going to Royal," Hunt said.

Hunt added that he supports Moore's decision and he is looking forward to working with Neil Uskali, a junior quarterback who played in six games for Westlake.

"Everybody was in shock," Hunt said. "They're saying we're going to have a bad season. We have Neil Uskali. He's capable of doing a good job. All he needs is the right amount of reps."

Westlake coach Jim Benkert said he expected a number of high school quarterbacks will be interested in playing for him next season. There is no guarantee Uskali will be the starting quarterback at Westlake in the fall. For the time being, though, Uskali looks to be the obvious choice to be the quarterback of the reigning Northern Division champs.

"I have faith in Neil," Hunt said. "We'll see what happens as it gets closer to the start of the season. It was kind of a sad day, but we have to work through it."

Westlake QB Moore decides to move on

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
2:15
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WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- In a rather surprising announcement, Westlake's Justin Moore has decided that he no longer wants to play prep football. Warriors coach Jim Benkert confirmed the news on Tuesday and said the highly-touted junior quarterback plans to transfer to Simi Valley Royal.

Moore was integral part of the program for the last three years, particularly last season when he threw for 2,483 yards, rushed for another 1,099 on the ground and accounted for 40 touchdowns. His well-rounded effort earned him Southern Section Northern Division player of the year honors.

“Justin told me he was done playing football, it was not his path in life anymore, he had deviated from some of his goals,'' Benkert said. “I'm sure that people are going to say he had some kind of issue here at Westlake, I can assure you Justin had no problems. You can look, look, and look, no one will be able to draw any conclusions. It was time for him to move on, that's basically what he said.''

Nevertheless, the decision to all of a sudden quit playing the game figures to be perceived as somewhat puzzling. Moore, after all, guided the Warriors to a section title this past season, an appearance in the CIF State Football Championship Open Division Bowl and a 14-1 overall record.

Moreover, the future appeared bright. The 5-foot-10, 165-plus pound athlete was considered as one of the more high-profile players in the 2013 class. Moore had been receiving interest from a number of different Division I programs, several within the Pac-12 Conference, most notably UCLA and USC. He had a scholarship offer on the table from SMU.

Moore could not be reach for comment. Benkert, however, elaborated on the situation.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook today, college coaches and scouts want to know what's going on with Justin,'' Benkert said. “We're not talking about the third string defensive back here. He was our quarterback, the one who has been receiving all the accolades for years and years now.

“Bottom line, Justin accomplished a lot here at Westlake. He wanted to do something else with his life. Football was not in his future. He is walking away for all the right reasons. I wish him the best. He's a great kid and I was happy when he told me that he would stay in touch with me.''

In the meantime, it appears as if Moore will enroll at nearby Royal. If he decides to change his mind, under transfer rules, Moore will not be able to play next season. His next step is anyone's guess. One thing is certain: Moore's decision to no longer play football is somewhat of a shocker.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Westlake QB Moore earns All-CIF award

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
6:42
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The Westlake football team nearly pulled off a clean sweep of All-CIF Southern Section Northern Division selections.

Quarterback Justin Moore was the offensive player of the year and Jim Benkert was the coach of the year.

Defensive end Justin Solis shared the defensive player of the year award with Valencia linebacker Ryan Gorman.

Moore passed for 2,483 yards and 27 touchdowns in his junior season at Westlake. He also rushed for 1,099 and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground.

Solis led Westlake with 102 tackles and had seven sacks in his senior season. The Colorado-bound defensive lineman also had an interception.

Benkert led his team to the CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship and played in the CIF Open Division state bowl game against Concord De La Salle at the Home Depot Center.

Gorman led Valencia in tackles with 96 and had three pass deflections and an interception in his senior season.

The Sierra Canyon football team had the East Valley Division offensive player, defensive player and coach of the year.

Quarterback Tyler Stewart was the offensive player of the year. Brian Tucker was the defensive player of the year. Jon Ellinghouse was the coach of the year.

Sierra Canyon won the East Valley Division championship and the CIF Division IV state bowl game over Le Grand.

