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Westlake Gets Points Across, 32-31

Marmonte: Preston's conversion pass to Pickard provides winning margin with 34 seconds left.


WESTLAKE VILLAGE — Two desperate teams passed in the night. And passed. And passed. And passed.

Westlake, coming off two devastating losses, overcame a 17-point fourth quarter by Newbury Park and kept its playoff hopes alive with a 32-31 Marmonte League victory Friday night.

Newbury Park's Chris Czernek passed for 391 yards. Westlake's Casey Preston threw for 387.

But in this one, he who passed last, passed best.

Preston hit fullback Kenny Pickard with a two-point conversion pass with 34 seconds to play, giving Westlake (6-2, 3-2 in league) its winning points.

Preston capped a 65-yard drive that consisted of five consecutive completions with a 15-yard toss to tight end Scott Swaving.

Coach Jim Benkert wanted a running play on the conversion, but Preston talked him into the pass to Pickard during a timeout.

"Preston said he needed to roll out," Benkert said. "He's on the field and he called the play."

One play Benkert called was to go for it on fourth and nine at Westlake's 36-yard line with 1:44 to play and the score tied, 24-24. Preston was sacked and Newbury Park scored four plays later on a 13-yard pass from Czernek to Chris Garty to take a 31-24 lead.

"A tie was as bad as a loss, and we came to win," Benkert said.

Westlake and Newbury Park combined for 972 yards of offense.

Newbury Park (6-2, 3-2), which defeated Westlake in the Division III semifinals last season, trailed after three quarters, 24-14. But after Russell Thomas intercepted a pass to end the third quarter, the Panthers came alive.

Garrett Hobba, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 84 yards in 13 carries, scored on a five-yard run to pull Newbury Park to within 24-21, and an 81-yard drive ended in a 28-yard field goal by Shad Agel to tie the score with 2:25 to play.

Czernek completed 27 of 51 passes, Preston 21 of 36.

Newbury Park's Patrick Reddick had 14 catches for 184 yards. Westlake's Joey Cuppari had 10 catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and Swaving added seven catches for 147 yards.

Westlake rushed for 122 yards, with Weems gaining 116 in 24 carries. The Warriors had 509 total yards and Newbury Park had 463.

"We played as hard as we could but Westlake has a lot of good athletes," Newbury Park Coach George Hurley said.

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