Westlake Overcomes Royal, 27-16

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Put down that football and grab the textbook titled, "The History of Westlake High Football."

The teacher? Westlake Coach Jim Benkert, of course.

The classroom was Thousand Oaks High, where the Warriors handed Royal a 27-16 defeat Friday night in a Marmonte League game.

The first part of the exam, the first half, was the worst in the past five years at Westlake High as the Warriors fell behind, 16-8, and had just one first down and 39 total yards.

Passing grades were the order of the day in the second half of this test.

Behind quarterback Todd Preston's seven-of-seven passing for 102 yards and a newly found rushing attack, Westlake totaled 200 yards and scored 19 unanswered points.

The best half in five years, Benkert said.

"I think the kids realized Royal was about to beat them, and they got fired up," Benkert said.

Royal (2-7 overall, 0-5 in league play) was red hot in the first half. Matt Brinkman's 27-yard field goal and Tony Liming's four-yard touchdown run gave Royal a 10-0 lead with 5:25 left.

Westlake (3-5-1, 3-2-1) answered with Erik Holcomb's 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a two-point conversion pass that cut its deficit to 10-8 with 5:13 left.

But Brinkman added two more field goals, from 32 and 45 yards, for a 16-8 halftime lead. The final field goal was set up by Tim Ross' 32-yard interception return.

"Royal played inspired," Benkert said.

But it was Westlake that was inspired in the second half.

Preston hit Seamus Gibbons for an 11-yard score to pull Westlake within 16-14 with 2:48 left in the third quarter. Westlake then went 77 yards in nine plays on the game-winning drive and Preston hit David Monheim for a five-yard score with 6:12 to play.

Westlake added another score when Preston, who was 12 of 15 for 154 yards and three touchdowns, hit Luke Crawford on a screen pass that turned into a 29-yard touchdown with 3:53 left.

Demetrius Wynn rushed for 52 yards for the Warriors, who remained in the hunt for their first playoff berth since 1982.

Royal's Ryan Fien completed nine of 19 for 160 yards but was sacked six times. Jeff Creed caught five passes for 127 yards.

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