Open Bowl: De La Salle 35, Westlake 0

December, 17, 2011
12/17/11
11:15
PM PT


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
12/15/11
8:52
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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)

Westlake junior is Hunt-ed not Hunt-er

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
9:18
PM PT


WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- Line up Dashon Hunt at running back, put the football in his trusty hands, and he is more than capable of gaining the necessary yardage on the ground to keep the chains moving. Straight up the middle, or to the outside, it doesn't matter.

Slot the junior from Westlake at receiver and Hunt might run by the defense en route to the end zone. Position him in the slot and he is not afraid to risk his body going over the crowded middle to make the difficult catch against teams geared toward stopping him.

Hunt's effectiveness isn’t merely limited to life on the offensive side of the ball. Stick him on an island at cornerback, and odds are, he will lock down the opponents top pass-catcher. Allow him to roam free in the secondary at safety and don't be surprised to see Hunt deliver a game-changing hit. Forcing a fumble is always a distinct possibility.

He is a jack-of-all-trades, Hunt plays a number of positions, each of them equally well. And we haven't started to discuss the special teams impact he makes.

His versatility and ability to excel in most any situation, of course, is what separates Hunt from most his underclassmen peers. Furthermore, the well-rounded skill set he possesses has been instrumental in helping guide the Warriors into Saturday night's CIF State Bowl game, an Open Division showdown against Concord De Le Salle at the Home Depot Center.

“Dashon is a darn good football player, a force to be reckon with, and we're glad he is on our side,'' Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “He is an individual who can change the complexion of a game with one play, at any time and from any spot on the field.''

Hunt proved as much in the Southern Section Northern Division championship game last week against rival Westlake Village Oaks Christian. The 5-foot-9, 175-plus pound UCLA commit rushed for a team-high 154 yards in 24 carries and scored four times.

As if that weren't enough, Hunt was assigned to shadow Lions' senior receiver Jordan Payton, one of the premier prospects the Southland has to offer. Hunt finished with four tackles and an interception return for a touchdown in an all-important 49-42 victory for Westlake (14-0 overall), which has held the No. 1 spot in the ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings for several weeks.

“I'm always up for a challenge. Always have been. Always will be,'' Hunt said. “I've seen all kinds of things this season, on offense and on defense. Coaches and players know that I'm a good athlete. I'm not sure if they are intimidated by my play-making ability or what.''

“When I'm running the ball, most teams blitz or try to stack the box with seven or eight guys. I've seen some double teams when I'm running pass routes too. On defense, teams don't usually throw to my side of the field. All that stuff is a respect thing, I think.''

(Read full post)

Westlake awaits CIF bowl berth

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
1:21
PM PT


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.

Northern: Westlake 49, Oaks Christian 42

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
12:42
AM PT


WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- Westlake and Oaks Christian went toe-to-toe again in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship game Friday night.

In a rematch of the last year’s Northern Division title game, Westlake came out on top, fending off a tenacious Oaks Christian team that refused to quietly relinquish the division crown.

When it looked as if Westlake had the game in hand, Oaks Christian mounted a furious comeback in the final 90 seconds. But five touchdowns by Westlake’s Dashon Hunt proved to be too much to overcome.

Westlake (14-0) hung on for a 49-42 win over Oaks Christian (11-3) and won its second Northern Division championship in the past three years. Westlake has played in three consecutive Northern Division championship games and lost to Oaks Christian by one point last year on a missed field goal that hit the right upright.

“They’re all great, but this one is special,” Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “This year, they redeemed all that. I’m really, really proud.”

Hunt rushed for 125 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground. He intercepted a pass in the second quarter and returned in 20 yards for a touchdown.

Oaks Christian quarterback Brandon Dawkins threw five interceptions and the Lions committed six turnovers.

“You turn the ball over six or seven times, you can’t expect to win the game,” Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said.

Oaks Christian built a 21-7 lead in the first half on three touchdown catches by little-used Francis Owusu. He caught four passes for 179 yards.

But Westlake scored two touchdown in less than a minute in the second quarter to tie the score, 21-21, just before halftime.

