WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- It’s rare that a first-quarter interception can have a significant impact on a football game. But when Westlake’s John Stuart picked off a pass from Moorpark quarterback Grant Rohach in the first quarter, the momentum of the game immediately shifted in favor of Westlake.
Westlake, the No. 2 team in the ESPNLA.com rankings, drove down the field and scored the first of five unanswered touchdowns en route to a 35-14 win over Moorpark in a Marmonte League game at Westlake High School on Friday night.
Moorpark had a great game plan: Chew up the clock, chip away some yardage on the field, keep the Westlake offense off the field and test the patience of one of the highest scoring teams in the state. It worked, as Moorpark started the game with a 16-play drive to the Westlake 18-yard line.
“That was the game plan,” Moorpark coach Tim Lins said. “That play kind of got us on our heels. We weren’t able to recover until the end of the first half.”
On second and nine, Rohach tried to dump the ball to one of his running backs, but Stuart, all 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds of him, got in the way of the pass. He tipped it in the air, grabbed the ball and rumbled to the 25-yard line.
He fumbled, but his Westlake teammates bailed him out by recovering the ball.
“They tried to keep our offense off the field,” Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “Johnny came off the edge and sniffed out a screen. Then our offense went to work.”
Did it ever. The turnover gave Westlake the ball for the first time in the game. The Warriors went 74 yards on 13 plays and capped their first scoring drive with a 7-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nick Isham with 33 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
Westlake went on to score two more times in the first half to take a 21-0 halftime lead.
Moorpark, which ran the ball effectively on its first drive, sputtered on its next two possessions. The Musketeers went three and out both times and gained only 19 yards. Rohach was sacked on the first play of the first drive for a 10-yard loss.
Moorpark had one successful drive before the end of the first half, but it ended with an incomplete pass to the end zone. Moorpark drove to the Westlake 36-yard line on seven plays, but had time for only one hail Mary shot at the end zone before time expired in the first half.
Westlake running back Tavior Mowry scored his first of two touchdowns in the second quarter. He punched the ball in from a yard out to give Westlake a 14-0 lead. He gained 50 yards on 14 carries and hurt his ankle on the first play of the second half. He returned to the game, but saw limited action in the second half.
“He kept grinding out the hard yards,” Benkert said about Mowry, whose biggest gain from scrimmage was a 13-yard run. He was tackled for a loss once and held to no yardage on two of his carries. “That’s unusual for him. They just always seemed to have a piece of him.”
Westlake receiver Nelson Spruce caught an acrobatic 22-yard touchdown pass from Isham to give his team a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
“Nick was trying to make something happen and Nelson made a great play on the ball,” Benkert said.
Spruce caught another touchdown pass from Isham, this one from 3 yards out, in the third quarter to give Westlake a 28-0 lead. Spruce caught five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Mowry capped Westlake’s scoring with a 1-yard run with 9:46 to play in the third quarter. Up 35-0, Westlake rolled out its back-ups on offense and defense.
Moorpark finally got on the scoreboard with 8:46 to play in the fourth quarter. Lionel Poole caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Rohach. Moorpark added another touchdown three minutes later on a 5-yard run by Garrett Dibene.
Rohach completed 20-of-24 passes for 115 yards, a touchdown and one game-changing interception.
Isham was 17-of-20 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns for Westlake. He also carried the ball six times for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Moorpark running back Aaron Stanton led all rusher with 53 yards on 16 carries.
“We’re confident we can outscore people if we have to,” Benkert said. “I think we just have to be patient.”