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Hart football: Upset on their minds

Prep football: When Hart hosts Westlake tonight at COC, it will try to add to its long list of under

Posted: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hart quarterback Connor Wingenroth (10) runs the ball against West Ranch on Nov. 10. Hart takes on No. 1 seed Westlake tonight at COC.

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During the previous decade, the Hart-Westlake rivalry was as close as it was fierce.

The Indians met the Warriors each season from 2000-2009, splitting the series with five wins each before the two teams stopped scheduling each other in 2010.

Tonight though, the CIF has scheduled the matchup for them, as both teams will meet in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs’ second round at College of the Canyons at 7 p.m.

Entering the matchup, Westlake (11-0) is the clear favorite.

The Warriors finished their undefeated season as Marmonte League champions — a league regarded as the best in the Northern Division — and are ranked as the state’s No. 1 team, and the nation’s No. 6 team, by

But being an underdog is a position Hart has been comfortable with in the past.

Most recently, the Indians were heavy underdogs to St. Bonaventure in 2006, and Mission Viejo in 2003 and 2005.

The Indians won all three of those contests, and similar upsets can be found up and down head coach Mike Herrington’s resume.

"I don’t know (why we’ve been successful) ..." Herrington said. "I think our staff does a good job of preparing week in and week out and that’s one of the reasons."

If this year’s Hart team is to duplicate those feats though, they’ll have to slow down the high-octane offensive attack of Westlake.

The Warriors are led by quarterback Justin Moore, who has hurt opponents with both his arm and legs.

Moore has thrown for 1,951 yards and 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

On the ground, the junior has added 770 yards and 10 touchdowns.

With all of its strengths, though, none are bigger than the offensive and defensive lines.

Johnny Stuart, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 250-pound senior defensive end is tied for the team lead with five sacks.

Opposite Stuart is Kyle Erickson, a 6-foot junior who has added five sacks of his own.

At defensive tackle, the Warriors line up 6-foot-3 senior Justin Solis and senior Kenneth AhChing.

"Their two defensive tackles are some of the best in the Southland here in CIF," Herrington said. "It’s going to be a big challenge."

Hart should benefit from its own mobile quarterback, Connor Wingenroth, whose legs could help alleviate the pressure Westlake likes to apply.

"Their quarterback is young, but he’s really active," said Westlake head coach Jim Benkert. "He makes something out of nothing. He’s a good player and when they inserted him into the line up it was a spark plug."

Offensively, Westlake likes to speed the game up, meaning Hart will need to avoid three-and-outs in order to give its defense a break against the Westlake offense.

"We’re just going to run our normal stuff," Herrington said. "We’ve already challenged the offensive line to try to do as best as they can. We’ll see what happens."

But if that doesn’t work, Hart has traditionally opened up its playbook with regularity when trying to pull off an upset.

"We have every trick play in the book this week," Herrington said, "so Westlake better be ready for the trick plays."

One potential game changer for the Indians, senior wide receiver/defensive back Tim White, was forced to leave the Palos Verdes game early with an ankle injury and has been declared a game-time decision by Herrington.

The Indians were able to get past the Sea Kings 15-14 on Nov. 18 without White, but against the Warriors, the seniors’ skills will likely be necessary to match up with the speedy wide receivers and defensive backs of Westlake.

Warriors defensive back Dashon Hunt has intercepted four passes, with fellow defensive back Connor Cook and free safety Matt Baynard picking off three each.

They’ll be charged with covering White, wide receiver Riley Stauffer and freshman wide receiver Trent Irwin, whose 51-yard touchdown pass against the Sea Kings proved to be the game winner.

"We have to prepare for all types of things they have," Benkert said. "They have a good receiving core, good line and a good quarterback — especially when he runs around and has time to get open."

The key tonight could be just how long Hart can hang around with the state’s top team.

For the majority of the season, Westlake has won with ease. The Warriors have played only three games that did not feature a running clock in the fourth quarter, when they defeated Del Oro 30-27 in their season opener, Oaks Christian 43-21 in week five and St. Bonaventure 35-14 in week 10. In addition, few starters played four, or even three, quarters, Benkert said.

"I think (playing in the Marmonte League) prepared us well for these games, but you can’t afford to have a let down," Benkert said. "Things have come kind of easy for us. We haven’t faced adversity since the first week of the season and how we respond to adversity can be a huge question mark for us."

The question is, will Hart be the first team solve the Warriors?

"We don’t have anything to lose," Herrington said. "We’re going out to play hard and see what happens. We want our kids to play hard 100 percent and good things will happen."



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