Eight weeks ago, after probably the most embarrassing tie in their school's history, members of the Newhall Hart High football team held a no-coaches-allowed meeting. The subject: Talent, and what to do with it.
Hart was an almost overwhelming preseason choice to win the Southern Section's Coastal Conference championship, but after four games the Indians had a 0-3-1 record. The tie, 0-0, had been against Saugus, a team that would win only one game all season.
Said outside linebacker Tim McLean: "There was no doubt that we had the talent to win, it was just a matter of doing it. That's what we talked about. We just weren't doing the little things it takes to win."
In this case, things like blocking and tackling.
Two months later, Hart is playing for that conference championship. The Indians will play host to No. 1-ranked Pasadena Muir Friday at 7:30 p.m. at College of the Canyons in Valencia.
Since that team meeting, Hart has won nine in a row, outscoring its opponents, 280-85. The Indians are living up to their preseason billing.
The problem for Hart is that Muir is also living up to its No. 1 ranking.
Muir (12-1) has outscored its opponents, 421-99, and has shut out seven of them.
James Dunn, Muir's quarterback, completed 69 of 112 passes for 1,101 yards and 9 touchdowns during the regular season. Those statistics may sound fairly modest, but Dunn has also completed 29 of 43 passes for 421 yards and 7 touchdowns in the Mustangs' last two playoff games.
Muir also has Ricky Ervins, a 5-foot 9-inch, 182-pound senior who rushed for 1,218 yards and 14 touchdowns in only 167 carries during the regular season. He's been slowed by an ankle injury and has gained only 35 yards in the playoffs, but the Mustangs hope he'll be close to full strength against Hart.
Ervins has also returned four kickoffs for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He's a 9.8 sprinter as you might have already guessed.
"They can do some unbelievable things for a high school team because they have some amazing athletes," Hart Coach Rick Scott said. "Speed will be a definite factor, but not so much their abundance of it as our lack of it. We just don't match up well against tremendous athletes."
Poor Scott. And poor Hart. All it has is an offensive line that would match up in size with about half of the nation's bowl-bound college teams and a quarterback who throws for more than 200 yards on a bad night.
The line, which Scott says is the best in the Coastal Conference, is anchored by Charlie Drake, a 6-2, 230-pound senior tackle who has been a varsity starter for three seasons.
The quarterback is Jim Bonds, a 6-0, 180-pound junior who set Hart's single-season passing record in the process of dismantling West Torrance, 22-3, in the semifinals last week.
Bonds actually suffered through a poor night statistically, completing only 10 of 25 passes. The completions went for 217 yards, however. He has thrown for 2,252 yards and 16 touchdowns this season and run for another 380 and nine scores.