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.”