(Read full post)

Preview: Westlake at Oaks Christian

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
10:16
PM PT


The sequels are never quite as good as the originals. There are exceptions: “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Godfather II” come to mind.

The CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship game between Oaks Christian and Westlake is a rematch of last year’s title game. It will be hard to exceed the hype, drama and outcome of the original.

The cast of players for Westlake has changed dramatically. Quarterback Justin Moore took over for Nick Isham, who started for Lousiana Tech this season as a freshman. Running back Dashon Hunt has taken over admirably for Tavior Mowry. Connor Cook has emerged as a big-play receiver in place of the reliable Nelson Spruce from last year’s Westlake team.

The Oaks Christian roster has some familiar names, including Arizona State-bound linebacker Carlos Mendoza, highly recruited receiver Jordan Payton and a double-threat at corner back and running back in Ishmael Adams.

These two teams know each other well. This championship game on Friday night at Oaks Christian will be the fourth meeting in the past two seasons.

Westlake (13-0) comes in as the overwhelming favorite and the No. 1-ranked team in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25. Several outlets have Westlake ranked as the No. 1 team in the state. The Warriors are 39-2 over the past three seasons and won the Northern Division championship in 2009.

Oaks Christian (11-2) is the reigning Northern Division champion, ranked fifth by ESPN Los Angeles and is making its ninth straight CIF championship game appearance. The Lions moved up to the Northern Division last year after competing in the Northwest Division. Oaks Christian is 6-2 in CIF championship games and playing for its seventh CIF football championship in the past nine years.

(Read full post)

Northern: No. 1 Westlake 62, Thousand Oaks 0

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
11:46
PM PT


WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- This one was over before things started.

Justin Moore made sure of it. He left no doubt about the outcome.

The junior quarterback from Westlake did all of his damage in the first half of Friday's 62-0 victory over visiting Thousand Oaks in a Southern Section semifinal playoff game. Moore completed 7-of-10 of his passes for 98 yards and pair of touchdowns to go along with 53 yards rushing on five carries to help the Warriors advance to the Northern Division title game.

“This was a statement game for us. We're for real,'' Moore said.

Indeed the Warriors (13-0) are for real. And then some. They moved up to the top spot, No.1 overall in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 25 rankings this week and looked every bit the part. The Lancers (8-5) were over-matched from the opening kickoff until the final whistle.

“Are we surprised we won? No, I don't think so,'' Warriors coach Jim Benkert said. “Our kids came into the game focused. We knew what we had to do out on the field.''

The same could not be said about Thousand Oaks, which trailed 45-0 at the half. Things got so bad in the second half, the officials decided to use a running clock. The Warriors, in fact, pulled their starters in the third quarter and let them watch on the bench in the second half.

“This is our house, we weren't going to let Thousand Oaks come in here and think things were going to be easy,'' said the Warriors Dashon Hunt, also a junior and UCLA commit.

Apparently, a two-touchdown lead after the opening 12 minutes, was not enough. The Warriors rattled off four more scores and a field goal before halftime.

(Read full post)

No. 1 Westlake gets rematch against T.O.

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
2:40
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Westlake’s Matt Baynard had quite a game against Thousand Oaks in the third week of the season. He scored a rushing touchdown, gained 60 yards on the ground and intercepted a pass in his team’s 38-6 win in the second week of Marmonte League play.

Undefeated Westlake (12-0), the No. 1 ranked team in the ESPN Los Angeles high school football rankings, hosts Thousand Oaks (8-4) again in the semifinals of the Southern Section Northern Division playoffs Friday night.

Baynard missed the last four games of the Marmonte League season with a high ankle sprain. He returned sparingly against Eastside in the first round of the playoffs and made his first start in six games against Hart in the quarterfinals.

“We’re happy to have him back,” Westlake coach Jim Benkert said.

Without Baynard, the outcome of the game against Thousand Oaks might have been much different. Westlake led 11-0 at halftime and scored 24 points in the third quarter to blow open the game.

Baynard scored the only touchdown in the first half against Thousand Oaks. In six games, he gained 173 yards and scored four touchdowns. More importantly, he was able to spell running back Dashon Hunt and keep both players fresh on the defensive side of the ball.

