Moments after the Westlake High football team beat Arroyo Grande, Coach Jim Benkert and his players huddled up for a departing cheer:
Clutching an article in his hand--complete with anti-Westlake quotes from Arroyo Grande Coach Jon Huss, including this: “They are full of themselves, they gesticulate and they taunt,"--Benkert told his team that it absolutely deserved a 41-28 victory over the Eagles in a Southern Section Division III quarterfinal game Friday night at Westlake.
Then, to the delight of his players, Benkert crumpled up the article, from a newspaper that covers Arroyo Grande.
“It fired us up,” said Westlake receiver Joey Cuppari, who scored two second-half touchdowns and caught eight passes for 138 yards. "[The article] also said we’d never seen a team like theirs and that they’d be too physical for us.”
Physical, yes. Graceful? No.
The Eagles (9-2) gained good yardage on the ground and did pretty well in time of possession.
But they threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles, including one by Justin Arnett at the Westlake one-yard line that killed a seven-minute, 53-second drive to start the game.
Westlake (10-2) took possession, broke ground and broke a record on its first play.
Running back Jonathan Weems grabbed a hook-and-ladder pitch from Cuppari and raced down the left sideline for 99 yards and a 7-0 lead.
On the play, Weems, who finished with 168 yards in 22 carries, broke the school single-season rushing record of 1,264 yards set last year by Jamal Harris.
Despite a pair of second-quarter, back-to-back gaffes on special teams--allowing a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and then fumbling the kickoff to set up a nine-yard scoring run by Brad Pavlich--the Warriors emerged with a 21-14 lead at the half.
They extended it to 27-14 on the first possession of the second half, when Casey Preston connected with Cuppari on a two-yard corner pattern.
Preston, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 235 yards and four touchdowns, hit Cuppari again on a 23-yard pass with 8:08 to play for a 41-20 lead.
Next up for the Warriors, who advanced to the semifinals for the second year in a row, is a rematch with Marmonte League champion Camarillo, which defeated Westlake in the sixth week of the season, 33-29.