Los Angeles Preps: Mike Leibin

No. 1 Westlake gets rematch against T.O.

November, 30, 2011
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.”

Moorpark, Thousand Oaks prepare for another tight game

November, 23, 2011
The first time Thousand Oaks and Moorpark met, a last-second field goal decided the outcome in Week 2. It was that close. Thousand Oaks kicker Jamie Sutcliffe made a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give the Lancers a 27-24 win.

The two teams meet again on Friday night in the Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinals at Thousand Oaks High School with much more on the line.

“I’m expecting a very intense game,” Moorpark coach Tim Lins said. “They’re always well-prepared.”

These two teams know each other very well. They meet every year in Marmonte League play. The previous two games went into overtime. Moorpark won in 2009, 28-21. Thousand Oaks won last year’s game, 29-28.

Thousand Oaks coach Mike Leibin says his team was probably the better of the two in 2009. Moorpark had the better team in 2010. When the two teams played on Sept. 16, Leibin said both teams were so evenly matched, he didn’t know what to expect.

“I was expecting Moorpark to be good,” Leibin said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. A lot has changed in 10 weeks.”

Both teams have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Thousand Oaks quarterback, junior Clark Abourisk, has developed into an experienced play-caller and a team leader, Leibin said. Moorpark has an NCAA Division I college quarterback in Grant Rohach, who also has the benefit of nine games since their last meeting.

But an unexpected tragedy struck the Thousand Oaks football team. Quarterback Griffen Kramer was found dead in a friend’s home over Halloween weekend. It was later determined by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department investigators that Kramer died of a heroin overdose.

The Thousand Oaks players are still recovering from the sudden death of their teammate.

“It’s a process,” Leibin said. “The kids have done a great job of supporting his family and each other.”

The Thousand Oaks players are wearing Kramer’s initials on their helmets and presented Kramer’s family with an autographed jersey before the Marmonte League finale. Leibin said his team is doing its best to find some sort of normalcy since Kramer’s death.

“Is it OK to be moving on?” Leibin said. “I think it’s what he would want. We’re doing a good job of not forgetting him in a lot of areas.”

As much as the two teams have changed since their first meeting, Leibin said there are plenty of things that are still the same.

“We have programs that have foundations that don’t change,” he said.

All five teams from the Marmonte League that entered the Northern Division playoffs are still alive. By comparison, three teams from the Bay League were in the first round of the Northern Division playoffs. None advanced. Three teams from the Golden League qualified for playoffs and only one, Highland, made it to the quarterfinals.

Moorpark and Thousand Oaks are coming off dramatic first-round wins in the playoffs. Moorpark (7-4) eliminated No. 4 seeded Valencia, 17-10, scoring a touchdown in the final minutes to take the lead and win the game.

Thousand Oaks (7-4) traveled to Quartz Hill in the Antelope Valley to take on the co-champion of the Golden League. Trailing 7-0, Thousand Oaks scored 20 straight points and knocked the Rebels out of the playoffs.

Thousand Oaks running back Nathan DeBeikes leads the Lancers in rushing with 1,096 yards and eight touchdowns. He rushed for 148 yards and scored a touchdown against Quartz Hill.

Moorpark, much like Thousand Oaks, likes to control the ball and the game on the ground. Aaron Stanton leads Moorpark in rushing with 778 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games.

Rohach, Moorpark’s quarterback, is a bit of a dual threat with 1,638 yards passing and 15 touchdowns to go with 452 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns.

Rohach, who committed to Iowa State, threw for 187 yards and a touchdown against Valencia. Kenny Feyh caught the game-winning touchdown from Rohach with 7:12 to play in the fourth quarter. Lins said Rohach has stepped up his game after slipping some midseason.

“He struggled a little bit,” Lins said. “He was pressured Friday against Valencia. But he made some good decisions. It’s not easy to play that position. Guys look to him to make on-the-field adjustments. I think that’s a little bit tougher and he’s responded.”

Lins said several players on his team have improved over the season. Stanton is one who might be the difference in the game against Thousand Oaks.

“He’s a factor for us,” Lins said.

Stanton rushed for 141 yards, but was kept out of the end zone in the first meeting between the two teams. He also caught a 23-yard pass.

Abourisk passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns against Moorpark in Week 2. Blake Howell came up with a couple big plays for Thousand Oaks. He caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from Abourisk and returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

This game could go down to the final second again.

“If history has any say in it, it will be a tight one,” Leibin said.

Football: Thousand Oaks 27, Moorpark 24

September, 16, 2011
MOORPARK -- Goat or hero? It was one or the other for Jamie Sutcliffe. The senior from Thousand Oaks had his choice of monikers and the latter ended up sticking.

Sutcliffe nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired Friday night to lift the visiting Lancers to a 27-24 victory over Moorpark in a Marmonte League opener for both teams.

"Staying calm, cool and collected, that's all I was thinking about,'' Sutcliffe said.

Easier said than done.

Keep in mind, he had missed three of four field-goal attempts before splitting the uprights for the game-winner. Talk about pressure. Nevertheless, Sutcliffe delivered when it mattered most.

"You're only as good as your last kick, that's something us kickers believe,'' Sutcliffe said. “I made sure not to worry about my other chances. I put those kicks in the back of mind. I had already moved on. My thought was the kick in the fourth quarter was the most important one of my career. Glad it went in. Glad I made it.''

Grant Rohach had Moorpark (1-1, 0-1) in position to win with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Max Player had other ideas. He interceped a Rohach pass at the Lancers 8-yard line.

Behind the passing of Clark Abourisk and the running of Nathan DeBeikes, Thousand Oaks (2-0, 1-0) marched downfield to set the stage for Sutcliffe.

“Jamie is our guy, he is the one we want up there in pressure situations,'' Lancers coach Mike Leibin said. “I told him to keep his head down. He did. He banged that kick home, it would have been good from 50-plus yards. I had confidence in him the whole time.''

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