Malik Henry isn’t your typical underclassman. He certainly wasn’t on Thursday night. More often than not, the junior quarterback from Westlake Village Westlake played with the poise of a veteran against Santa Ana Mater Dei. No easy task given the high-profile opponent.
Despite the efforts of the 6-foot-2, 174-pounder, and the fact he set up a game-winning field-goal attempt for Kevin Robledo, the underdog Warriors came up short in a 28-27 nonleague loss to the visitors. Still, Henry has nothing to be ashamed of after his effort.
Trailing 28-17 with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter, the Warriors (3-2 overall) rallied. Then, with three seconds left, a 33-yard attempt by Robledo was somehow tipped at the line of scrimmage. The kick missed the mark as time expired against the Monarchs (5-0).
In most cases, with Robledo seemingly in control of his team’s destiny, Westlake ends up with a win. The senior, after all, is one of the nation’s best and his selection to the Army All-American Bowl this last week is further proof of that. It wasn’t meant to be this time, however.
Henry put Westlake in position to win with an 82-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Cuccia with 6:28 left in the fourth quarter. His subsequent two-point running conversion cut the deficit to 28-25. A safety on a bad snap out of the end zone on a Mater Dei punt closed the gap to a single point.
In need of a good start against a traditionally tough team, Henry thew a one-yard touchdown pass to Theo Howard in the first quarter. The Warriors led 17-6 at halftime, in fact. Henry did a good job spreading the ball around throughout the game and finished with 212 yards through the air.
There are no moral victories in a game like this. Still, positives can be taken away from the outcome by Westlake, which was taking on one of the Southland’s traditional powerhouse programs. Bottom line: Westlake should take consolation in the fact it has an emerging young leader under center.
Sean Ceglinsky has covered sports in the Southland for the better part of the past 15-plus years. Follow him on Twitter: @SeanCeglinsky