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A big one in many ways

Posted: September 24, 2009 10:36 p.m.
Updated: September 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Tonight's Hart-Westlake football matchup at Cougar Stadium at 7:30 p.m. is a marquee game in so many ways.

The Indians (2-1) and Warriors (2-0) have played against each other every year this decade.

Both teams are hot coming in.

Finally, it is one of the biggest interdivisional matchups on the docket.

On top of everything, Westlake and Hart are not scheduled to meet next season, as Hart head coach Mike Herrington said he prefers not to play Northern Division opponents during the regular season.

Hart jumped into this week's CIF-Southern Section Northern Division poll at No. 10.

After Westlake's impressive 42-20 win over Saugus last Thursday, the Warriors jumped up a spot to No. 4.

Westlake's offense made the biggest impression last week, especially quarterback Nick Isham.

Though Isham was shuffled in and out of the backfield with Michael Bercovici, Isham was 15-of-17 for 179 yards with four touchdown passes. He also caught four passes and even intercepted a pass on defense and took it back 75 yards for a touchdown.

"They're so efficient on offense and they have a lot of weapons - a good line, one outstanding quarterback and one good quarterback and a running back that's fast and quick," Herrington said.

Westlake head coach Jim Benkert said he plans on working Isham and Bercovici into the game tonight.

Running back Tavior Mowry ran for 106 yards and the Warriors didn't need a huge game from big-play receiver Nelson Spruce, though he still caught seven balls for 108 yards.

Where Hart could possibly take advantage is on penalties.

Westlake committed 10 penalties in last week's game, one of which was on a 4th-and-2 that led to a Saugus touchdown.

"They're going to exploit our weaknesses," Benkert said. "We have to identify those weaknesses. It's going to be challenging. Hart has taken some huge steps since beating Palmdale with all those athletes."

Since Hart stumbled in its opener, losing 33-28 to El Camino Real, it has looked impressive in gathering victories against Palmdale (37-34) and Righetti last Thursday (27-13).

The Indians' offense gets a lot of credit for that success, notably senior quarterback C.J. Reyes, who has thrown for 669 yards the last two games.

Hart had its worst season in Herrington's 21-year tenure last year when it finished 5-6.

The head coach said he can already see signs of a difference this year.

"Just a feeling, a vibe we get from the team. The attitude is more business-like than last year," Herrington said of differences. "I think we're a little more aggressive, especially on defense."

Herrington pointed to the performances of linebackers Hayden Scott and John Cornelius as keys for his team.

If last week was an indication of Westlake is capable of, the Indians' defense will be an even larger key in tonight's game.


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