Saturday, December 12, 2009

C.I.F. Northern Division Championship Game

On a rainy Friday night, our son Mike and I decided to pray for a break in the weather and watch the 2009 C.I.F. Northern Division Championship football game between Moorpark H.S. (12-1) and Westlake H.S. (13-0).

This would be a rematch of the Marmonte League championship game played four Fridays ago when the Warriors handed the Musketeers their only loss of the season, 38-14.

For me, this game would have a little extra significance since I was Westlake's first head football coach when it opened in 1978 until I decided to move on to Rio Mesa H.S. after the 1988 season.

The game was being played at a neutral site, Simi Valley H.S. There is really only one great culinary reason to go to Simi Valley. . .

1308 E. Los Angeles Ave.
Simi Valley, California

One of THE best places to eat in Ventura County. I have only tasted two items on their extensive menu, the chili cheese fries (I rate them #1 in the Free World) and their signature. . .

. . . Pastrami Sandwich

Rich, flavorful meat with delicious, spicy mustard on a warm, fresh French dipped roll. There is so much meat that invariably enough pastrami falls onto your plate while you eat to warrant a second roll for a second normal sized sandwich.

We were not disappointed and left with our bellies full ready to watch a good football game.

We were fortunate that while it was still cold and crisp, the rain had stopped and we would be able to stay dry for the next few hours.

Pre-Game Excitement

We were lucky enough to score sideline passes to get up close and personal for the game. Here the Westlake Warriors gathered in this inflatable helmet tunnel to psyche up one last time before doing battle.

The Warriors were seeking their third C.I.F. title under Coach Jim Benkert after winning championships in 1999 and 2003.

Westlake Football Alumni

By chance, we ran into these four desperadoes who actually were good athletes back in the days when they played for me at Westlake. We watched the game together on the sidelines and had a GREAT time.

Next to me, from left to right, are Derrick Schmucker (OL), Jeff Smith (WR), Craig Weisman (OL) and Scott Winkler (HB).

At QB for Westlake, a Junior, #10
Nick Isham

A throwback kind of player, he also starts in the Warriors' defensive secondary and is their punter.

He entered the game having passed for 1,979 yards, good for 30 TDs while completing a nifty 127 of 174 attempts, an astounding 73% completion average!

He was also Westlake's second leading rusher with 649 yards, 13 more TDs and a 7.5 yards per carry average. Obviously he has been the key to their offense all season long.

Westlake Ball Boys

This brought back some great memories as our sons Andy and Mike spent several seasons on the sidelines as Warrior Ball Boys when they were this age.

Moorpark Offense in Action

Moorpark had scored 119 points in their three playoff games while Westlake had put up 120 points of their own over the same span so we all expected a high scoring shoot out. . .WRONG!

Defense would rule the night as it probably should in a championship game.

After being turned away on downs at the two yard line on their first possession, Westlake would finally take the early 7-0 lead on Isham's 31st TD pass of the season, a 27 yard toss to one Nelson Spruce, with 2:12 left in the first quarter. Spruce entered the game with 55 catches for 1,155 yards and 11 TDs.

In the second quarter, the Musketeers battled back with a 46 yard Field Goal followed by a one yard TD run with 1:40 left in the half. As the oening two stanzas came to a close it was Moorpark smelling an upset leading 10-7.

Moorpark received the second half kickoff and would eventually punt the ball back to Westlake. The Warriors could not move the ball either, and on third down their QB, Nick Isham was sacked by two Moorpark defenders.

As Isham dropped back to punt he started to massage underneath his shoulder pads and our son Mike said "He just broke his collar bone!" Mike had suffered a similar injury in his high school playing days and has become acutely aware of the body language of this injury.

After Isham punted, there was a mad scramble on the Warriors' sideline to find out what was wrong and it was indeed a broken collar bone. Isham was forced to leave the game having rushed 9 times for 74 yards and passed for a typically efficient 10 for 13 and 148 yards.

Who would the Warriors turn to at QB in this intense defensive struggle now?

At QB for Westlake, a Freshman, #2
Justin Moore

Listed in the program as being 5-10, 175 lbs. and yes, a FRESHMAN! How would this young, 14 year old pup fare in the biggest spotlight of the high school season?

Incredibly well as it turned out! He entered the game at the 3:58 mark of the third quarter still trailing the Musketeers 10-7. He would go on to go 7 for 11 passing for 91 yards and rush 6 times for 28 yards.

As the defenses continued to dominate the game came down to this scenario, Moorpark punts the ball out of bounds to the Warriors at the Westlake 13 yard line.

The FRESHMAN QB was staring at what was still a 3 point deficit, needed to cover 87 yards of Field Turf and only had 6:48 remaing in the contest.

What ensued was the making of a legend!

An 18 play, time consuming drive where Moore completed 5 of his 8 passes for 70 of the needed 87 yards for the ring. The drive came to it's necessary, dramatic conclusion with the Warriors facing 4th and Goal at the 2 yard line and opting to forego the tying Field Goal to probably force overtime for the potential winning TD.

With 0:41 left in the game, the QB kept the ball on the Spread Formations signature Zone Read play and FRESHMAN QB Justin Moore scampered around the left end for the go ahead TD!

Westlake 14 - Moorpark 10, could the Musketeers answer? The answer on this night was no, it just would not have been fair to the "Legend of Justin Moore" now would it?

0:00 on the clock
Westlake H.S. Warriors
2009 C.I.F. Northern Division Champions

On Sunday, Westlake will find out if it is picked as the school to represent southern California in the enrollment based Division II State Bowl Game next weekend against the perceived best Division II team from northern California.

For Moorpark, it was a VERY tough loss as the Musketeers have been to the Finals four of the past five seasons without a title to show for it.

Tim Lins does a GREAT job coaching Moorpark with class and dignity. He has built a powerhouse program and his Musketeers fought as hard as you could on this night.

FRESHMAN QB Justin Moore

He handled the post game interviews as easily as he did the pressures of the game.

Crumb Catchers

Alumni Jeff Smith and Scott Winkler were just happy to be in the background of a picture with the legendary Justin Moore. Did I mention that Justin Moore is a FRESHMAN?


How often in sports does a key injury to a star player like Nick Isham open the door for an understudy to have his moment in the sun?

Often enough I would say, it's just that so rarely does someone step up like Justin Moore did for the incredible last 15:58 of the 2009 C.I.F. Northern Division Championship Game!

He's a FRESHMAN you know.


DPLassen said...

How did I miss you at that game?

George said...

I must have been standing sideways from you thus making me hard to see.

I guess all that Diet Pepsi is working!!!

J Smith said...

#1 Nice accurate account. Fair and balanced. Great pic of Isham jersey on bench.
#2 Your camera adds 10 lbs. at least. I had 3 jackets on...COLD!
#3 Where are we eating in Carson?
My pick:
Thai Original B B Q
441 E Carson St
Carson, CA
Love that!