The Moorpark football team defeated Westlake, 38-35, in the regular season finale Friday night. Eric Kreitz kicked a 36-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter to give the Musketeers the win, at home.
By virtue of the victory, the Musketeers will play a very good team, Alemany, on the road, in the first round of the playoffs this Friday night, but may have avoided Westlake’s fate.
Westlake will have to trek to Mission Viejo High School to play the team that Maxpreps has ranked second in the state and fourth in the nation.
Moorpark head coach Tim Lins said he knew that Kreitz had the leg to make the game-winning field goal. The toughest part, though, was that Kreitz had to endure three timeouts before the kick.
“He had to wait to make that kick,” Lins said. “We took a timeout to stop the clock. And then Westlake called timeout twice.”
Added to that, Kreitz actually was successful on one kick, but Westlake had been called for being off sides and it was a pre-snap penalty. So, although five yards closer than the original spot, Kreitz had to kick a second time.
In affect, it turned out to be no mere icing of the senior kicker. This turned into outright Cryogenics. But Kreitz endured the process and prevailed.
“He did a nice job by performing that kick,” Lins said. “He’s had a really good year. He’s our punter. He’s our kickoff guy. So he handles all the kickoff duties. He’s been really solid for us.”
Moorpark heads to the postseason 8-2 and finished 4-1 in the Marmonte League. The win over Westlake secured third-place in the league. Westlake was fourth.
The Musketeers fought back from a 21-7 deficit, which may have been more worrisome to the Moorpark coaches because the team was just coming off a 55-7 loss at Oaks Christian the week before.
“We were a little concerned that if we got behind early it would be a factor,” said Lins. “But it really wasn’t. It was a whole, completely different game (than the Oaks Christian game). Our kids had a completely different mindset.
“I think they just knew that if they kept battling we were going to score some points, and we did.”
That doesn’t mean there were no worries when his team fell behind by two touchdowns.
However, a 6-yard TD pass from Moorpark’s senior quarterback Austin Cole to Connor Christ, a senior tight end, provided relief with 29 seconds left before halftime.
“It’s always concerning to be down 21-7,” Lins said. “But nobody panicked. We were able to get back in the grove and get that touchdown before the end of the half and that was a good thing for us.”
Moorpark trailed 21-14 at the intermission.
In the second half, the Musketeers’ defense came up with big plays and Cole was more efficient.
“The defense played well,” Lins said. “The defense did what they had to do. That’s a high-powered offense that they were going against and our defense made plays that got the ball back for us when we needed it.”
With Moorpark trailing, 28-21, and Westlake (6-4, 3-2) trying to punt, Tanner Burnette-McGrath, a senior defensive lineman, and Aaron Stanton, the team’s standout running back, who obviously can also play on special teams, smothered the Warrior’s punter.
Tyler Puccio, a junior defensive lineman, recovered the blocked punt/fumble at the Westlake 5-yard line.
Moorpark scored three plays later when Cole hit Chad Hansen for a 9-yard TD strike. It was Hansen’s second touchdown reception of the game. It tied the score at 28.
After each team scored again to make it 35-35, Kreitz missed an ambitious 54-yard field goal attempt. However, Puccio pounced on another fumble by the Warriors.
This time he recovered it at the Westlake 28-yard line, in time for the Musketeers to set up their more manageable, but by no means, easy, game-clinching field goal by Kreitz.
Cole, who had two turnovers in the first half deep in Westlake territory, one a fumble on the 8-yard line, the other an interception, came back strong in the second half.
Cole completed 22 of 36 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns. Hansen had four receptions for 129 yards (stats are not official). Along with the one to Christ, he also threw a TD pass to Tyler Collet, a junior wide receiver.
Stanton ran for 102 yards after running for 95 against Oaks Christian. He has been a consistently stellar runner for the Musketeers this fall.
“(Stanton) is a guy that has been gaining tough yardage for us,” Lins said. “He’s really pulled his weight. I think he carried the ball 30 times (against Westlake). That’s a lot of work that he did. He’s been a workhorse for us.”
Read a preview of the Moorpark – Alemany first-round CIF playoff game, here, later this week.