Prep Impressions: Week 9

I covered the Riverside Arlington-Riverside La Sierra varsity football game for the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 and came away thinking La Sierra coach Scott Booth must be humbled by his experiences this season.

Watch a video of game here.

When Booth took over at La Sierra after former coach Craig Cieslik resigned less than a week before the start of this season, he entered a shit storm without an umbrella.

There’s speculation in some circles about the conditions that led to Cieslik’s resignation as well as the Cieslik-La Sierra dynamic. Some say he’s threatening litigation over discrimination (Cieslik stutters) while others contend he finally found an administration dumb enough to take the bait so he can land a big payday. There’s a message board on sectionsports.com that is all about this topic and, to a lesser extent, La Sierra football.

I even get blasted on there — for not forcing the publication of Cieslik’s comments following La Sierra’s 2008 finale. As if any newspaper would print what he told me that night.

Anywho… Booth answered some tough questions about his playoff chances, his season and the rumor that he provided alcohol to minor(s), i.e. under-aged coaches.

FOMB: Do you still feel that a victory next week over Moreno Valley means a playoff berth?

Booth: “Oh yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. We’ve got to get ready for Moreno Valley and it’s going to take absolutely everything we have. And they know it. We know it.”

FOMB: How difficult has this season been for you, taking into account Cieslik’s resignation?

Booth: (5-second pause) “Taking over, at the time I did, was difficult but the kids made it very easy.”

FOMB: How so?

Booth: “They took me in. They opened their arms and all they really wanted was some support. And that’s what we gave them. As coaches we just gave them support. We had what we had at the beginning and we’re making the best of what we have.”

FOMB: There is a rumor that you provided alcohol to a minor. Is there any truth to this rumor?

Booth: “No.”

I cut the interview there without a follow-up because I didn’t want to get punched in the face. Booth became weary of me following my last question so I thought, for the sake of making deadline, I’d stop there. I had to ask, though, if only for his response.

Booth looks, to me, like middle-aged indie rocker Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices fame. That is, sad eyes and hair in a muss.

He seemed deflated following Friday’s 49-6 loss to Arlington, at least physically. Not that I blame him – I’d be exhausted trying to coach just 12 players into 22 varsity positions. That’s right, just 12 varsity players. I’ve seen higher numbers for a parochial school of 125 students, let alone La Sierra’s 1,000-plus. It’s an embarrassment, really.

The Eagles (5-4 overall, 3-3 Inland Valley) were practically blown up at the line of scrimmage by Arlington. They were held to minus-14 yards rushing. That’s a stat so bad I hid it from publishing. Minus-14 yards rushing! Ugh.

Senior RB Johnnie Walker (5-10, 170) was punished from pillar to post. He had just four yards on nine carries. Senior Ukpono Udi (5-9, 153) didn’t play in the game. I didn’t find out why. Junior QB David Gonzalez (5-8, 143) was erratic until the fourth quarter when he completed four consecutive passes to end his night.

The Lions (8-1, 5-1) were led by a eye-popping performance from Superiorr Reid. Dude ran for more than 200 yards and four TDs – three in the second half – albeit against an overmatched opponent.

COACH AND PLAYER QUOTES:

Arlington coach Pat McCarthy:
“I think we played well tonight. Defensively we played well. Obviously depth was a factor. They have everybody going two ways, we’ve have some guys going two ways. This game was for second place (in the Inland Valley League) this is a big game. They’re one game behind us, very important. With their style of offense it creates some problems so you definitely have to prepare a little differently for La Sierra than you do for others. Everybody’s packed in, misdirection, no-huddle so you really have to get your shoulder pads down and read your keys. Overall, I’m proud of how we played tonight.”

Arlington’s Superiorr Reid:
“We blocked, we ran hard, our defense umm, we just played Arlington football. Made them play our game.”

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