Against Eastside in the first round of the playoffs, Baynard rushed for 33 yards and scored a touchdown in his first real game action since Oct. 6 against Oaks Christian.

While Benkert is happy to see Baynard back in the lineup, he is worried about a strep throat bug that has hit his players this week. Colorado-bound defensive end Justin Solis is among the list of players who have been sidelined from practice this week because of strep throat. Solis missed school on Monday and was limited in practice on Tuesday.

Benkert is also concerned about the Thousand Oaks defense.

“They’re a pretty good defensive football team,” Benkert said. “They’re on a hot streak and a much different team. We’re guarding against that.”

Thousand Oaks coach Mike Leibin said if his team is going to have any chance of beating Westlake, his players have to follow some simple rules: no turnovers, control the ball and keep the Westlake offense off the field as much as possible.

“We need to find a way to sustain drives on offense,” Leibin said.

Thousand Oaks only mustered 174 yards of total offense against Westlake the first time they played. The Lancers managed 115 passing yards against Westlake. Nathan DeBeikes was the leading rusher with 63 yards in 13 carries.

In addition to running a sputtering offense, Thousand Oaks quarterback Clark Abourisk threw two interceptions.

“We cannot afford to turn the ball over,” Leibin said. “We need to flip the field against them and our punter’s got to be on.”

No. 2 Westlake 35, No. 3 St. Bonny 14

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
12:02
AM PT


MOORPARK -- In the battle of Marmonte League heavyweights, Westlake delivered the knockout blow early and rolled to a 35-14 win over St. Bonaventure at Moorpark College on Thursday night.

Westlake running back Dashon Hunt scored on a 70-yard run in the first quarter to give his team a 7-0 lead. He finished with 180 yards rushing and two touchdowns, but his first touchdown set the tone for the night.

Westlake (10-0, 9-0), the No. 2 team in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings, capped an undefeated regular season and won the Marmonte League championship.

St. Bonaventure (8-2), the No. 3 team in the ESPNLA rankings, dropped to third place in the Marmonte League standings, behind Oaks Christian, which beat Newbury Park, 42-7, in their league finale, and earlier this season defeated St. Bonaventure.

Westlake took a 14-0 lead on a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Moore to Connor Cook in the second quarter and pulled away in the second half.

“We kept waiting for the counter-punch,” Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “They were going to come back. We never felt comfortable with the lead until the end.”

The game started out looking like a defensive battle. Westlake held St. Bonaventure to a three-and-out on the first possession. Westlake drove down to the St. Bonaventure 13-yard line, but the Seraphs came up with a big interception. Paul Thompson picked off Moore and ended Westlake’s first scoring threat of the game.

St. Bonaventure marched down the field, but facing fourth-and nine from the Westlake 30, the Seraphs turned the ball over on downs. It was the first of three failed fourth-down conversions for St. Bonaventure in the game.

(Read full post)

Westlake's Cook has the hot hands

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
7:05
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Westlake coach Jim Benkert didn’t know quite what to do with Connor Cook when he arrived on campus.

Over the summer, the senior wide receiver and defensive back transferred from the posh, private confines of Oaks Christian to the public powerhouse of Westlake. He was small and skinny, listed at 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds. For the first game of the season against Del Oro in Loomis in Northern California, Benkert had Cook on the field for one play.

“He has gone from there to really being a two-way guy,” Benkert said. “On the field, on offense and defense, and being a special guy on special teams, too.”

Cook, the son of Toi Cook, who played in the NFL for 11 seasons mostly with the New Orleans Saints, leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns, despite playing in only six of Westlake’s nine games on offense. He has 318 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game.

“He has worked his way into a position where he is a big part of the game plan on both sides of the ball,” Benkert said. “What he brings is some outstanding speed. His speed really sets himself apart. He’s also a really good athlete. He’s not overly big, but he really can stretch a defense.”

His best game of the season came against Royal. He scored five touchdowns, three on touchdown catches and two on kick-off returns. He leads the team with nine touchdowns. But his contributions to the team extend far beyond the offense and special teams.

