Los Angeles Preps: Tavior Mowry

Football: No. 14 Westlake

August, 24, 2011
With several standout players from last season off playing college football nowadays, Westlake hopes it can successfully reload, rather than rebuild. And initially, it appears as if the Warriors have some of the pieces of the puzzle in place to get the job done quickly.

Westlake figures to go as far as Justin Moore takes it this season. In the past, the junior quarterback was an attentive understudy to Nick Isham, a three-year starter before signing with Louisiana Tech. Moore's job won't be any easier following the departure of Nelson Spruce and Tavior Mowry, both of whom graduated after being integral parts in the program in the past.

Nevertheless, optimism remains high on campus. Westlake, after all, is used to dealing with a high turnover. Coach Jim Benkert and his boys have been down this road before.

Here is a closer look at the Warriors:

Team: Westlake

Coach: Jim Benkert, 23rd year.

2010 Record: 12-2, lost in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship game.

Returning starters: 12 total. Seven on offense. Five on defense.

Key players on offense: QB Justin Moore, WR Cody Tuttle.

Key players on defense: DL Justin Solis (Colorado commit), DB Dashon Hunt (UCLA commit), DL John Stuart, DL Shayne Henley, LB David Ortiz.

Difference maker: Moore, who takes over underneath center. It will be interesting to see how much information has been retained thus far and how he applies the things he has learned. One thing is certain: The 6-foot, 175-pounder is a playmaker. If Moore does not get things done with his arm, rest assured, the multifaceted underclassman will get things done with his feet.

Newcomers: WR Jake Rothschiller, LB Kyle Rothschiller.

Not to be missed: vs. Oaks Christian, Thursday Oct. 6. The Warriors will be revenge-minded in this Marmonte League showdown, especially after narrowly losing, 29-28, to the Lions in the Northern Division title game a season ago. When it comes to bulletin-board material, none is needed between these two crosstown rivals. Both know how much is at stake every time they meet.

Coach’s comment: “Here we go again, football time. We like the group we have here too, they all seem to know what is expected of them. These kids understand we don't have many easy games on our schedule. When we step out there on the field, we expect to be challenged most times. Our guys are not going to back down from anyone. We're ready to get things started.''

Final analysis: If the Warriors plan on duplicating their success from last year, plenty will depend on the play of Moore. Good thing for him is, the whole offensive line returns, more than likely a year stronger and wiser. On the defensive side of the ball, the unit also remains largely intact. That said, Westlake appears poised to make some noise again this season, from start to finish.

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

LA North: Games of the week, CIF championship edition

December, 9, 2010
The Westlake football team will be playing its second rematch game in as many weeks against a Marmonte League rival. Oaks Christian will get a chance to do what Westlake did in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoffs: Avenge a Marmonte League loss.

Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell expects his team to play better in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship game against Westlake. He expects Westlake to play better, too.

Westlake, though, might be a little undermanned for the game at Oaks Christian High School on Friday night.

[+] EnlargeMowry
Tim Haddock/Special to ESPNLosAngeles Mowry

Running back Tavior Mowry is nursing what Westlake coach Jim Benkert calls a tweaked ankle. Mowry injured his ankle five weeks ago, but re-aggravated it in the semifinal game against St. Bonaventure. He was on crutches on Sunday, but was walking without pain on Wednesday, Benkert said.

“He says he’s going to play,” Benkert said.

Westlake beat Oaks Christian, 31-12, the first time the two teams met in the fourth week of the season.

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Tim Haddock/Special to ESPNLosAngeles Harrington

Oaks Christian was a team in transition the first time the two teams played. It was the first start for quarterback Richie Harrington, who took over for Trevor Gretzky, sidelined with a season-ending shoulder injury.

It was also the first game back for receiver Jordan Payton and defensive end John Van Der Wal, who were sitting out the first three games of the season recovering from injuries of their own. Payton, who’s headed to USC next season, is coming off a three-touchdown game against Valencia in the Northern Division semifinals.

Van Der Wal is headed to Arizona State. He was part of an Oaks Christian defense that held an explosive Valencia offense to 14 points in the first half of the semifinal playoff game.

Redell said he doesn’t want to use having three key players essentially making their season debuts in that first game against Westlake as an excuse, but all three are healthy and have valuable experience this time around.

“I’d rather be playing the Sisters of the Poor,” Redell said. “The best four teams made it to the semis. We’re a greatly improved team since the first time we met. Westlake is outstanding.”

Redell added that he won’t be afraid to take some chances against Oaks Christian.

“We’d have to play our best to have a chance. We’ll have a chance,” Redell said. “We’ll have to gamble a lot. We’re going to have to gamble. That runs the risk of getting behind early. We won’t play conservatively.”

