H.-W. SETS UP N.D. SHOWDOWN : H.-W. 19, CHAMINADE 17.
All season, Harvard-Westlake High School football coach Dave Bennett has made one simple request of his team: Please, please win enough games to make the regular-season finale against Notre Dame mean something.
On Saturday afternoon, the Wolverines granted his wish. With Vaughn Glover intercepting two passes, including one for a 43-yard touchdown, and Steve Durbin catching a 72-yard TD pass, Harvard-Westlake held off visiting Chaminade 19-17 to clinch a Southern Section Division III playoff berth and set up a Mission League title showdown with Notre Dame next Saturday at Harvard-Westlake.
``I wanted to play Notre Dame here with something at stake,'' Bennett said. ``It's going to be a great game.''
The Wolverines (6-3, 3-1) almost blew their chance to play for a league championship. Leading 19-7 late in the third quarter, Harvard-Westlake seemed to put the game away when Durbin scored on a 15-yard TD run. But a clipping penalty wiped out the TD. Moments later, Chaminade's James Webber blocked a 36-yard field-goal attempt, with Wilson Del Pizzo picking up the loose ball and running 72 yards for the touchdown.
Then the Eagles (1-3, 3-5-1) stopped Harvard-Westlake on fourth down from its own 29, setting up a 43-yard field goal by Gene Lee with 8:44 left that pulled Chaminade to within 19-17. The Eagles' last attempt to win the game ended when quarterback Ray Rodriguez threw an incomplete pass on fourth down from the 50 with 43 seconds left.
The Eagles picked up 122 yards in penalties. It got so frustrating for linebacker Tom Haugh that he kicked a penalty flag into the air, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. Chaminade's Steven Hoo rushed for 170 yards on 26 carries.
Harvard-Westlake was boosted by kicker John Barry, who converted field goals of 34 and 44 yards. Add to that, lineman Odo Avizienis and linebacker David Dobkin made big plays on defense.
Glover tried to do a Keyshawn Johnson imitation after his 43-yard interception return by removing his helmet to celebrate. He drew a 15-yard penalty.
``That doesn't happen often, so I had to do something for the fans,'' he said. ``I tried to strike a Superman pose. I learned my lesson.''
Now the Wolverines can focus on Notre Dame, expected to be ranked No. 1 in Division III after Dos Pueblos was upset Friday night.
Harvard-Westlake has already shut down one top running back this season when it beat North Hollywood and Dante Clay. Next up is Justin Fargas.
``We handled Dante, so we hope we can handle Justin,'' Glover said.