Kyle Penniston is one of the premier players in the Southland — arguably, one of the nation's best at his position. And if there were any doubters out there, the senior tight end from Santa Ana Mater Dei did a good job of silencing them Thursday night.
The 6-foot-5, 232-pound Penniston caused problems for Westlake Village Westlake in a nonleague game. Despite a scare from the underdogs and a missed 33-yard field-goal attempt by the Warriors' Kevin Robledo as time expired, Penniston delivered in a 28-27 victory for the visitors.
Penniston had 72 yards on four catches, each seemingly bigger than the one before for the Monarchs (5-0), who were troubled by turnovers against the Warriors (3-2). His effort should not come as a surprise, given the high-profile national status of the Wisconsin commit.
Malik Henry kept Westlake close throughout. His 82-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Cuccia and two-point conversion run cut the Warriors' deficit to 28-25. After a safety on a snap that went out of the end zone on a punt attempt by Mater Dei, the Warriors trailed by a point. They would get no closer.
Penniston didn't waste time making his presence felt. A 14-yard reception in the first quarter got things going. A few plays later, a 44-yard catch moved the ball to the goal line and quarterback Jack Lowary capped the drive with a one-yard run to give the Monarchs a 6-0 lead at 8 minutes 11 seconds.
"Kyle is a jack of all trades for us," Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said. "He does a little bit of everything. Whether it's catching the ball, run blocking, pass protection, there's not much he can't do."
In the second half, Penniston picked up where he left off. After Westlake moved ahead, his seven-yard catch in the third quarter set up Brandon LaMarche's two-yard scoring run. Penniston converted a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 17-14 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
With the focus on Penniston, teammates Curtis Robinson and Malik McMorris made things happen in the fourth quarter. Robinson scored on a 15-yard touchdown catch and McMorris found the end zone on a four-yard run to give the Monarchs a 28-17 advantage with 6:28 left.
Penniston hurt Westlake in a number of ways, although the Warriors nearly had the last laugh —that is, before the botched field-goal attempt. Penniston was right there, of course, helping out on special teams.