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Foothill football: Playoff life on the line

Hart and West Ranch both need wins to stay in playoff hunt

Posted: November 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

 

A few months ago, Hart High football head coach Mike Herrington didn’t shy away from the "playoff talk."

It was easier back then before Hart had started its season and it was all about looking at the big picture.

Now, it’s a little more difficult as the Indians — who are coming off their first non-playoff season since 1980 — find themselves in a virtual must-win situation today at 7 p.m. against West Ranch at Valencia High School.

"We’ve tried to avoid all that stuff and we’re just trying to get our seventh win of the year," Herrington said. "That’s all we can do because everything else is out of our hands right now."

If Hart (6-3, 2-2) wins the game, which serves as a regular season finale for both teams, it will assure at least a tie for third place in the Foothill League and a favorable shot at a CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoff berth.

Nothing is certain though.

West Ranch (5-4, 1-3) also has an outside shot of making its second straight postseason appearance after making its first trip in school history a year ago.

Again, that will require winning today’s game.

"If a team needs extra motivation to win what could be their last game and to (have a chance to) beat Hart, I can’t think of what it is," said West Ranch head coach Sean O’Brien, who added he’s spent little time discussing playoff implications.

In a reversal of fortunes, Hart’s defense is the one preparing for the possibility of multiple West Ranch quarterbacks.

Throughout the season, the Indians have gone back-and-forth between Cory Mayes and Connor Wingenroth under center, but Wingenroth, helped by two straight impressive performances, has appeared to earn the job.

The situation isn’t so settled for the Wildcats, who saw senior Gabe Peralta take all the snaps at quarterback last week against Saugus.

Peralta finished 3-for-6 with 34 yards passing and an interception in place of junior Gerrit Mouw, who had started the previous eight games.

Mouw has also struggled throughout league play, but O’Brien said he’s going back to Mouw as this week’s starter.

"It has nothing to do with Gabe’s performance against Saugus," O’Brien said. "It has everything to do with (the fact that) Gabe was a defensive starter and we don’t like the idea of a middle linebacker, outside linebacker type playing QB at the same time."

Peralta is expected to return to his usual spot at linebacker.

Despite the quarterback shuffle, Hart’s defensive emphasis moves squarely onto West Ranch running back Jeff Coprich, who has amassed at least 100 yards in all four Foothill games this season.

"They have a good running attack and that’s what we have to slow down," Herrington said. "They play really good defense, but what we have to do is just make sure they don’t run it down our throats."

The task for the Wildcats’ defense will be the suddenly productive passing attack of the Indians.

Wingenroth has thrown for a combined 413 yards, three touchdowns and two interception in the past two games, and that’s in addition to his ever-present running ability.

"The guy is a two-threat guy," O’Brien said of Wingenroth. "He can chuck the ball really good and he can run the ball, and they’re not afraid to do either one. Whenever you have a running quarterback, it’s like cheating."

The Wildcats will have to stick with their assignments on defense to stop Hart, O’Brien said.

Either that or it could be a long offseason for a West Ranch team looking to avoid a third straight loss.

dagnew@the-signal.com

 

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