Benkert expects the Northern Division championship game to be much different than the game played in Week 4. Not only is Oaks Christian improved with the play of Harrington, Payton and Van Der Wal, but Benkert said the team has found confidence in running back Ishmael Adams.

“This game, you can throw out what happened the first game,” Benkert said. “This game is about who wants it more. We’re both playing well right now. It’s going to come down to who wants it more. It’s going to be a game that comes down to the wire.”

Benkert added that his players, who won the Northern Division championship last year, are not intimidated by the stage of a CIF championship game. The game will be at the newly built football stadium at Oaks Christian.

“My kids want to play there. They like lots of noise,” Benkert said. “They like it that way.”

In addition to Mowry, quarterback Nick Isham and receiver Nelson Spruce played in the CIF Northern Division championship game last season as juniors.

Benkert said the 2,000 tickets made available to Westlake sold out in a day. The game has crosstown rival appeal – the schools are separated by two blocks – and has a public school vs. private school element.

“I just want to get it going,” Benkert said. “A week of preparation gets long. The faster we can get to the game, the better for us.”

Other games:

Chatsworth (11-2) vs. Fairfax (10-3-1), Friday, 7 p.m. at East Los Angeles College

Chatsworth is one win away from one of the greatest turnarounds in City Section history. Chatsworth is in the championship game of the Division II playoffs a year after going 2-8. Chatsworth has a seven-game winning streak, including a 35-28 win over Palisades in the Division II semifinals. Fairfax has a four-game winning streak and hasn’t lost since Nov. 5 to Palisades. Fairfax beat Arleta, 36-12, in the Division II semifinals.

Sierra Canyon (13-1) vs. Paraclete (12-1), Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Granada Hills High School

Paraclete beat St. Margaret’s, 38-21, in the East Valley Division semifinals. Paraclete’s Roosevelt Davis rushed for 174 yards and teammate Ryan Davis scored three touchdowns against St. Margaret’s. Sierra Canyon beat Yucca Valley, 51-7, in the other East Valley semifinal. Sierra Canyon quarterback Tyler Stewart passed for 331 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Julian Brooks caught three passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Boron (12-1) vs. Bishop (12-1), Saturday, 6 p.m.

Boron beat Vasquez, 18-7, in the semifinals of the Northeast Division playoffs. Running back Reggie Heard rushed for 86 yards and scored two touchdowns against Vasquez. Bishop beat Pasadena Poly, 44-14, in the other Northeast Division semifinal. Running back Chance Callahan rushed for 136 yards and scored a touchdown against Pasadena Poly.

Northern Division: Westlake 37, St. Bonaventure 27

December, 3, 2010
WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- Revenge is sweet. And no one understands this better than the members of the Westlake High football team.

All signs pointed to the Warriors finishing up regular-season play with an undefeated record. Ventura St. Bonaventure, however, had other ideas and the Seraphs ended up playing the role of spoiler earlier this year with an unexpected victory over Westlake.

On Friday night, at long last, the Warriors earned a bit of redemption with a 37-27 victory over visiting St. Bonaventure in a Southern Section Northern Division semifinal playoff game.

"Oh yeah, we remember when they beat us, that was a tough loss, you don't get over something like that, it sticks with you for a while,'' Westlake senior Nick Isham said about the Seraphs' 32-31 double overtime victory over the host Warriors in a Marmonte League back in early November.

"We came into this game confident, there was no way we were going to let St. Bonaventure get the best of us again, at our place. We wanted this win and nothing was going to stop us from getting it. We got our revenge.''

With the victory over the Seraphs (11-2), the Warriors (12-1) advance to next week's title game against Westlake Village Oaks Christian, a 42-33 winner over Valencia in the other Northern Division semifinal.

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LA North: Game of the week: No. 8 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 2 Westlake

November, 4, 2010

Tim Haddock/Special to ESPNLA.com
Tanner Souza figures to be a key player for St. Bonaventure on Friday in its big game at Westlake.

Big games are nothing new for the Westlake football team. They don’t get much bigger than Friday night’s game against St. Bonaventure.

Westlake, the No. 2 team in the ESPNLA.com poll, is undefeated and has a 22-game winning streak that includes a run through the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs last year.

St. Bonaventure has only one loss this year, 33-32 in overtime, to Oaks Christian in its Marmonte League opener.

If St. Bonaventure, the No. 8 team in the ESPNLA.com rankings, wants at least share of the league title, it needs to beat Westlake.

“We have something they want and they’re used to winning,” Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “We need to match their hunger.”

Benkert said stirring that hunger is sometimes challenging with high school players. His football team has conquered every challenge so far this season. But Benkert wants to keep his team focused on improving and preparing for another playoff run.

