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Prep football: Wildcats look to slow Saugus backfield

West Ranch has had trouble stopping the run in Foothill play and the Centurions are a run-first team

Posted: November 4, 2010 10:27 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

It’s nothing spectacular, but it works for Saugus.

A methodical, grind-it-out, power-running style of offense has aided the Centurions to two straight Foothill League wins and a potential playoff spot.

The next task for the unique, yet effective offense will come at 7 p.m. today against West Ranch at Valencia High School.

“It’s sort of a relentless, grinding steam roller,” said West Ranch head coach Sean O’Brien of the Saugus offense. “It’s like being run over by a very slow-moving steam roller.”

It also helped that Saugus (5-3, 2-1) played an entire game with quarterback Jared Carbajal and running back Tyler Watt both in the backfield for the first time this season.

Both players have missed time with knee injuries this season. Watt suffered his during a preseason scrimmage.

When Watt returned for Saugus’ league opener against Canyon, Carbajal when down with his injury.

Centurions head coach Jason Bornn said the quarterback was cleared to play just before last week’s game against Golden Valley.

Though the junior wasn’t 100 percent, Bornn said, he still played a key role in the 27-12 win, which put Saugus into a tie for second place in league with the Cowboys.

With 630 yards on 135 carries, Carbajal is the team’s leading rusher, but Watt is catching up fast. In three games this season, Watt has tallied 317 yards on 63 rushes.

“You cannot focus on any one player in particular because if you do, then we’re going to hurt you,” Bornn said.

Facing a team with multiple playmakers might not bode well for the Wildcats (4-4, 1-2), who have allowed an average of 342 yards on the ground in their last three games.

“We need to step up the intensity a little bit,” O’Brien said. “We are in areas. We are in space and we’re not quite closing to make tackles.”

During last week’s 59-38 loss to Canyon, West Ranch tried four onside kicks because it didn’t want to give Canyon more chances on offense.

O’Brien doesn’t expect to use the same strategy against Saugus.

“When you go to the onside kick, you’re kind of being desperate and you’re kind of rolling the dice a little bit,” he said. “We don’t want to give Saugus a 50-yard field.”

Despite their recent defensive struggles, the Wildcats have shown they can score quickly.

Senior quarterback Connor Eichten has become comfortable with the speedy receiver combination of Rawston Redick and Josh Guzman.

“They do a very good job of moving the ball and distributing it to their playmakers, and I think for them, that’s huge,” Bornn said.

In recent weeks, West Ranch has also opened up the ground game by feeding the ball to four different players out of the backfield, including fullback Trevin Manuel in short-yardage situations.

“You’ve got to bring your own steam roller,” O’Brien said.

The Wildcats gained a season-high 288 rushing yards last week, led by 165 yards from Quaid Willis.

Whether they move the ball through the air or on the ground, ball security will be paramount for both teams.

Two early West Ranch turnovers shifted the momentum heavily in Canyon’s favor last week.

In contrast, the Centurions picked off three passes and recovered two fumbles, leading to 21 of their 27 points against the Grizzlies.

“We stress turnovers constantly about taking advantage of whatever the offense gives us, and if the ball’s in the air, defensive backs are taught that they are now receivers, they’re no longer defensive backs,” Bornn said. “They need to go get the ball.”

For the Wildcats, the plan is simple, O’Brien said. Stop Saugus on four consecutive plays and get the ball back.

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