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Still looking for No. 1

Posted: October 1, 2009 9:44 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Canyon quarterback Jonathan Jerozal (7) pitches the ball Sept. 25 against Thousand Oaks. Canyon quarterback Jonathan Jerozal (7) pitches the ball Sept. 25 against Thousand Oaks.
Canyon quarterback Jonathan Jerozal (7) pitches the ball Sept. 25 against Thousand Oaks.

Canyon football continues its tough preleague schedule when it meets Chaminade of West Hills and a first-year head coach who is no stranger to CIF titles tonight at 7 p.m. at Chaminade.

Ed Croson, who won four CIF-Los Angeles City Section championships (2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007) during his nine years at Birmingham of Lake Balboa, now has the Eagles (3-0) at No. 10 in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division poll.

“(Chaminade) looks like a well-oiled machine,” said Canyon head coach Chris Varner, “firing on all cylinders.”

Croson said he is looking forward to the matchup with the Cowboys (0-3).

“Their kids play hard,” he said. “The reputation of Canyon High School football is great statewide. We have a lot of respect for them. To us, this is a big game because, shoot, this is probably the best team we’ve played so far. ... I think all the way around they are solid. I think they’ve had some bad luck that has hurt their record but overall, a good football team.”

It’s also a football team whose style is developing differently than expected, Varner said.

“We are going to exploit the passing game against them,” he said. “That’s our game. If you told me that in August, I’d have told you you were crazy.”

In last week’s 49-28 loss to Thousand Oaks, sophomore quarterback Jonathan Jerozal was 24-of-37 passing for 336 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with senior wide receiver Shane Habberstad nine times for 102 yards and all three scores.

Freshman wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky caught four passes for 80 yards, bringing his season total to 14 receptions for 299 yards.

Meanwhile, junior running backs Vincent Rodriguez and Trent Hernandez have led the team in rushing with 15 carries for 131 yards and 27 rushes for 142 yards, respectively.

Senior running back Daniel Hooper has carried the ball 30 times for 127 yards.

Senior Tyler Miller is also in the mix, but is recovering from a concussion suffered against Highland Sept. 17.

And as Foothill League play approaches and the stable of backs gets more experience, naming a starter becomes more difficult, Varner said.

“We’ll just have to see,” he said with a smile.

But for now, Canyon remains focused on the Eagles.

In 2008, Chaminade finished 2-9 and last in the Mission League.

And according to Croson, the team is still settling into its new system.

“We are trying to find out where it all fits,” he said. “I think the kids have been great as far as paying attention and working hard.”

Running what Croson described as a single-back system, the Eagles feature two strong running backs in 5-foot-10-inch, 155-pound senior Cory Bess and 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pound junior Tru Jarvis.

Jarvis leads the team with 49 carries for 296 yards and five touchdowns, while Bess has carried the ball 28 times for 180 yards and two scores.

While the two split carries, Bess was the featured back one week ago in the Eagles’ 38-20 win over Fairfax of Los Angeles, compiling 101 yards off 16 carries.

Varner said the two look very similar on film and that both are quick, explosive and break a lot of tackles.

Croson said it all comes down to what the defense gives them.

The mentality also applies to Chaminade quarterback Jake Basmagian.

On the season, Basmagian is 34-of-55 for 527 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions, three of which came in his first game.

“He’s consistently improved,” Croson said. “He was rusty early. That wasn’t all his fault, but it still happened.”

Meanwhile, wide receiver Brando Tesser has served as an all-purpose back, rushing for 102 yards and one touchdown, while catching seven passes for 84 yards.

To counteract Chaminade’s passing game, Varner said senior safety Tyger Rodriguez will move back to the secondary after spending time at outside linebacker in place of Miller last week.

“He’s definitely a player that we cannot afford to play without,” Varner said. “He’s an all-around great football player.”



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