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LA North: Five things from the weekend

October, 18, 2010

1. Is there a team in the Marmonte League that can beat Westlake? Moorpark had the right idea with a ball-control offense and a game plan that included keeping the Westlake offense off the field as much as possible. That worked for about a quarter. Then Westlake got the ball and before Moorpark knew it, it was 35-0 in the third quarter. Westlake running back Tavior Mowry scored two touchdowns. Receiver Nelson Spruce caught two touchdown passes. As it stands, Westlake is undefeated at 5-0 in league after its 35-14 win over Moorpark. Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure are tied for second place with 4-1 league records. The surprise score of the weekend in the Marmonte League was Calabasas 34, Newbury Park 28. Newbury Park plays Westlake on Friday night. Westlake coach Jim Benkert didn’t seem too pleased to find out his team’s next game was going to be against a Newbury Park team coming off a loss to Calabasas.

2. Valencia running back Steven Manfro is back to his touchdown binge. He scored five touchdowns against West Ranch in his team’s 55-28 win in the Foothill League opener on Friday night. That gives him 26 touchdowns in six games. Perhaps more significant is that Manfro broke the school rushing record in the win over West Ranch. Manfro racked up 418 rushing yards, and not only broke the record set by Shane Vereen, now at California, but he shattered it. Vereen rushed for 352 yards in a game in 2006 against Golden Valley – a bad Golden Valley team. Valencia will have its hands full against Canyon on Friday night. Canyon has the better overall record, undefeated at 6-0 after a 21-14 win over Saugus. Valencia, the reigning Foothill League champs, will have to beat Canyon if it wants to repeat as champions.

3. That resurgent Canyon football team needed almost every second of the game against Saugus to record its sixth win of the season and stay undefeated. Canyon quarterback Jonathan Jerozal scored the winning touchdown with nine seconds to play. The Cowboys had to rally with two touchdowns in the second half. It was a nice win, but maybe too close for comfort. The Cowboys will have a tough time playing from behind if that happens against Valencia.

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LA North: The Top 10

September, 21, 2010
Westlake and Valencia looked impressive in their respective wins last week. Westlake running back Tavior Mowry had a huge night against Thousand Oaks. Valencia running back Steven Manfro had an even bigger night against Birmingham. Undefeated St. Francis cracked the top 10 with its second win of the season.

1. (1) Westlake (2-0)

Westlake won its Marmonte League opener, 31-3, against Thousand Oaks. Running back Tavior Mowry scored two touchdowns and rushed for 94 yards. The Westlake defense came up big with three sacks, three interceptions and held Thousand Oaks to 157 yards of offense. Next up for Westlake is Royal.

2. (2) Valencia (2-0)

Valencia running back Steven Manfro scored five touchdowns in his team’s 47-6 win over Birmingham. He has 10 touchdowns and has accounted for 590 yards from scrimmage in the first two games of the season. Next up for Valencia is Palmdale.

3. (3) Alemany (3-0)

Alemany built a 28-0 lead over Knights in the first quarter en route to a 42-14 win. Next up for Alemany is Taft of Woodland Hills.

4. (5) Moorpark (1-1)

Moorpark narrowly escaped with a 31-30 win over Newbury Park in the Marmonte League opener for both teams. Newbury Park had a chance to win the game with a 44-yard field goal, but the ball hit the crossbar as time expired. Moorpark quarterback Grant Rohach was 25-of-31 passing for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Next up for Moorpark is Agoura.

5. (6) Oaks Christian (1-1)

Back-up quarterback Richie Harrington rallied Oaks Christian from a 19-0 deficit to beat St. Bonaventure, 33-32, in overtime. Harrington threw four touchdowns after taking over at quarterback in the third quarter. He threw the game-winner to Blair Holliday in the first overtime period. Next up for Oaks Christian is Calabasas.

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LA North: No. 2 Westlake 31, Thousand Oaks 3

September, 16, 2010
WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- If the Thousand Oaks High football team thought it was going to somehow, someway, pull off an improbable victory over heavily favored Westlake on Friday night, the Lancers were sadly mistaken.

Sean Ceglinsky/For ESPNLA.com
Westlake coach Jim Benkert addresses his team after its Marmonte League-opening win over Thousand Oaks on Thursday night.

The Warriors reminded visiting Thousand Oaks who was the superior program and did so from the opening kickoff until the final whistle en route to a 31-3 victory in a Marmonte League opener for both schools.

"We came out and did our thing tonight, losing wasn't an option,'' Westlake quarterback Nick Isham said. "This was a statement game for us. We want to be known as one of the best teams around and this win means a lot.''

The Warriors (2-0, 1-0) are No.2 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com Top 25 rankings and they looked every bit the part. Opening up what proved to be an insurmountable 21-3 halftime lead certainly helped matters and ruined any momentum the Lancers (1-1, 0-1) might have had initially.

