WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- In a rather surprising announcement, Westlake's Justin Moore has decided that he no longer wants to play prep football. Warriors coach Jim Benkert confirmed the news on Tuesday and said the highly-touted junior quarterback plans to transfer to Simi Valley Royal.
Moore was integral part of the program for the last three years, particularly last season when he threw for 2,483 yards, rushed for another 1,099 on the ground and accounted for 40 touchdowns. His well-rounded effort earned him Southern Section Northern Division player of the year honors.
“Justin told me he was done playing football, it was not his path in life anymore, he had deviated from some of his goals,'' Benkert said. “I'm sure that people are going to say he had some kind of issue here at Westlake, I can assure you Justin had no problems. You can look, look, and look, no one will be able to draw any conclusions. It was time for him to move on, that's basically what he said.''
Nevertheless, the decision to all of a sudden quit playing the game figures to be perceived as somewhat puzzling. Moore, after all, guided the Warriors to a section title this past season, an appearance in the CIF State Football Championship Open Division Bowl and a 14-1 overall record.
Moreover, the future appeared bright. The 5-foot-10, 165-plus pound athlete was considered as one of the more high-profile players in the 2013 class. Moore had been receiving interest from a number of different Division I programs, several within the Pac-12 Conference, most notably UCLA and USC. He had a scholarship offer on the table from SMU.
Moore could not be reach for comment. Benkert, however, elaborated on the situation.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook today, college coaches and scouts want to know what's going on with Justin,'' Benkert said. “We're not talking about the third string defensive back here. He was our quarterback, the one who has been receiving all the accolades for years and years now.
“Bottom line, Justin accomplished a lot here at Westlake. He wanted to do something else with his life. Football was not in his future. He is walking away for all the right reasons. I wish him the best. He's a great kid and I was happy when he told me that he would stay in touch with me.''
In the meantime, it appears as if Moore will enroll at nearby Royal. If he decides to change his mind, under transfer rules, Moore will not be able to play next season. His next step is anyone's guess. One thing is certain: Moore's decision to no longer play football is somewhat of a shocker.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.