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Out to earn respect

Saugus wants to silence the sceptics

Posted: November 27, 2008 9:07 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
Saugus head coach Jason Bornn never doubted his team could duplicate its success from last season.

Although others did.

Many naysayers didn't see the Centurions clinching a Foothill League title.

And when the team did hold the league crown at the end of the regular season, doubters attributed it to the lack of the competition in this year's league.

After all, Hart had its first losing record in 20 years finishing 5-6.

Canyon failed to advance to the playoffs for the second straight year.

Bornn said his team may never get the respect it deserves.

However, the team can prove its worth with a win in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinals over No. 4 ranked Thousand Oaks.

The Centurions (8-3) will face the Lancers (10-1) tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the College of the Canyons.

Thousand Oaks' offense has been the story all year.

The Lancers have held opponents to 15.5 points per game while they have scored an average of 31.8 points per game. Thousand Oaks' only loss was to Moorpark, 20-17 on Oct. 24.

Behind preeminent running back John Lister, the Lancers have been a mainstay in the top of the Marmonte League ranks and Northern Division polls.

Second year head coach Mike Leibin, who spent 13 years as an assistant coach at Westlake, is looking to lead his team to a second CIF championship. The last title came in 1987.

Under Leibin, the Lancers have not had a lot of success advancing in the postseason.

The last two years, both Thousand Oaks first round knock-outs came via Hart.

But the presence of Lister has kept this team in the playoff run.

"He's the most productive back in Ventura County," Leibin said. " He's highly productive and has been carrying a lot of the load."

Last week in Thousand Oaks' 49-28 win over Santa Barbara, Lister broke his own school record with 325 yards on 38 carries, with five touchdowns.

So far this season, the 6-foot-2-inch tailback has rushed for 2,117 yards on 273 carries. He's also added seven touchdowns.

"Bottom line - stop Lister," Bornn said of his game plan.
Quarterback Ian Shultis and receiver Curtis Dempster round out the Lancers' offense.

Shultis has thrown 100-of-172 for 1,407 yards.

"Ian has done a phenomenal job at managing the game," Leibin said. "He's very effective on the throw game."

Dempster, who had 38 receptions for 684 yards, is another target on Bornn's radar.

"We have to find him and cover him," Bornn said. "He's the go-to guy and a great vertical threat."

With Lister in the offensive backfield, Leibin said the team's run game is very significant in its success.

"We always wanted to effectively run the football," he said. "It's been the focal point of our offense. Our run game has produced for us and we haven't had to deviate from that plan."

The same scenario holds strong for the Centurions.

Quarterback Desi Rodriguez and running back Ryan Zirbel will have to pair up for another standout performance.

In last Friday's 29-17 win over Righetti of Santa Maria, Rodriguez rushed for 151 yards on 21 carries.

Zirbel, despite suffering an ankle injury in the forth quarter, ran for 213 yards on 17 carries including a touchdown.

And Leibin has his game plan set.

"They have more than two threats on offense," Leibin said. "We have to create opportunities on defense and take advantage of the opportunities on offense. The main focus of their offense has to be the main focus of our defense."

A defense led by senior Dereck Jester, who Leibin said is the strongest kid he has ever coached.

Colin Nakos and Mitchell Korey, who leads the team in tackles, round out the Lancers' defensive playmakers.

"It's going to come down to not giving up a bunch of big plays and make opportunities for us."

Bornn said his team has a different mindset this season.

With a league title already in hand and the potential for a CIF title, the team is determined to not rest on its laurels.

"We realized that we could either win and go on, or lose and go home," Bornn said. "And we became very conscious of that. We realized how much more sweet it would be to get a CIF championship and that's what drives us."

wmcneal@the-signal.com


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