Westlake Running Up the Score With New and Improved Passing Game
Monday morning quarterbacks can’t complain about the switch of signal-callers at Westlake High.
Neither can Warrior quarterbacks Casey Preston and Steve Aylsworth, whose success in their new roles has helped carry Westlake into the second round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs.
Preston threw four touchdown passes Friday night as Westlake rolled over Bell Gardens, 35-14. Aylsworth, a senior who moved from quarterback to split end three weeks ago, hauled in 11 passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns.
Preston, a junior, whose brother Todd passed for a school-record 5,647 yards and 46 touchdowns at Westlake from 1988 to 1990, threw for more than 1,200 yards in only five games last season for the sophomore team.
This season, Preston has thrown for 903 yards and nine touchdowns. Aylsworth has 23 receptions for 218 yards and five touchdowns.
Perhaps Preston is a natural at quarterback.
Perhaps Aylsworth is not.
Still, Coach Jim Benkert struggled with the decision to replace Aylsworth.
“Steve is a great athlete and he’s had some great weeks,” Benkert said. “But with our offense, we need a kid who is going to stay in the pocket and throw the football.”
Aylsworth, an All-Ventura County defensive back who set a school record with nine interceptions last season, was too quick to scramble, Benkert said.
And his inclination to improvise not only irritated his coach but members of the offensive line.
“I thought he did really well,” Preston said. “But Steve’s more of an athlete than a quarterback kind of guy. He thought [the switch] was a good idea. We both liked the idea a lot.”
That eased Benkert’s fears that morale might suffer.
“The pressure had become too much for him,” Benkert said.
“When I told him I was going to make the switch, he was more like, ‘Whew! I felt like my back was up against the wall on every play.’ ”
Aylsworth was unavailable for comment. In fact, he’s just plain unavailable on weekends--for football practice, team parties, any affair.
Following every Westlake game, Aylsworth flies out of town with his parents just as quickly as he can shed his shoulder pads and head for the airport.
Bob Aylsworth, Steve’s brother, is the starting quarterback for Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. The Aylsworths have yet to miss a snap this season of either of their sons’ games.
“He’s not involved in our Saturday film sessions,” Benkert said of Aylsworth.
“He came to me at the beginning of the season and we worked it out. It hasn’t been a problem. We go over films during lunch [during the week].”
It sure feels good this season to be a member of the Verdugo Hills football team.
The Dons (7-4) defeated Hamilton, 20-6, on Friday for their first postseason win since 1980.
Junior running back Sean Standley and his teammates suddenly are Big Men on Campus.
That wasn’t always the case, said Standley, a member of last year’s team that was 1-7-2.
“Before, Verdugo Hills football didn’t get any respect,” said Standley, who rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns against Hamilton. “Even our band didn’t respect us.
“Now, people see that we’re for real. One of my teachers gives us bonus points when we win.”
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Second-Round Football Matchups
City Section 4-A Division: Narbonne (9-2) at Sylmar (11-0), Franklin (10-1) at Kennedy (11-0). 3-A Division: Verdugo Hills (7-4) at Eagle Rock (9-2), Monroe (8-3) at Bell (5-5-1), El Camino Real (5-5-1) at Reseda (8-3).
Southern Section Division II: Saugus (6-4) at Antelope Valley (10-1), Hart (9-2) at Dominguez (4-7). Division III: Notre Dame (11-0) at Westlake (6-4-1), Newbury Park (11-0) at Ayala (10-1), Chaminade (10-1) at Nogales (8-3), Thousand Oaks (9-2) vs. Diamond Bar (11-0) at Walnut High. Division IX: Montclair Prep (10-0) at Moorpark (8-3), Carpinteria (8-3) at St. Bonaventure (8-3), Division X: L.A. Baptist (6-5) at Cerritos Valley Christian (10-1), Big Bear (8-2) vs. Paraclete (6-5).
City Section games are Wednesday, Southern Section Friday.