Wolf Pack’s last grasp is of Cup
- Updated: April 17, 2021
2021 EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL
WEST HILLS 20, SANTANA 7
By Jim Lindgren
SANTEE – It’s been a long, arduous journey to get to the end of the current football season – five months later than usual, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that stymied operations throughout the land for more than a year.
At least at West Hills, however, the Cup runneth over.
Cohen Benavente returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown, and the West Hills defense allowed only a fourth-quarter score to beat crosstown, Mast Boulevard rival Santana, 20-7, on Friday night to win the annual Mayor’s Cup, a tall, bright and shiny trophy they lost to the Sultans in 2019.
The Wolf Pack (2-3) also spoiled a perfect season for Santana (4-1).
“There was nothing but that trophy on all of our minds,” West Hills senior Maximus Conaway said. “This week meant the most to us. All the other weeks meant nothing compared to this one.”
After an 0-3 start, West Hills finished with consecutive wins over El Cajon Valley, 28-12, and Santana.
“It’s definitely a nice way to end the season,” West Hills coach Casey Ash said.
West Hills and Ash got an assist in this one from a familiar face – the legendary Steve Sutton – West Hills’ first coach in 1989. An offensive genius whose quarterbacks and offenses set multiple San Diego Section records. Sutton recorded a 111-77-1 mark in 17 seasons in Santee before Ash took over the program in 2007. Sutton and Jim Shepherd were Casey’s coaches when he played defensive back at West Hills in the mid-1990s.
Just before halftime, Sutton drew up a few plays and suggestions that Ash (Class of 1996) implemented into the game.
“I did use them, and they were successful, which put a smile on my face,” Ash said. “That they were there in the first place to support us was awesome, and they helped find a way for the Wolf Pack to beat Santana again … just like the old days.”
Last year, en route to the section Division IV championship game, Santana defeated West Hills, 27-13, to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Wolf Pack. On Friday, West Hills improved to 23-9 in the series, including 16-4 this century.
Junior quarterback Braden Oberg lobbed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Conaway to make it 7-0 in the first quarter.
Benavente stepped in front of a Drew Temple errant pass at the 24-yard line and raced down the south sideline of the Smurf Turf to make it 13-0 in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, the Wolf Pack went up, 20-0, on a 5-yard TD scamper by Dylan Snyder.
Oberg was 8-of-12 passing for 93 yards and a TD. Earlier in the day, he won the long jump in West Hills’ track meet against Santana. He finished this football season with 485 passing yards and four TDs.
On Friday, Conaway finished with four catches for 48 yards and a TD and had an interception. Snyder caught four passes for 45 yards.
Trevor Imbimbo posted a pair of sacks and Kalen Esguerra forced a fumble as the Wolf Pack limited Santana to 72 rushing yards.
Santana totaled 252 yards as Temple completed 14 of 29 passes for 180 yards and a TD.
The Sultans pulled within 20-7 in the fourth quarter when Temple threw a bullet strike to Jared Forster in the front right corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown. Forster finished with nine receptions for 135 yards.
Kayvion Jones was the Sultans’ leading rusher with 32 yards in nine carries.
Nick Brase and Logan Ellis led the defense with eight tackles each. Logan Jorden recorded five tackles and a sack. Forster added six tackles.
The Sultans were playing without captain Michael Richter, a three-year defensive star linebacker who also added success at running back this season. Richter injured his knee in last week’s 21-13 win over Valhalla.
“I know Santana was definitely missing Michael Richter,” Ash said. “He’s a big player physically on both sides of the ball and also plays a big part emotionally, so it’s definitely a big blow to the team not having him in the lineup.”
While Ash was ecstatic to finish the season on a high note, he is also looking forward to next year as the Wolf Pack lose only eight seniors and could have as many 42 returning lettermen.
“This year, I watched guys grow up right before our eyes,” Ash said. “Kids got better during the season when it’s usually the offseason.
“It was definitely a weird year … starting games when it was still light out.
“You take Brendan Greene, who does track, football and basketball (at the same time this spring). These are active kids who were cooped up for so long. They need to stay busy, so that all that energy that is built up, he put into the three sports.
“Just a weird season.”
WEST HILLS 20, SANTANA 7
Santana 0 0 0 7 – 0 West Hills 7 6 7 0 – 20
WH – Maximus Conaway 9 pass from Braden Oberg (Dani Hermiz kick)
WH – Cohen Benavente 76 interception return (kick failed)
WH – Dylan Snyder 5 run (Dani Hermiz kick)
S – Jared Forster 21 pass from Drew Temple (Jackson Scott kick)
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