In the first year competing in the Pac-5 Division of the Southern Section in the CIF high school football playoffs, Moorpark found out why the division has a reputation of being one of the best in the country.
“We’re in a tough division and we drew a league champ,” said Moorpark head coach Tim Lins after Alemany defeated the Musketeers, 42-14, in Mission Hills last Friday night.
“Alemany is a really solid football program and I think we dug ourselves a little hole early and we had a hard time digging our way out,” Lins added.
After Moorpark beat Westlake, 38-35, in the regular season finale, it was reasonable to expect another shootout in the first round of the playoffs. After all, if Alemany had any weakness at all, it was that the Warriors could be scored upon.
In three successive league games, Alemany gave up 35, 42 and 29 points against Bishop Amat, Notre Dame and Crespi.
“The one thing that Alemany did do in the regular season was give up a lot of points,” said Lins. “In league (games) specifically. And so, initially, we thought that if we could score, we would have a chance to keep up with them.”
However, the game didn’t go as planned for Moorpark. Instead, Alemany (9-2), which plays at Mater Dei in Santa Ana in round two of the playoffs this Friday night, jumped out to a 28-0 lead by halftime and extended it to 35-0 in the third quarter.
Although Moorpark, which finishes 8-3, played better in the second half, it was too little, too late.
“I was very surprised by the (first half) score, to tell you the truth,” said Alemany head coach Dean Herrington. “Tim does a good job coaching there and we thought we were in for a tough game, the whole game.”
If there was an explanation for why Alemany may have played better defensively, the clues to the Warriors' improvement actually could be traced to the regular season finale.
After losing to Crespi, 29-27, Alemany made some changes on defense for the game against Loyola on Nov. 2. The result was noticeable as the Warriors won 45-17.
“Finally, we made a couple of switches on defense before Loyola and it really made a difference,” said Herrington.
Alemany moved David Stone, a junior, and David Gomez, a senior, to linebacker after using them on the defensive line prior to that. Alemany lost two starting linebackers, Deyon Glass, a junior, and Rene Deleon, to injuries, in a win over Norco on Sept. 28.
(While Glass is out for the rest of the season after tearing an ACL in his knee, Deleon, who suffered a stress fracture in his leg, could possibly return sometime during the playoffs.)
However, Herrington and his coaching staff had been hesitant to insert Stone and Gomez at linebacker because it would have meant moving the pair from the defensive line and starting three sophomores on a revamped defensive line.
Alemany made the move against Loyola and kept the changes in place against Moorpark.
“The last two games we’ve played really well on defense and we have a pretty good offense, so if we get a few stops here and there, we’re in business,” said Herrington.
Lins acknowledged the changes, but said his team still could have executed better.
“They did make a couple of personnel changes that kind of affected our passing game a little bit,” he said. “But (it was) nothing that we shouldn’t have been able to adjust to had we been playing a little bit better.”
Alemany running back Deshone Randall, a senior, ran for four short touchdowns, but it was senior wide receiver Steven Mitchell who wreaked the most havoc against the Musketeers.
“We wanted to get the ball to Steven Mitchell in space,” Herrington said. “It’s impossible to cover him man-to-man, so that’s one of the dilemmas that teams have against us. If you’re going to blitz us, then you’re going to have to play single-coverage on Steven.”
Mitchell caught four passes for 226 yards, according to Ventura County Star.
“He’s a Division I player,” Lins said of Mitchell. “He’s a very explosive player. I’m not sure that we have anybody that could match up with him.”
In the second half, Moorpark’s senior quarterback Austin Cole threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Connor Christ to get the Musketeers on the scoreboard.
Late in the fourth quarter, Joseph Guerrero, a junior running back, ran for a 29-yard TD for Moorpark’s final points of the season.
It was the first time since 2007 that the Musketeers were eliminated in the first round of the CIF playoffs.
Among the players that Moorpark will be losing to graduation are Cole and Christ, running back Aaron Stanton, linebacker Tony Mack and wide receivers Chad Hansen and Brendan Hodgson.
“We’re losing a tremendous quarterback, a tremendous leader in Austin Cole,” said Lins. “And we’re going to lose a tremendous running back – Aaron Stanton. Those two guys really made our offense go. If it wasn’t Aaron, it was Austin.
“And we’re going to lose our receivers, and top to bottom, it’s one of the best receiving corps we’ve ever had.”
Lins noted that the Moorpark offense will also lose center Brigham Stoeher. And Mack was the captain of the Moorpark defense, an All-County selection last year as a junior and a player Lins praised often.
“We have some shoes to fill,” Lins said. “We’re hoping, as always, people will step up and fill those shoes and play at the level that we have here in the past.”