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One away from better

Posted: September 24, 2009 9:36 p.m.
Updated: September 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch running back Zak Snell carries the ball against Lancaster at Valencia High on Sept. 11. The Wildcats host Beverly Hills tonight at Valencia.

The West Ranch football team already has a chance to improve on last year's win total when it hosts Beverly Hills tonight at 7 p.m. at Valencia High.

In order to do so, the Wildcats' first-year head coach Sean O'Brien knows the team will lean heavily on a player he calls "Mr. Reliable," aka junior Trevin Manuel.

The 5-foot-11-inch 230-pound bruiser of a running back has been an offensive force in each of West Ranch's (2-1) three contests.

He and Zak Snell, who both rushed for more then 100 yards each last week, have given the team a credible offense.

But O'Brien wants more.

The coach said he wants to continue the team's running success, but added the team needs to be less one-dimensional in its offensive attack.

"We're trying to build on the success of our running game, but we also need to build on our passing game," O'Brien said. "We've been trying to build on it every week but it just hasn't clicked yet."

Defensively, the Wildcats were able to control tempo for most of the game last week in a 23-14 win over Eastside.
But O'Brien saw a need for improvement there as well.

"We gave up too many big chunks (of yardage)" O'Brien said. We need to work defensively on stopping big plays."

Beverly Hills (1-1) comes into tonight's matchup still banged up from a season-opening 34-7 loss to Long Beach Jordan on Sept. 11, when the team lost its starting quarterback and running back. Both will miss tonight's game as well.

Beverly Hills head coach Donald Paysinger said the injuries forced him to re-evaluate the offense, but said the team was able to manage a 17-15 win the following week on the strength of its defense and running game.

Junior A.J. Fortier, a 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound wide receiver, is now being used as more of a power back for Beverly Hills. Running back Frank Brown gives the team more of a slashing attack on the ground.

"We like to be a team that spreads out the ball on offense, but when your starting quarterback and running back go down, you have to make some adjustments," Paysinger said.

Paysinger said his team is a relatively young group, but its speed on defense has been the key when the offense struggles.

Greg Townsend, a 6-foot-4-inch 240-pound junior defensive end, who is the son of the former NFL player of the same name, has the size and speed to make big plays in West Ranch's backfield if he is not kept at bay.

Another of the Monarchs' strengths is in their secondary, where it returns four players from last year's team.

Fortier is also a leader on defense, and Paysinger described him and returning senior captain Willy Wood as "standout players who really understand the game."

Facing a defensive unit with a lot of speed, O'Brien said the importance of the battle at the line of scrimmage would be especially obvious in tonight's matchup.

"It's going to be a good test for the offensive line to see if they can continue to improve," O'Brien said.


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