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Thousand Oaks kicker is last-second hero in win over Moorpark

Thousand Oaks Lancers defeat Moorpark, 27-24, in a Marmonte League opener. Kicker Jamie Sutcliffe, who missed three field goals in the game, knocks through the winning points as time expires.

September 16, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

At a time when public schools are battling for relevancy in high school sports, there are always those special moments when a bunch of neighborhood kids get together and play their hearts out in a game that goes down to the final second with victory or defeat decided by a simple act of courage.

It happened Friday night in a Marmonte League opener between Moorpark and Thousand Oaks. Kicker Jamie Sutcliffe, who had missed three field goals in the game, boomed a 40-yard field goal as time expired, giving Thousand Oaks a 27-24 victory and setting off a delirious victory celebration.

"I know my team believes in me," Sutcliffe said after being mobbed by teammates. "It wasn't my best day. You have to keep your head up even when things are bad."

Moorpark (1-1) had taken a 24-17 lead with 9:46 left on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Grant Rohach to Chad Hansen. But Thousand Oaks' Blake Howell returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown with 4:25 left to tie the score. Then Max Player came up with the third interception of the night off Rohach — at the eight-yard line with 2:27 remaining to set up a game-winning drive.

Rohach, an Iowa State commit, did many good things. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 70 yards and one touchdown.

But he seemed to force the ball while trying to lift up his team.

Aaron Stanton rushed for 131 yards, and Jayce Foster had three sacks for Moorpark.

In the end, the Lancers found a way to win behind mistake-free play from quarterback Clark Abourisk, who passed for 197 yards and one touchdown, and running back Nathan DeBeikes, who rushed for 107 yards.

"Both quarterbacks played real well," Thousand Oaks Coach Mike Leibin said. "This is what high school football should be. Moorpark kids playing TO kids, competing to the end. We have so much respect toward each other, and I love it."

The 10-team Marmonte League is ground zero in the debate about public versus private schools.

The eight public schools in the league were left kicking and screaming after being forced to add Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure, which have no attendance boundaries and can attract students from Lancaster to Carpinteria.

Last season produced sell-out crowds for some games involving the private-public matchups, but the disparity from top to bottom in the league is striking, and the animosity remains strong.

In truth, Friday's Moorpark-Thousand Oaks matchup was an unofficial semifinal game in the competition to determine best public school in the league. Next week, Thousand Oaks plays Westlake to decide the unofficial public school title in the league.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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