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West Ranch football: Cats get their test

West Ranch faces highly respected St. Francis

Posted: September 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch quarterback Gerrit Mouw (12) tries to escape from Silverado’s Jordan McCain last Friday at Valencia High School. West Ranch goes into tonight’s game at 4-0.

The West Ranch football team has been tested on multiple levels this season on its way to a perfect 4-0 record.
But tonight, when the Wildcats face St. Francis High of La Canada at St. Francis at 7:30 p.m., it will be the first time all season the team will be tested in all facets of the game on the same night.

And the Wildcats are excited to see just how far they’ve come.

“In the first four games we could have breakdowns and still come away with the win,” said West Ranch head coach Sean O’Brien. “That’s not going to be the case in Foothill League and in St. Francis. (Tonight), if we have significant breakdowns in one area, that will be enough to put us away and that’s going to be the case in Foothill.”

Over the course of the first four weeks the goal for West Ranch has been to improve a passing game that has struggled to match the numbers put up by running back Jeff Coprich and the rest of the running game.

Last week, junior quarterback Gerrit Mouw completed 10-of-21 pass attempts for 150 yards and a touchdown.

“The process continues,” O’Brien said. “We’re looking for big things out of (wide receivers) Matt Christensen and Kyle Alexander. We want these guys to step up a little bit.”

But the Golden Knights are focused on testing that process even further, knowing the best way to beat the Wildcats is by making Mouw beat them through the air.

“Obviously with a young quarterback in there and a very talented running back there they’ve had most of their success on the ground with Coprich,” said St. Francis head coach Jim Bonds. “So that’s a thought, we’d like to be in a position ... where they had to beat us (passing), and get them out of their game plan.”

And while the Wildcats need their passing game to improve if they want to be victorious tonight, the real pressure might be on the defense, as the Wildcats will take on a very balanced offense in the Golden Knights.

“We try to be balanced as much as we can but also to take what the defense is giving us,” Bonds said. “I think as coaches, (O’Brien) and I both know in order to be successful you’ve got to be able to do both (run and pass).”

In their week two victory over Crescenta Valley, the Golden Knights put up over three times as many passing yards (174) as rushing yards (48). Not to appear one-sided, though, St. Francis turned around in its week three victory over Venice High and put up over twice as many rushing yards (243) as passing yards (111).

“If we do manage to stop one aspect of their offense they’ll just turn the page of their very thick playbook and run something else at us ...” O’Brien said. “This will be the first time we’re tested in all 22 positions plus special teams. And we have to show up in all areas and that’s why we’re excited. It’s finally a big stress test for the heart.”

The main tests for the Wildcats will be stopping Golden Knights starting quarterback Jared Lebowitz, who has thrown for 518 yards in three games.

Running back Austin De Los Santos leads St. Francis on the ground, averaging 5.29 yards per carry through three games and wide receiver Christian Hess has racked up 193 receiving yards on just five receptions.

If the Wildcats can stop the Golden Knights’ offense, which averages 333.7 yards per game, it will be the biggest statement the team has made in a very successful preleague season.

“This is a good culmination of our preseason,” O’Brien said. “Because finally, everything has to work.”


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