WESTLAKE VILLAGE – The final 44 seconds of the CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship game between Oaks Christian and Westlake were about as exciting as they could get.
Oaks Christian won the Northern Division championship, 29-28, scoring a fourth quarter touchdown on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brett Medders, one of the most unlikely targets on the Oaks Christian roster, at Oaks Christian High School on Friday night.
What happened in the 44 seconds after the touchdown catch by Medders made for a whirlwind of events that made the end of the game a joy and a heartbreak to watch.
Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell called for a 2-point conversion to take the lead rather than kick the extra point and tie the game. Receiver Blair Holliday lined up in a wildcat formation and ran the ball in to give Oaks Christian a one-point lead.
“We knew if we scored, we were going to go for two no matter what,” Oaks Christian quarterback Richie Harrington said. “We didn’t come here to tie or go to overtime. We came here to win the game.”
Westlake had plenty of time to drive down the field and give Alex Ball, one of the most accurate kickers in Southern California, a chance to win the game. Westlake quarterback Nick Isham came up with some clutch completions, two to Nelson Spruce and one to Tre’ Shon Wilson that was tipped by a Westlake teammate and went through the hands of an Oaks Christian defender.
Westlake drove to the Oaks Christian 24-yard line with five seconds to play in the game. Ball lined up for a 41-yard field goal attempt that would have given Westlake the win. But his kick hit the goalpost and bounced back into the end zone.
Oaks Christian dodged the proverbial bullet and won the game.
Westlake came up short in its quest for a second consecutive Northern Division championship.
“At this point, it’s very disappointing,” Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “We played well enough to win, but so did they.”
Oaks Christian built a 21-7 first-half lead on a pair of touchdown runs by running back Carlos Mendoza and one by Harrington.
Westlake was down 21-14 at halftime after scoring a touchdown on a 37-yard pass from Isham to Wilson with a little over a minute to play in the first half.
It was the first of three unanswered touchdowns by Westlake. Isham hit Justin Moore with an 8-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to tie the game, 21-21.
Westlake took the lead, 28-21, on a 1-yard run by running back Tavior Mowry on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Then the Westlake defense went to work. Westlake stalled a monster, 12-play drive by Oaks Christian midway through the fourth quarter. Oaks Christian drove to the Westlake 9-yard line when linebacker Max Winsberg intercepted a Harrington pass in the end zone.
The interception preserved Westlake’s lead and turned away a potential game-tying drive by Oaks Christian.
Westlake punted the ball away five plays later and Oaks Christian took over on its own 32-yard line with 3:28 to play in the game.
Oaks Christian drove 68 yards in 10 plays and scored with 44 seconds remaining in the game.
Harrington threw for 305 yards and a touchdown. He also threw three interceptions.
Medders, the third receiving option behind Jordan Payton and Holliday, caught seven passes for 71 yards and the touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Isham threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns and Mowry rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.