“On defense, in the cover corner, he has a lot of confidence in his abilities that allow him to play with reckless abandon,” Benkert said. “He’s really helped us a great deal.”

When Westlake plays St. Bonaventure in the Marmonte League season finale on Thursday night at Ventura High School, Benkert and his coaching staff will fully utilize the skills of Cook.

(Read full post)

No. 9 Westlake 43, No. 4 Oaks Chr. 21

October, 7, 2011
10/07/11
12:11
AM PT


WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- The Oaks Christian football players walked from their campus to Westlake High School for their game Thursday night.

But it was the Westlake football team that ran all over Oaks Christian in a Marmonte League game.

Westlake racked up 444 rushing yards in a convincing 43-21 win over its crosstown rivals, handing Oaks Christian its first league loss, and remained undefeated.

Quarterback Justin Moore gained 226 yards in 14 carries and scored the first touchdown for Westlake in the first quarter.

Running back Jarrius Bishop rushed for 104 yards in 20 carries and scored a touchdown on a one-yard run just before halftime to give Westlake a 27-14 lead.

Kicker Alex Ball made five field goals, including a 47-yarder in the third quarter.

Westlake coach Jim Benkert said after the game he needed to come up with a game plan to neutralize the Oaks Christian secondary. The defensive backs for Oaks Christian gave Westlake fits in summer passing leagues, Benkert said.

“They have a lot of great athletes in that secondary,” Benkert said. “We really had to look elsewhere. I don’t think I’ve gone to a running game like that in my career.”

(Read full post)

L.A. North: Games of the Week

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
4:58
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Jim Benkert, Bill RedellJohn Lazar/For ESPNLA.comWestlake coach Jim Benkert, left, and Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell have established a competitive rivalry between their teams in Westlake Village.

The Oaks Christian and Westlake football teams met twice last season. Westlake won the first game convincingly, 31-12, during Marmonte League play in Week 4.

But Oaks Christian won the second meeting in dramatic fashion, 29-28, in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship game.

The two teams meet again Thursday night at Westlake High School and the winner will have an undefeated record in the Marmonte League.

Both teams are coming off impressive wins last week. Oaks Christian (3-1), the No. 4 team in the ESPNLA prep football Top 25 rankings, rolled over Calabasas, 56-7, resting most of its starters in the second half.

Westlake (4-0), the No. 9 team in the ESPNLA rankings, scored 10 touchdowns in a 73-28 win over Royal. Connor Cook scored five of those touchdowns, two on kickoff returns and three on receptions. He caught four passes for 77 yards and had kickoff returns of 85 and 82 yards for touchdowns.

Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said his team, coaches, cheerleaders and members of the band will march from their school to Westlake for the game.

“It’s seven-tenths of a mile,” Redell said. “We want to make it a tradition.”

The Stanford football team used to walk from campus to its football field for games. But Redell said he got the idea from Westlake coach Jim Benkert. Benkert was going to have his team walk from their school to Oaks Christian last year but changed his mind at the last minute.

The two teams are separated by two blocks in Westlake Village. Oaks Christian and Westlake established a competitive rivalry after last year’s two meetings.

“It’s a healthy rivalry,” Redell said. “We have a lot of respect for Westlake.”

In the Northern Division championship game, Oaks Christian took the lead in the fourth quarter on a two-point conversion run by Blair Holliday. Westlake had enough time to drive down the field on the ensuing possession and set up a 41-yard field-goal attempt.

Westlake kicker Alex Ball, one of the best kickers in Southern California, hit the right upright and the football bounced back onto the field, giving Oaks Christian a one-point win.

Ball was 10-for-10 on extra-point attempts and made a 51-yard field goal against Royal last week.

Oaks Christian sophomore quarterback Brandon Dawkins has been nearly perfect since taking over the starting role two weeks ago. He has completed 28-of-32 of his passes, 88.5 percent, for 460 yards and seven touchdowns.

“He has been a pleasant surprise,” Redell said. “He’s gotten a lot better a lot sooner than I thought he would.”

Here’s a look at some of the other top games of the week in the L.A. North region:

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