It only takes one play to change a game.
Such a play almost never happens in the first quarter, but that’s exactly what happened during an annual high school football clash between rivals Westlake and Oaks Christian last weekend.
In a scoreless first quarter, the Warriors attempted a short screen pass on the first play of their third possession.
The ball reached its destination but was bobbled for a split second. It was just enough time for Oaks Christian’s Josh Calvert to swoop in to rip the pass from the hands of the Warrior and run it back into the Westlake end zone for six points.
“I don’t know if it was a fumble or an interception,” Oaks Christian head coach Jim Benkert said. “It kind of broke the ice and made us feel a little better.”
The Warriors never recovered.
Oaks Christian captured its third straight Marmonte League title in the 42-7 romp on the road on Nov. 3.
The Lions were ready for the high-pressure showdown. Facing five Division 1 teams during the regular season has honed this team into a dangerous outfit, just in time for the postseason.
“We’re a football team that’s maturing,” Benkert said. “Playing the tough schedule we did has really helped us. Our kids feel like we can play with the big boys.”
The Lions (8-2 overall) take a five-game winning streak into the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 bracket against Arroyo Grande (7-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at home.
Westlake (7-3), which has lost three of its last five games after a 5-0 start, travels to face Palos Verdes (7-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in Division 3.
Westlake head coach Tim Kirksey said he hopes to get back at least half of the nine players who weren’t healthy enough to play against Oaks Christian, including linebackers Pete Tello, who suffered an injury against Camarillo two weeks ago, and Cameron Jasmin, who was injured four days before facing the Lions.
The Warrior defense struggled slowing Oaks Christian star running back Zach Charbonnet, who had 88 rushing yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. The Warriors paid dearly for stacking the box in an effort to slow the ground attack.
Calvert, a linebacker who also plays quarterback, beat the Westlake secondary deep numerous times, connecting on three touchdown passes, each one longer than 40 yards.
A 76-yard bomb to sophomore Bryce Farrell took the electricity out of the stadium as Oaks Christian jumped out to 14-0 lead.
Farrell celebrated the long score by hanging 10 in the Westlake end zone.
“That was a dare,” he said of his celebration. “Westlake’s end zone is blue, so I had to swim in that ocean and start surfing.”
Farrell finished with four receptions for 134 yards and three total scores, two receiving. Ty Shamblin, a sophomore, also had a touchdown catch. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the nation’s No. 1-ranked junior football prospect by ESPN, had three sacks.
The Lion lead swelled to 21 points at halftime. Oaks Christian led 35-0 at one point in the third quarter.
Oaks Christian intercepted four Jake Kaplinski passes. Ezekial Bishop snared two of those picks for the Lions.
“There’s more to look forward to,” Bishop said. “We’ve had tough opponents this season. We should be prepared for the playoffs.”
Westlake, despite boasting numerous playmakers on offense, struggled moving the chains.
The Warriors rushed for only 54 yards on the ground. Michael Carner led Westlake with six receptions for 78 yards. Nick Silver had four catches for 37 yards and the team’s lone touchdown late in the third quarter.
The slot receiver beat his defender off a slant route for the touchdown grab in the back of the end zone.
— Jonathan Andrade (@J_Andrade_) November 4, 2017
“It was nice, but not as nice as if it was under different circumstances,” Silver said.
Kirksey said the team will need to right the ship in the postseason.
“Our offense has got to start clicking,” he said. “The efficiency just still isn’t there yet. We have to get a whole lot better.”
Kamren Fabiculanan, Cole Bunker and Tyler Van Mourik each recorded 12 tackles for Westlake. Will Lyman recovered a fumble and notched 10 tackles, while Cameron Kohler finished with 11 tackles.
Senior Isaac Berger, a Westlake tight end and defensive end, said the Warriors played scrappy.
He got emotional while talking with the Acorn. Nov. 3 could be the last time he ever plays a home game.
“I’ve been playing on this field since I was 7,” Berger said. “I wish it could have gone a different way, but I felt that I played my heart out. I felt as good as I can feel after a tough loss.”
Silver was also dejected after the loss to Westlake’s bitter rival.
“There’s definitely sadness,” he said. “This place has been my home the last four years. We’re going to do our best to not make this the last time we step on this field.”
The big game in a nutshell
Westlake and Oaks Christian battled for the ninth time last weekend. The Lions defeated the Warriors 42-7 on Nov. 3, but Westlake leads the all-time series 5-4. Here are some stat leaders from the showdown:
• Josh Calvert, 221 passing yards, three touchdowns
• Zach Charbonnet, 14 carries, 88 rushing yards
• Bryce Farrell, four catches, 134 yards, three total TDs
• Nate Lenthal, eight tackles
• Kayvon Thibodeaux, three sacks, seven hurries
• Ezekial Bishop, two INTs
• Jake Kaplinski, 234 passing yards, one TD, four INTs
• Michael Carner, six catches, 78 yards
• Nick Silver, four catches, 37 yards, one TD
• Cole Bunker, 12 tackles
• Tylar Van Mourik, 12 tackles
• Kamren Fabiculanan, 12 tackles