The season is still young but No. 7 Oaks Christian may be showing signs of emerging as a dark-horse candidate in the LA title race with its 8-7 victory over No. 3 Harvard-Westlake on Friday.
Since the addition of Head Coach Jeremy Sieverts in 2016, Oaks Christian has underwent a program turnaround and morphed into a perennial top-10 team in the LA coaches poll. This year, the Lions are beginning to make a serious case for themselves as they stifled a comeback effort from 2018 LA semifinalist Harvard-Westlake on the road in their second game of the season.
“It was a really hard-fought game by two good teams early in the year,” Sieverts said. “We were able to get up a little bit and kind of control the game and then credit to them as they crawled back into it … but we were able to weather the storm a little bit and I was really proud of our leaders.”
For the first quarter and halfway through the second, the game was a physical and low-scoring affair. Both sides took turns probing the other’s disciplined defense with methodical ball movement in order to find any sort of daylight.
The score was tied 2-2 late in the first half, but that would soon change as Harvard-Westlake’s turnovers started took to take their toll thanks to a tenacious effort by the Lions’ defense. This gave Oaks Christian extra possessions to run their offensive sets in the half field and capitalize on their chances to take a 4-2 lead into the break.
“Every year, coach Sieverts has his team ready to go. They have a great defense and they have an offense that really controls the ball well,” said Harvard-Westlake Head Coach Erik Krum. “We wanted to get out and disrupt his offensive hands and have our defense pressure out a little bit, but they did a great job of possessing the ball and moving the ball around and unfortunately on offense for us, we had a few too many turnovers.”
The momentum shift carried on in the second half as Oaks Christian extended their lead to 7-3 by the end of the third quarter. It seemed the Lions were on their way to a comfortable victory, but that all changed in the final period.
After the Lions tacked on one more goal with 10:49 remaining, the Wolverines kicked it into high gear and began mounting a comeback little by little.
“The last quarter, I felt like we won a few more of the ground balls and a few more of those 50-50 balls and we were finally moving the ball well,” Krum said. “The boys had a little bit more of a ‘pissed off’ attitude and that attitude helped in the fourth quarter.”
Harvard-Westlake cut its deficit to just two goals with 5:54 remaining but Oaks Christian picked it back up to put a stop to the bleeding. The Wolverines did manage to squeeze in one more goal to draw within one, but it was already too late as the Lions escaped with the 8-7 win.
Notable performances of the night included Asher Early, who netted four goals for Harvard-Westlake while recording six ground balls. Attackman Cade Rogers recorded a hat-trick for Oaks Christian while middies Mike Spaeth and Ronny Redell each added a brace with three combined assists.
Sieverts said he was glad to have walked away with a win over such a tough opponent and was proud of the way his defense remained poised in the face of adversity.
“We graduated our whole starting defense last year but our defense right now of Cooper Schulze, Josh Harrison and Tyler Akerley has stepped into those big shoes really well, and I’m excited because they’re going to get better as we go on here,” Sieverts said. “They communicate well, and they know what they’re doing, and we’re going to rely on them to hold teams to low-scoring games. We’re just thrilled on how they did tonight.”