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Oak Park stands mighty against top Northwest Division foes

Coach Terry Shorten's squad is 8-1 after beating Ojai Nordhoff and Santa Barbara Bishop Diego in successive weeks. Receiver Matt Byer owns a Ventura County scoring mark.

October 27, 2013|Eric Sondheimer

When a high school football team knocks off unbeaten teams in consecutive weeks, it's time to pay respect.

Oak Park faced its own little playoff-like challenge the last two weeks, taking on the No. 2-ranked team in the Northwest Division, Ojai Nordhoff, then the No. 1 team, Santa Barbara Bishop Diego.

Oak Park (8-1) won each time and now can proclaim itself No. 1 in the Northwest Division six weeks before a champion is officially crowned.

"It's quite a run," Coach Terry Shorten said.

Oak Park, mostly a neighborhood school between Malibu and Agoura in Ventura County, has three offensive players enjoying extraordinary seasons.

Receiver Matt Byer has set a Ventura County record with 22 touchdown receptions. The state record is 33. Quarterback Chandler Whitbord has passed for 1,938 yards and 29 touchdowns and rushed for 879 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Brandon Coppel has rushed for 1,161 yards and nine touchdowns.

"We have a lot of weapons we haven't had in the past," Shorten said.

Byer, a 6-foot-1 senior, is one of those rare prep athletes who make coaches excited to show up to school every day. He has a 3.9 grade-point average and also plays basketball and baseball. After Saturday night's 42-28 win over Bishop Diego, he was up early Sunday playing in two basketball games at power forward.

"I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it," he said of his three-sport challenge.

He wants to play in the Ivy League, but he's having so much fun this season.

"Honestly, it's surreal," he said. "All the hard work has paid off. I think our chemistry is fantastic this year. I think it's a big part of our success."

Battle of unbeatens

When was the last time an 8-0 team went into its next game as a two-touchdown underdog?

That's the challenge facing La Canada St. Francis (8-0) on Friday night, because its opponent will be Gardena Serra (8-0), ranked No. 2 by The Times, at Serra in a Mission League title decider.

"We're not going to base our entire season whether we're a good team or not based on this one game," Coach Jim Bonds said. "We're going to fight and try our hardest."

As well as St. Francis has played, Serra has been playing at a different level.

"They can beat a few college teams," Bonds said.

He wasn't joking.

One strategy for St. Francis might be to avoid passing the ball on the side of cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who has two interception returns of more than 100 yards for touchdowns this season.

"I think we have a pretty good football team and played a pretty good schedule," Bonds said.

On Friday night, Joe Mudie rushed for 225 yards and scored two touchdowns and tight end John Carroll caught six passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-14 victory over Studio City Harvard-Westlake.

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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