Westlake entered the fourth quarter with a 25-point advantage, but that didn't stop it from putting more points on the board. Alex Ball kicked a 20-yard field goal to give the Warriors a 31-3 lead at the 11:55 mark, but only after the drive was kept alive by Tavior Mowry, who converted a crucial fourth-and-short opportunity at the Lancers' 25-yard line.

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LA North: The Top 10

September, 14, 2010
1. (1) Westlake (1-0)
The Warriors were up 35-0 at halftime against Oxnard. Most of the starters on offense sat out the second half. Quarterback Nick Isham completed 8-of-9 passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Tavior Mowry gained 108 yards on four carries. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers Westlake can put up in a full four quarters. Next up is Thousand Oaks in the Marmonte League opener on Thursday night.

Tim Haddock/For ESPNLA.com
Nick Isham threw only nine passes in Westlake's season-opening victory over Oxnard.

2. (2) Valencia (1-0)
Steven Manfro had a monster night at running back for the Vikings against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. He racked up 324 yards from scrimmage and scored five touchdowns in his team’s 49-32 opening night win. Manfro rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. He caught five passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Next up for Valencia is Birmingham on Thursday night.

3. (4) Alemany (2-0)
Alemany running back C.J. Washington scored two touchdowns in his team’s 44-20 win over Eastside. Alemany quarterback Vernon Adams threw for 184 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 84 yards on six carries and scored on a 46-yard run. Alemany kicker Martin Meza connected on another long field goal, hitting a 49-yarder in the second quarter. He made a 48-yard field goal against Oaks Christian.

4. (3) Loyola (1-1)
Loyola lost to Mission Viejo, 42-7. Jared Baker scored the only touchdown for Loyola on a 1-yard run. He gained 50 yards on 17 carries. Next up for Loyola is Newport Harbor on Friday night.

5. (5) Moorpark (0-1)
Moorpark has had two weeks to prepare for its Marmonte League opener against Newbury Park on Thursday night. Moorpark lost to Eastlake, 24-21, in its season opener on Sept. 3. Newbury Park won its season opener, 21-14, over Buena on Sept. 3.

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The high school football season officially began Thursday night in Southern California, the designated Week 1 of prep football.

Westlake, the reigning CIF Southern Section Northern Division champions, played Oxnard and rolled to its first win of the season. On the same night, the Westlake football team memorialized A.J. Castro, a Westlake High graduate and U.S. Army soldier who died while serving in Afghanistan. Castro was a two-year varsity player at linebacker for the Westlake football team in 2006-07.

Meanwhile, the Valencia High girls' tennis team won a California High School Tennis Classic championship in Clovis.

1. The Agoura High football team has a rising star in sophomore Kyle London. He caught the game-winning touchdown for Agoura in its season opener against Ventura. More important, he has the trust of his coach, Charlie Wegher, and quarterback Gerard Poutier. Both Wegher and Poutier said they had no doubt London would catch the 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:01 to play that led to a one-point victory.

2. Ventura has its own rising star in junior running back Conner Armstrong. Ventura coach Brad Steward said he wanted to use Armstrong for maybe 25 carries against Agoura. He ended up using Armstrong 40 times to the tune of 287 yards and four touchdowns. Armstrong did everything he could score his fifth touchdown, but fumbled on the goal line and gave Agoura a chance to win the game. Agoura drove 98 yards for the game-winning touchdown, and Armstrong said after the game the loss hurt more than all the yards he gained and all the touchdowns he scored.

Tim Haddock/For ESPNLA.com
Tavior Mowry had 99 yards in his first three carries during Westlake's easy win over Oxnard.

3. The questions being asked after Valencia’s 49-32 win over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is: Are the Vikings this good? Or is Notre Dame this bad? Valencia running back Steven Manfro scored five touchdowns and gained 324 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns. He caught five passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Valencia quarterback Alex Bishop was 15-of-22 passing for 370 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 24.7 yards per completion.

4. The Westlake football team easily handled Oxnard, 42-14, in the season opener for both teams. Westlake barely broke a sweat in this one. Running back Tavior Mowry rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on his first three carries. Receiver Nelson Spruce caught two touchdown passes in the first half. Quarterback Nick Isham was 8-for-9 passing for 99 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He didn’t play in the second half.

5. The Valencia girls' tennis team won the California High School Tennis Classic Division 2 championship in Clovis over the weekend. The Vikings beat Corona del Mar, 6-0, in the championship match. The two-day tournament attracted 112 teams from across the state. Valencia beat Bakersfield Christian, Oak Ridge and Marin Catholic in pool play. Valencia beat San Marin in the semifinals before sweeping Corona del Mar in the finals. Clarice Fraczek led Valencia as the team’s No. 1 singles player for most of the tournament. Emily Fraczek and Brigitta Benitez swept through their singles matches for Valencia. The Valencia boys tennis team won the Division 3 championship at the same tournament in the spring.