"Boots on the Ground": Hart vs. St. Bonaventure (12/09/07)
Southern California football is wrapping up as the area championship games
were contested over the weekend. Today (Sunday), teams will be selected for the
State championship games in each of three divisions. Division I schools have an
enrollment in excess of 2,400; Division II schools have enrollment between 1,100
& 2,400 while a Division III school's enrollment is less than 1,100.
Much like the BCS, a panel of "EXPERTS" selects the participants
for the finals from the pool of section winners. A team from Northern California
is selected in each of the three Divisions to play a team from Southern
California. There is no guarantee the best teams will be selected to
participate. This year, in the large school division, three Southern California
teams were considered viable choices, Long Beach Poly, Corona Centennial, &
Birmingham Lake Balboa. Each won their respective section championship games.
Poly won 13-3 over the Crespi team that took Mater Dei out earlier. Centennial
was a 42-7 winner over Santiago while Birmingham won 41-6 over Carson. Having
seen Poly & Centennial play this year, I think Poly may be the better team
but until they played, how would you know? Poly has been able to stop the run
while Mater Dei was able to run against the Centennial defense. Complicating the
situation further, the playoffs leading up to the final selections are organized
geographically, not by size of school. For instance Division I Poly played their
championship game final against Division II Crespi.
While there is certainly theatre in the current process, a viable "state
championship" it is not. I heard rumors at the game last night that the
unselected schools in Division I in southern California may look to an outside
consultant for wet work in the corridors of power. They have identified a
consultant, code named Sharon, who is a velvet hammer type with Gator teeth from
Florida. Supposedly, the consultant has submitted a proposal about a coup to
overthrow the California Interscholastic Federation if they refuse to stage
meaningful playoffs with a real SEC-style championship game. The plan includes
facebook attacks against administrators making Clinton's recent op research in
Obama's kindergarten classes look tame in comparison. "The Governator"
has asked for calm but has placed State police at airports and train stations in
an effort to interdict "Sharon" in the event she attempts to enter the
state. Adding to the panic though is the fact that "Sharon" is rumored
to be moving freely in the state having recently recorded an interview in the
Chuck Taylor Grove. These recordings are being subjected to the same scrutiny as
a message from Bin Laden himself.
Anyway, before the public school system in California is taken apart over the
lack of a football playoff system, I took the opportunity to see St. Bonaventure
of Ventura, Calif. take on Hart of Newhall, Calif. at the Home Depot Center
(Carson, Calif.). The obvious marquee headline for the game is the running back
match up between Stanford-bound Delano Howell and uncommitted Darrell Scott who
some feel is the best running back prospect in the entire country this year.
Making the game particularly interesting was the fact that there was some bad
blood between the two rival schools as many folks were unhappy about superstar
Scott's never-fully-explained transfer for his senior year to powerhouse St.
Bonaventure, a move that left his abandoned former teammates at Moorpark High
less than happy and the Hart head coach, among others in the league, quite upset
- so much so that Hart cancelled an earlier regular-season game with St.
Bonaventure in protest.
The match-up of the two star backs lived up to the hype for as long as it
lasted. Unfortunately, Howell was forced to leave the game due to injury near
the middle of the third quarter. St. Bonaventure won the game 42-28 and wasn't
really threatened past the beginning of the third quarter when Hart's first
possession after the second half kick-off ended quickly and the Seraphs went
down for a touchdown. The rest of the way St. Bonaventure used the running game
to shorten the game. The QB, Casey Serna, gained 140 yards on the ground on
well-timed scrambles as well as designed plays.
Howell had 93 yards on 15 carries; 6.2 yards per attempt for the Indians
while Scott had 156 yards on 32 carries for the Seraphs. Howell had another 37
yards on three receptions. Scott had one catch for 40 yards and a td. Scott
ended up scoring four touchdowns while Howell scored once (which gave him 13 TDs
in four play-off games and 36 for the season - who knows what he would have had
if he had continued to play).
Both kids are similar in style. They run north & south, have excellent
vision, and cut back effectively to exploit space. Scott and Howell both attack
the defense to get the last yard or two out of a play. They can exploit
openings, but also do the tough work to get the two or three positive yards out
of each and every touch. Neither believes in negative yardage. Scott is
noticeably larger at 6'2", 215 lbs. while Howell is listed at 5'11",
190 lbs. Scott appears to be a little more explosive and certainly takes full
advantage of his physical size. Scott focuses only on offense. Howell, on the
other hand, plays both ways for Hart and he takes a pounding because of his
running style. It was a real pleasure to see these kids compete.
Running backs aside, with the conclusion of this recruiting cycle
approaching, it is fun to take a look at younger players on high caliber teams
like these. There are several worth mentioning. It should be noted I do not know
much about the academic credentials of these kids.
An offense, the running game in particular, is dependant on the kids up front
and it is rare to see a sophomore lining up at left tackle for a team that
controls the line of scrimmage. Giovanni Di Poalo is the starting left tackle
for St. Bonaventure. He is listed at 6'4" and 260 lbs. His helmet is the
highest in the huddle and he is lean at that weight. As a result he moves
extremely well pulling or working down field. Getting downfield in front of
Darrell Scott on a sweep says something about his mobility. Di Poalo is agile
and he sets up with his butt down in pass protection so he can maintain his
balance. He works well in the running game whether drive- blocking or setting up
to cut off backside pursuit. His punch stops defenders. From a single
observation, I believe Giovanni will be a high profile recruit in the 2010
recruiting cycle. Two years in the weight room and work on technique will
produce a dominant offensive lineman.
Two defenders on St. Bonaventure also passed the eyeball test. Xavier Ramos
is a junior safety listed at 6'0", 180 lbs. He is a hitter who took out a
wide receiver over the middle and the Hart QB on a safety blitz. He does from
time to time miss a tackle instead looking for the big hit, so he will need to
develop additional assignment discipline. If he grows he may be a player of
interest. Dyland Davis is a sophomore starting at middle linebacker. He had two
sacks. Davis is listed at 6'0" and 210 lbs. If he develops physically he
could be a player of interest for 2010.
On the Hart side, sophomore wide receiver Blake Borland makes plays. While he
is only 5'9" and 160 lbs., he ended up with seven catches for 71 yards. He
has hands and speed- the question will be whether or not he grows a bit.
I suspect St. Bonaventure will be selected to play in the Division III state
championship game so there will be one additional opportunity to see this team
line up. All in all this was a good match up of well-coached athletes.
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