SCV’s ‘dark horse’

West Ranch pre­par­ing for Ox­nard of­fense

The Signal - - Sports - By Ha­ley Sawyer Sig­nal Sports Ed­i­tor

When West Ranch foot­ball was moved from Divi­sion 6 to Divi­sion 9 prior to this prep foot­ball sea­son, coach Chris Varner was a lit­tle sur­prised. He didn’t un­der­stand how his team, which didn’t make the CIFSouth­ern Sec­tion Divi­sion 6 play­offs in the 2017 sea­son, could have jumped three whole di­vi­sions.

The play­ers har­bored a cer­tain level of ap­pre­hen­sion as well, but af­ter a his­toric Foothill League sea­son and the pro­gram’s first-ever post­sea­son win, the Cats’ Divi­sion 6 ap­pre­hen­sion has just about van­ished.

“I think it shows that as a team, we don’t re­ally back down,” said quar­ter­back We­ston Eget. “Be­ing told we have to move up three di­vi­sions, we looked to pos­si­bly se­cure a cham­pi­onship in Divi­sion 9 last year and now that we’re up in Divi­sion 6, I think we have the same goals.”

West Ranch’s lat­est ob­sta­cle in the jour­ney to a CIF-SS ti­tle is Ox­nard, which the Wild­cats (9-2) will host at Va­len­cia High School at 7 p.m. tonight.

The Yel­low­jack­ets (9-2) were this sea­son’s un­de­feated Pa­cific View League team and boast a ros­ter that is stacked at al­most ev­ery po­si­tion.

On the ground, ju­nior run­ning back Xavier Har­ris

can run hard, rush­ing for 1,274 yards and 23 touch­downs on 134 car­ries this sea­son. He’s got hands, too, catch­ing 20 passes for an ad­di­tional 328 yards and five touch­downs.

The Wild­cats de­fense has proven it can shut down ca­pa­ble run games through­out this sea­son with lead­ing tack­lers Zachary Van Ben­nekum (92 tack­les) and Joe Tem­pesta (62 tack­les), but they’ll have to bal­ance that as­pect of the game with a solid pass­rush and lock­down cov­er­age from the sec­ondary as Ox­nard is just as dan­ger­ous through the air.

Ju­nior quar­ter­back Vin­cent Walea is 103of-182 pass­ing for 1,792 yards and 22 touch­downs with just four in­ter­cep­tions. His pri­mary tar­get has been Ore­gon com­mit JR Wa­ters, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound re­ceiver who has hauled in 34 passes for 822 yards and 14 touch­downs this sea­son.

“It’s not go­ing to be easy, but when we’ve got great ath­letes like the Ca­ma­chos and we’ve got a solid de­fense the whole year, I’m not re­ally wor­ried about it,” said Tem­pesta, a linebacker. “I have all the con­fi­dence in the world in my de­fense.”

The Ca­ma­chos, broth­ers Jo­van and Ryan, have held down the sec­ondary, com­bin­ing for 63 to­tal tack­les. Ryan has a teamhigh five in­ter­cep­tions for 111 yards and one fum­ble re­cov­ery, while Jo­van has four in­ter­cep­tions for five yards in ad­di­tion to a caused fum­ble.

Ryan and Jo­van have played both ways through­out the sea­son. Ryan is the team’s lead­ing rusher with 1,814 yards and 26 touch­downs on 169 car­ries. Jo­van is the lead­ing re­ceiver with 1,141 yards and 12 touch­downs on 52 re­cep­tions.

At the helm of the of­fense is Eget, who has logged 2,395 pass­ing yards, go­ing 128-for-252 with 23 touch­downs and 11 in­ter­cep­tions.

“It’s pretty spe­cial just to be able to get the ball out of my hands and let them do the things that they do,” Eget said of his of­fense. “I’m blessed to have the of­fense that I have. The of­fen­sive line, too. I’m ex­tremely blessed, that’s all I can say. They’re in­sane ath­letes.”

Varner said his team is still search­ing for its “per­fect game,” and that tonight’s matchup against Ox­nard could be the ideal op­por­tu­nity.

“Ev­ery­one is talk­ing about the his­tory we’re mak­ing,” Varner said. “Well, how many pages to this his­tory do you want to add?

“That’s what we’ve been say­ing be­cause we just keep go­ing and that’s kind of been our fo­cus and Ox­nard is go­ing to be tough and peo­ple don’t re­ally give us a chance. But no one ever re­ally gives West Ranch a chance in any­thing, so we’re used to be­ing the dark horse.”

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