Prep Impressions: Week 11

I covered the Ontario Chaffey-Riverside La Sierra varsity football game for The Press-Enterprise on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, and came away thinking I wanted to write something positive about the Eagles.

Yes, I’ve written some not-so-kind things about the school and the program in the past.

And I stand by those words. The facilities were/are inept and needed/needs updating. The school needed/needs an administration that gave a rip about football.

But then look here: La Sierra finished the regular season 9-1 overall under first-year head coach Mark Reckenwald. And hey, that’s a story! I was anxious to get a look at this year’s team and find out how a perpetually underachieving program had suddenly achieved.

The first half left my without much to say but the particulars. Each team a scored once and also botched their point-after attempts. A 6-6 draw. Sort of a clumsy display, really. La Sierra had drives stall with incomplete passes; Chaffey with incomplete runs.

The third quarter was practically all Chaffey, as this Tigers took more than half the quarter going 43 yards from their own 26 to La Sierra’s 31. It was the longest drive, in terms of time, that I’ve seen this season. And it only went 43 yards and DID NOT end with a touchdown, or even a field goal. It was totally… awesome.

The Eagles’ defense is perhaps the biggest difference between this year’s team and those preevious; it has an ability to make stops. Or at least it did on Friday night against Chaffey, a team whose bread and butter is to pound that utter.

Guys like R.J. Smith and Eric Villar stepped up and made plays. A.J. Fanene was a rock, per usual.

Opponents from here on out will be more sophisticated. La Sierra plays Rialto Carter in the quarterfinals. The Lions run the ball a lot behind Gaylon Maxie but also through it more than Chaffey. Which doesn’t take much, considering the Tigers had thrown for 90 all season. Two different QBs combined to go 0 of 6 with three interceptions vs. La Sierra.

Eagles coach Recktenwald carries himself differently than the last two Eagles coaches, Craig Cieslik and Scott Booth (not that they deserved to be grouped for any reason). Cieslik was over-energetic until the end, when he turned sour. Booth was a happy-go-lucky sort, there for the moment but with no plans for beyond it. Recktenwald seems to be the type who has a plan and sticks to it.

And winning is most defintely part of the plan.

La Sierra coach Mark Recktenwald:
“You put (Chaffey) is a second-and-long, third-and-long… they eat up clock, and we stayed away from the big play. They got the one big play in the first half, and we preached to them, ‘If we stay away from the big play, we’d be able to stop this offense eventually.’ And we did. We started running the ball, and really, getting physical on defense got us physical on offense. They gave us some problems in the first half, and we were unable to connect to some open receivers, and in the second half were were able to find those open receivers a couple of times for some big plays. It was the running game tonight. We started getting the wide trap game, and that just sprung Noel (Quinones). We were able to move the ball in the second half, and that was the difference in the ball game. We had a little bit of panic in us in the first half, and credit Chaffey — they came to play and they were big and they were physical and they brought it to us. We got back into the locker room, we got settled down, drew some things up on the board, and came back out a different ball club. The has kind of been our M-O, if you look at the last few weeks in that we may struggle a little bit in the first half but come second half, we’re ready to play. We worked really hard to get here, and it was our goal to be here so to be at home and to win at home is huge for us. I don’t think at this point it means anything to me. It means we get to practice on Thanksgiving which, of course, is everybody’s dream. But it’s something for me to reflect upon later. Right now we’re gonna enjoy the win. I’m gonna go home and kiss the wife, and we’ll get ready for next week.”

La Sierra junior Johnny Salazar:
“We ran the ball. We had a lot of big plays running the ball, then we got big plays passing the ball. It all came together in the second half. It’s a really big win for us because none of us has ever won in CIF before, and everybody stepped up as a team. We all stepped up together. Next week we can’t start off slow. They gonna be a better team next week, and we can’t start off slow.”

Chaffey coach Chris Brown:
“They’re well-coached. Their kids are tough, they’re very well disciplined. There’s a reason why they’re 10-1 now and going to the quarterfinals. I’m really proud of our team; we have a lot of young guys. This is good experience for our kids. (Devon Samuels) has been great for us all season. I wish I could’ve had him last year, but he didn’t play football last year. He’s just been tremendous all year. Leads the state in carries, and to do that and have the wear-and-tear and still play great against a very hard-hitting La Sierra defense… very, very proud of him this year. What (La Sierra does) on offense is what they always do, which is execute. The quarterback, he keeps plays alive with his scrambling ability, and you can’t prepare for that. I think defensively, we did a nice job. He made plays, #45 and #8 made plays just like we told our kids they were capable of doing. Hats off to them. We didn’t lose this game, they beat us.”

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