Imagine the Steel Curtain going head-to-head with the Greatest Show on Turf.
Or picture the Mongols doing battle with the Romans on a 100yard strip of FieldTurf in the Conejo Valley, circa 2009.
It’s early, of course, but the Marmonte League football title sure looks like it’s coming down to the stingy Moorpark High defense against the high-powered Westlake offense.
The two undefeated teams are scheduled to meet in the regularseason finale on Nov. 13 at Westlake, and the stakes could be very high—we’re talking a league championship and possible No. 1 seed in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.
Moorpark (5-0, 2-0 in league) is the top-ranked team in the latest Northern Division coaches’ poll. MaxPreps.com ranks the Musketeers No. 5 in the state and No. 19 nationally.
In Week 5, Gary Fabricius, head coach at Newbury Park, witnessed up close and personal how good the Musketeer defense can be as MHS held the Panthers’ Notre Dame-bound running back, Cameron Roberson, to 11 yards on 15 carries during a 35-14 victory.
“They’re big up front. They’re strong, and they’re quick,” Fabricius said of Moorpark. “That’s a deadly combination, to be big and quick up front. . . .
“They make you make mistakes. They don’t wait for something to happen. They make their own good luck by being so strong and physical.”
A pair of senior defensive tackles, 6-foot-5, 245-pound Trevor LeGore and 6-foot-3, 270-pound Chris Wheatley, anchor the Musketeers’ dominant front seven.
LeGore and Wheatley are quick to credit their improved run-stuffing skills to working with Moorpark grad Corey Sandoval, the reigning Marmonte League Defensive Player of the Year.
“As a coach, Sandoval tells us about all the moves he used last year,” said Wheatley, a converted offensive lineman. “We listen to him, and it has really helped us.”
Moorpark has allowed a league-low 13.8 points per game. The Musketeers’ defensive success is predicated on responsibility and discipline, LeGore said.
“We don’t allow anything through the middle, and we stick to our gaps,” LeGore said. “It’s that simple—we don’t allow anything though our gaps.”
Westlake (5-0, 2-0), No. 4 in the Northern Division and 29th in the state, is on pace to break the school’s all-time record for single-season points.
In 2003 the Warriors, led by current Dallas Cowboys practice squad quarterback Rudy Carpenter, scored a school-record 561 points in 14 games—40.1 points per contest—en route to a section title.
This year’s Westlake squad has tallied a league-best 232 points through five games, or 46.4 points per outing.
With the recent transfer of quarterback Michael Bercovici to Taft of Woodland Hills, Warrior junior signal-caller Nick Isham now has full control of the team’s offense. Sporting a 12-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 71-percent completion percentage, Isham has proven to be more than capable in the leading role.
In addition to Isham, Westlake features a slew of game-changing athletes, including running back Tavior Mowry (nine total TDs), wideout/safety Nelson Spruce (504 receiving yards), and defenders Justin Solis (five sacks), Adrian Muguerza (55 tackles, three INTs) and Jack Shepherd (33 tackles, two forced fumbles).
Said Thousand Oaks head coach Mike Leibin, whose Lancers lost to the Warriors 43-17 earlier this season: “Having an athlete at quarterback who can throw the ball that well, and having a great, big-play receiver with that running back combination mixed with an offensive line that’s pretty damn good—(Westlake) has a good mix of guys.”
Westlake plays at Newbury Park on Oct. 23 in the Marmonte’s next big gridiron showdown.
Royal (3-2, 2-0) is the only other Marmonte team sporting an unblemished league record.
The Highlanders have defeated Agoura and Calabasas in consecutive weeks by six and seven points, respectively.
First-year Royal head coach Kevin Flye said his squad has stayed on course despite much adversity, including losing leading rusher Thomas Garner to an ankle injury early in the Calabasas game. Garner could miss several weeks.
In Garner’s absence, Kyle Gauthier, the team’s second-leading rusher, and standout defensive back Keith Langley will receive the bulk of the offensive carries, Flye said.
“We have a lot of good-character kids, and they believe they can get it done,” the coach said.
Junior quarterback Zach Collins has been a steady presence for the Highlanders.
Other top contributors for RHS include wideouts Connor Wolcott and Ryan Stevens, offensive linemen Tyler Decker and Michael Maurer, and defenders Alex Flandez, Shane Toth and Mason Huether.
In the next month, Royal faces a daunting lineup of Newbury Park, Moorpark, Westlake and Thousand Oaks. The good news is that only the Moorpark game is on the road. RHS ends the regular season at Simi Valley.
“If we can get two out of these last five games, we think we can get into the playoffs,” Flye said.
Newbury Park (4-1, 1-1) was breezing along until Moorpark put the hammer down last weekend.
With junior signal-caller Jake Geringer making major strides— he tossed several beautiful deep passes during the Moorpark game—the Panther offense has been nearly as explosive as Westlake’s unit.
Geringer has thrown for more than 900 yards with nine scores.
Talented wideout/linebacker Philip Muscarella continues to be Geringer’s favorite target in the passing game, and Roberson remains a threat to break a big run at any moment.
Middle linebacker Drake Exstrom is the unquestioned leader of the Black Cat Attack, but Michael LaPerche, a two-way starter on the offensive and defensive lines, may be the team’s MVP due to his all-around effort.
Despite the setback to Moorpark, Fabricius is pleased with where the Panthers stand.
“If someone would’ve said we’d be 4-1 halfway through the season,” the coach said, “we probably would’ve have taken it.”
Thousand Oaks (2-3, 1-1) may be the only other team in the league with a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
Lancer junior quarterback Avondre Bollar has been sensational in his first season behind center, completing 66-of-113 passes for 864 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. In addition to his passing exploits, Bollar leads TOHS with 405 rushing yards and has logged 11 tackles as a defensive back.
“As we’ve gone through the difficulty of having our tailback out, we’ve had to lean on Avondre a lot more,” Leibin said.
“He’s doing a lot of good things with his arm and his feet. He’s a dynamic athlete who really works hard to prepare and knows his stuff, and he mixes that with great athleticism.”
The return of running back Rickey Minyard, who missed two games with a shoulder injury, is a big boost for the Lancers as they prepare to face Moorpark, Royal and Newbury Park in the season’s final three weeks.
Agoura (1-4, 0-2), Calabasas (1-4, 0-2) and Simi Valley (0-5, 0-2) sit toward the bottom of the league standings.
The Chargers must beat Thousand Oaks on the road this Friday to stay alive in the postseason hunt. Agoura, a junior-laden squad that has battled through injuries to key personnel, plays its final four games at home.
With steady quarterback Kyle Zion leading the offense and rocksolid linebacker Sean Moore spearheading the defense, Calabasas has shown dramatic improvement.
The Coyotes have a legitimate shot at their first Marmonte League home victory when Simi Valley comes to town on Oct. 30.
Calabasas hasn’t won a league contest since beating Newbury Park in 2002.
Simi Valley has scored a league-low 45 points and allowed a league-high 227 points.
The Pioneers continue to be plagued by turnovers and lack of varsity players but face a favorable schedule down the stretch with games at Calabasas and Agoura.
A win at home versus Royal in the season finale would provide a tremendous boost for the entire Simi Valley program.
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