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Ventura Steps Around Westlake, 47-29

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Westlake High seldom has difficulty moving the football. Even in a year in which Erik Holcomb appears to be their lone weapon, the Warrior offense is impressive.

Westlake’s problems stem from a porous defense that tends to break before it bends. That was the case again Friday when Ventura rolled to a 47-29 win in a nonleague game at Thousand Oaks.

Two fourth-quarter plays were indicative of Westlake’s defensive shortcomings.

The first came on a fourth-and-two play with Ventura nursing a 27-22 lead. Westlake stacked its defense to stop a dive, and Ventura quarterback Trevor Rumsey ran around right end 28 yards for a touchdown with 11 minutes 52 seconds left.

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Then came the collapse. After Westlake answered Rumsey’s score with a 12-yard touchdown run by Holcomb to pull within 34-29, Ventura faced a third-and-24 situation with 6:57 left.

Westlake Coach Jim Benkert said the Warriors expected a screen pass. Ventura obliged when Rumsey hit tailback Derek Swafford.

But Benkert didn’t expect Swafford to break several tackles en route to a 38-yard touchdown that gave Ventura a 40-29 lead.

“The kids knew that was coming, but we just didn’t make the tackles,” Benkert said.

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That was the situation most of the night. Ventura (2-1) came right at the Warriors and was seldom stopped. The Cougars scored on seven of their nine drives and amassed 481 total yards.

Swafford, who finished with 259 all-purpose yards, rushed 16 times for 175 yards. Junior fullback Devon Passno added 115 yards in 17 carries and scored four touchdowns. Rumsey completed six of 13 passes for 128 yards and carried four times for 47 yards.

“It’s nice when you have a backfield with some speed,” Ventura Coach Harvey Kochel said. “We didn’t make a lot of great calls, the kids just made some things happen.”

Westlake, which entered the game with 83 rushing yards this season, put wide receivers Holcomb (eight carries for 63 yards) and Tim Kirksey in the backfield and it paid off with a season-high 92 yards on the ground.

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Holcomb added nine catches for 143 yards and returned three kicks for 79 yards. Westlake’s plan was hampered when Kirksey, who also started at safety, left the game in the second quarter because of a concussion.

“That really took us out of our game plan,” Benkert said.

Westlake scored on the game’s first drive, going 80 yards in 12 plays. Holcomb, who accounted for 37 yards on the drive, scored from three yards and hit Ryan Stoops for the two-point conversion that gave Westlake an 8-0 lead with 7:24 left in the first quarter.

Ventura answered with a six-yard run from Passno with 1:48 left, but Rumsey’s conversion run failed. The key play of the drive came on fourth and five at Westlake’s 34, when Westlake was penalized for pass interference on an incomplete pass.

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Westlake quarterback John Snyder (14 of 24 for 202 yards) hit Stoops for a three-yard score with 10:06 left in the half and Snyder added the point-after to give Westlake a 15-6 lead.

Passno scored two more times--on 13- and 10-yard runs--to move Ventura in front 20-15 with 1:10 left in the half.

Swafford’s 22-yard run extended Ventura’s lead to 27-15 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. Snyder answered with a one-yard run and the conversion to pull Westlake within 27-22 with 4:59 left in the quarter.


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