The question posed to the always mild-mannered head coach of the Moorpark football team was straight forward enough.
How do you thwart the speed and athleticism possessed by perennial high school football powerhouse Oaks Christian?
“That’s a good question,” Lins said, with the deadpanned delivery of a seasoned comedian. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out today.”
Lins was with his assistant coaches Sunday afternoon at the Moorpark High School football team’s facilities when he returned a call from a reporter.
“But, you know, we’re pretty athletic, too,” Lins added.
That was as close to sounding cocky as Tim Lins will ever come. It might also be an indication that Lins, who likes to keep things close to the vest, has a good feeling about his current team.
“I like this group,” Lins said earlier this season. “It’s a group that plays hard and comes out and works hard every day.”
And in the last month, it is a group that has won with incredible efficiency. Since its only loss of the season, a one-point overtime heartbreaker at Palos Verdes on Sept. 21, the Musketeers have outscored four opponents 172-43.
Moorpark faces its toughest test of the fall when it travels to Oaks Christian for a showdown to determine first place in the Marmonte League’s West Division tonight at 7 p.m.
“They’re certainly going to be a challenge for us, to match up in all positions,” said Lins. “But I think our guys are ready to play.”
Moorpark and Oaks Christian come into the game with identical records of 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the Marmonte League West. In fact, both teams lost on the same day, Sept. 21.
After Moorpark lost to Palos Verdes, 29-28, in a game that was played late in the afternoon, the Lions were shocked by Crenshaw by the final score of 15-2. It is hard to imagine Oaks Christian being held to only a safety.
Last week Oaks Christian defeated Calabasas, 47-21. The Lions are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 128-27 since the loss to Crenshaw.
Brandon Dawkins, the Lions standout junior quarterback, completed 13 of 18 passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns against Calabasas.
Dawkins, who threw five of his 10 interceptions this season in the Crenshaw game, seems to have regrouped since that defeat.
“Brandon’s fine,” said Oaks Christian coach Jeff Woodruff.
And Oaks Christian has many talented skill-position players along with Dawkins, including Francis Owusu, a senior wide receiver, and Damon Riggins, a junior running back.
Linebackers Cameron Judge, a senior, and Andre Chevalier, a sophomore, have played well on defense all season for the Lions.
Oaks Christian does have health concerns as five players didn’t play against Calabasas last week due to injuries.
Quin Sheridan, a senior who plays guard; Robert McGee, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound lineman; Chris Davis, a junior wide receiver; Darick Holmes, a sophomore wide receiver; and Carson Cook, a junior running back/cornerback, didn't play last week.
“Obviously, we’re a small school and we have a small roster, so these guys go both ways,” Woodruff said. “So when you lose five starters, that’s the equivalent of losing 10. It’s a factor.”
Woodruff said he is hopeful that all will play against Moorpark.
“Some of them are practicing this week,” he said Thursday night. “We’re hoping; we’ve got another day (Friday). We’ll see if they can come back and be 100 percent.”
If there was a blessing regarding the injuries, it’s that it allowed so many of the Lions – they are a very young team – the chance to get playing time.
“We played everybody,” Woodruff said. “In the second half, we played a lot of backups, a lot of the young guys. So everyone played and I thought it was a good game to get everyone some valuable game experience.”
Woodruff’s approach to facing Moorpark is, he said, the same as it is for any team.
“For us, every game’s a big game,” he said. “So this is the next big game on our schedule and we want to give our best effort. Our concern is really about Oaks Christian; just getting better as a football team.”
Woodruff was asked if he had any specific concerns about the Musketeers.
“They’re a good team,” he said. “Everybody’s a good team. You have to take every opponent seriously and you have to prepare to play.
“I think every team has got players that can hurt you and everybody has got skill. You’ve got to come out and play and you’ve got to play well, because anybody is good enough to beat anybody.”
Lins had a slightly different perceptive. One more attuned to this specific game.
“It’s for the Marmonte (League) West championship, right?” he said. “So, it’s like a league-title-type of game. And it’s for bragging rights; it’s for a better playoff spot for either team.
“So, I think both teams will be pretty excited and ready to play. I know we will.”
Austin Cole, Moorpark's heady senior quarterback, and three-year starting running back Aaron Stanton, lead the Musketeers offense.
Cole has utilized a deep receiving corps that includes senior Chad Hansen and juniors Brendan Hodgson and Tyler Collet.
Tony Mack, a senior linebacker, is the leader of Moorpark's stellar defense. Ethan Shahrokhfar has played well as a running back and linebacker.
Last year Oaks Christian defeated Moorpark 17-14. In 2010, the Lions prevailed 21-14.
Both are playoff teams again this year. But the winner of Friday’s game will take on St. Bonaventure next week for the official Marmonte League title.
And, of course, whoever wins tonight, will likely receive a better playoff seeding.
“We’re playoff bound, now,” Lins said. “But it’s just (about) everybody trying to move themselves up a notch and this is a key game in terms of how you go into the thing (the playoffs).
“So, we’re just trying to focus on Oaks (Christian) and make sure we’re prepared.”
Lins’ counterpart, Woodruff, said he isn’t concerned, not yet, with what lies ahead, notwithstanding the Marmonte League’s ascension to the vaunted Pac 5 playoff division.
“We’re not worried about any game past this week, because we only talk about and concentrate on the game we’re playing this week,” he said. “So we talk about playing up to a certain level every week regardless of who we’re playing.
“That’s our goal, to play to that level.”