This is the fifth in a series of posts comparing two local rivals who both may be toward the top of the preseason state football rankings. We’ll write up what we think these teams will be like heading into the season, then we hope to see what their fans have to say through comments, reaction.
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What The Teams Accomplished Last Season: In one of the more surprising finishes to a game in 2013, the Lions led the Warriors 36-32 and had the ball near midfield with 22 seconds to go but their punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Westlake went on to a 39-36 win to capture the Marmonte League championship. Both teams lost in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Pac 5 Division playoffs when the Lions lost to Mater Dei of Santa Ana and the Warriors lost to Servite of Anaheim. Both teams finished 8-3.
Snapshot of Westlake: There were 15 starters (eight on defense, seven on offense) that weren’t seniors last season but that didn’t prevent head coach Jim Benkert’s team from capturing the Marmonte League championship and you would think with a year of experience and so many players back they are the team to beat this year. Just a sophomore last season, quarterback Malik Henry led the offense as he passed for 2,362 yards and 21 touchdowns in an attack that had over 66 percent of the offense come through the air. Henry was named to the Cal-Hi Sports all-state sophomore team. Senior LB Reno Dubreuil also will be back to lead the defense after a team-high 87 tackles last season to go along with three sacks.
Snapshot of Oaks Christian: Unlike the Warriors, the Lions are going to have some big holes to fill on both sides of the ball and perhaps none of those will be tougher to fill than at quarterback as Brandon Dawkins is gone after passing for over 3,300 yards and 38 touchdowns last season. Whoever ends up taking the snaps will have Duke-bound OT Reno Rosene blocking for him up front. Also losing the top RB and top WR from last year, the Lions might have a tough time matching their 8-3 season last year. The big news, of course, is that head coach Bill Redell is coming out of a two-year stint of retirement to once again lead the program. There also will be some interesting games early in the season for Oaks Christian as it will go on the road to take on Bakersfield and then Cathedral Catholic of San Diego.
More Top Players for Westlake: WR Andre Baccellia (46 receps, 954 yards, 8 TDs); WR Nick Rodriguez (29 receps, 574 yards, 9 TDs); RB Chase Jasmin (led team in rushing as soph.); DB Trenton Padilla (49 tackles); DB Jesse Cuccia (5 ints); PK Kevin Robledo (All-State Jr. 1st team).
More Top Players for Oaks Christian: WR Alex Bachman (Wake Forest); OLB Eddie Rudinski (3 star recruit); DE Trevor Howard (3 star recruit); LB Andre Chevalier (3 star recruit); OL Jalen Larry (6-4 280, 5.22 in 40)
Recent History Between These Two: Westlake has won three straight against the Lions since the two teams split their two games back in 2010. The two teams didn’t play two years ago but in 2011 they played twice.
Hunch As To Where Each Team Should Be Ranked In The Preseason: With a trip to the CIF Open Division state bowl game on its recent resume in addition to a separate 14-0 season, Westlake has the track record, coaching pedigree and loads of top returnees to contend for a top 10 overall ranking. Oaks Christian probably isn’t going to land in the top 25 but somewhere in the top 50.
Next Preseason Duel: Del Oro (Loomis) vs. Granite Bay.