Prep Impressions: Sept. 11, 2009

I covered the Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos-Riverside John W. North varsity football game for the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 and came away thinking North has a running game that is close to unstoppable.

Seniors Sadale Foster (5-foot-8, 190 lbs) and E.J. Schexnayder (6-0, 215) combined for 347 rushing yards and six touchdowns as the Huskies opened their season with a 47-21 crushing of Los Osos.

They didn’t do it with much flair. North (1-0) punished Los Osos (1-1) with a version of the double-wing offense, and ran the ball 47 out of 55 plays. Foster got the bulk of the inside work while Schexnayder was able to get outside more often on pitches. By the time the game got to the fourth quarter, Los Osos defenders were completely gassed.

You can view a video of the game here.

North opened the third quarter with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Schexnayder. On Los Osos next drive, senior QB Blake Loncar (6-5, 200) faced a third-and-5 when his pass was intercepted by senior Anthony Jones (5-10, 180). Jones returned the ball to the Huskies 2-yard-line and Foster punched it in two plays later from a yard out.

The rout was on. Los Osos was forced to punt on its next drive and it only took two plays to wear down the Grizzlies defense. On North’s third play Foster danced through the heart of the Grizzlies’ defense and outran the safeties for 72 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies had scored three touchdowns on three of their last six plays. Their sideline went a little nuts but everyone wearing a gold helmet was confident that their defense was too physical to relinquish a three-touchdown lead.

Senior lineman Lamar Bratton (6-3, 290) had a huge game for North. Midway through the second quarter he jumped offside and was called for a 5-yard penalty. He made up for the gaffe on the very next play, sacking Loncar for a loss of 12 yards. Bratton finished with three sacks and six tackles.

Los Osos trailed 41-14 when senior Sean Alston (5-10, 170) returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. It was the only highlight of the second half for the Grizzlies. Forced to throw on offense, Loncar was effective on short outs but found no openings over the middle. The Grizzlies had just three first downs in the second half.

Alston, though, is a playmaker for the Grizzlies. He hooked up with Loncar for a 60-yard touchdown pass in the first half. On the play, Alston was open on a deep slant but the ball was under thrown. Alston made a nifty shoe-top catch to haul in the pass and showed great agility and athleticism to escape being tacked.

North coach Scott Pearne:

“That was our first half of football and that their second game. It’s the kids. We didn’t give them a special pep talk (at halftime). They just played hard, executed, did a really good job.”

Did you expect the kind of performances you got from your backfield? E.J. and Sadale… (Pearne cuts me off,)

“Here’s what we had: We had a team effort. One of our problems in the past had been a little too much ME, ME, ME, ME, ME (Pearne pointed his hand at his chest over and over again in emphasis) rather than team. I saw guys out there throwing blocks for each other, selling out, doing the little things to make us a good football team.”

At this point Pearne interrupts our interview for the second time to corral his team for the playing of North’s Alma Mater. He seems intent that they participate. I’m able to lob one more question.

Los Osos is a tough non-league opponent. How do you think they performed?

“They’re a well coached, physical, big football team. Very impressive. That’s a good football team. We caught a couple of breaks.”

At this point Pearne interrupts for the third time because his players are now starting to preen and pose for pictures. I cut off the interview here.

Los Osos head coach Tom Martinez:

“The momentum in the first half was really good. We kind of went back and forth. We only made one, a couple of mistakes. An offside, I think. Other than that it was a good first half for us. It was just the second half. We didn’t seem to come out with the same intensity as we had in the first half. They beat us. You can’t say anything about it. They played better than us. If we learn from this, learn to practice better and get things done right then it’s good for us. We’ll take that.”

What was the turning point in the second half?

“I thought we came out with some good intensity. Seemed liked we were ready to take it to them in the second half but they got some big plays on us. We knew they would.”

What are your immediate thoughts on how to get better?

“We gotta come back and play two halves. And we have to practice better during the week.”

Los Osos is attempting to sustain the success achieved by last year’s team, which was led by then-seniors Richard Brehaut (UCLA) and Arby Fields (Northwestern). Will the shadow of last season’s CIF semifinals team loom too large in ’09? How the Grizzlies rebounds at home next week against Redlands may say a lot about the rest of this season.

For North, the non-league season doesn’t get any easier. The Huskies travel to Fontana Kaiser next week before hosting Los Angeles Crenshaw on Sept. 25. North will then face its bruising Big VIII schedule, which includes games at Corona Centennial and Norco.

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