As Austin Cole, Moorpark’s senior quarterback, related in a blog last week, the Musketeers were devastated after losing at Palos Verdes on September 21, and on the bus ride home, the team talked about it and decided to make the rest of the season memorable.
On homecoming night against Agoura on Friday, Moorpark dominated its third straight opponent since the one-point overtime loss at Palos Verdes. The Musketeers have outscored those three foes 137-33.
“Well, you know, we lost a game we shouldn’t have lost,” Moorpark coach Tim Lins said, on the field after the win over Agoura. “We felt like we were a better team and we just didn’t get ready and didn’t play well enough and got beat.”
Tony Mack, a senior linebacker, said the players took the loss to Palos Verdes very personally.
“It was really kind of a grudge thing for us,” Mack said. “We don’t feel we should have lost that game and coming off that game was really tough.”
He credited the Moorpark coaches for not giving up on the players and said the players, likewise, would never give up on the coaches.
“I think we showed them that the past two weeks,” Mack said.
Moorpark defeated Thousand Oaks 44-8 last week. It was a game that was thought to have playoff implications.
“Thousand Oaks was probably the biggest win we’ve had so far,” Mack said. “It pretty much decided us getting into the playoffs. “We really keyed on that game and we were really proud of ourselves for doing so well.”
Aaron Stanton, Moorpark’s senior running back, who scored three touchdowns and ran for 90 yards on 13 carries in the first half against Agoura, agreed with his teammate about the importance of the Thousand Oaks rout.
“That was huge,” Stanton said. “As a team, that helped our confidence a lot. We knew that we could compete in this league and we just needed to show everyone that we could.”
The week prior to that, Moorpark defeated Calabasas, 51-18. It was one week after the heartbreaking defeat, and it helped the Musketeers continue to look forward, as Cole said they vowed to do on the bus ride back from Palos Verdes.
On Friday night, Moorpark looked like a well-oiled machine in the first half against Agoura. The Musketeers scored early and often, reaching the end zone for three touchdowns in the first 9:16 of the first quarter.
Cole hit Chad Hansen, a senior wide receiver, for a 57-yard TD strike on the game’s second play. Moorpark held Agoura to zero first downs in the first quarter and Stanton scored twice on 2-yard runs to make it 21-0.
“I think we just came out ready,” Stanton said of the early onslaught against the Chargers.
He scored again on a 20-yard run early in the second quarter and Ethan Shahrokhfar, a junior running back, broke free for a 62-yard TD run about two minutes later. With 8:07 left in the first half, Moorpark led 35-0.
“I thought that our defense played well and I thought we ran the ball fairly well,” said Lins, arguably mastering the art of understatement. “I felt good about Aaron Stanton and Ethan Shahrokhfar and getting off to a good start.”
Agoura scored late in the second quarter when quarterback Jack Barmasse hit wide receiver Andrew Stanton for a 5-yard score.
Jesse Paredes, a senior running back, ran for a 2-yard TD to put the finishing touches on the victory for Moorpark, with one second left in the third quarter.
The win improved Moorpark to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Marmonte League West Division.
“We play our games for the community and for our school, so it was nice to get such a good win for the community,” said Mack.
Cole was nearly perfect in the half that he played. He completed 8 of 9 passes in the game for 135 yards. He threw for 127 yards in the first quarter.
If he had played the whole game, Cole could have thrown for 300 to 400 yards, but needing to put the brakes on, so to speak, so as not to humiliate an opponent, suppressed his potentially gaudy stats.
But the psyche of his senior quarterback is not something that concerns the Moorpark head coach.
“(Austin) is a team player,” Lins said. “He’s a leader for us and he understands we’re going to do what we need to do to win the game. And that’s the kind of guy you need at that position.”
Of course Stanton might have run for more than 200 yards if he played the whole game and Shahrokhfar made the most of only two carries, gaining 74 yards.
The wide margin did allow junior running back Paul Puebla to rush for 63 yards on nine carries. And Paredes had 34 yards on 10 carries.
Although Moorpark has a big showdown against Oaks Christian in Westlake Village on October 26 – a contest that should decide who will play St. Bonaventure for the league title – don’t expect the Musketeers to look past Royal.
Moorpark will host the Highlanders this Friday night. Royal (5-2, 1-2) upset cross-town rival Simi Valley, 21-20, this past Friday.
“I don’t think it’s safe to look past teams because anyone can beat you if you don’t prepare,” said Stanton.
It is a lesson the Musketeers learned at Palos Verdes.
And while no coach wants his team to lose, especially to an inferior team, Lins said his players were able to use the loss as fuel.
“I think our kids reevaluated a little bit and were able to come back and kind of work to improve a little bit more,” he said, again, arguably understating how much better his team has played the last three games.