SAN DIEGO — If either the Morse or Vista high school football teams resort to a passing game when they play tonight, then it's a sure bet the team taking to the air is in trouble.
Dick Haines, coach of No. 1 Vista, and John Shacklett, coach of No. 7 Morse, each said his team will shy from passing unless its opponent shuts down the running game.
"We've had success getting the football in the end zone (with the run)," Haines said. "I think both teams will pass sparingly, unless one of us gets hot-handed and can live by it."
Shacklett said: "If we can get the option running, we could make it an interesting night for them."
Morse (3-0) meets defending Division 3-A champion Vista (2-0) at home tonight in a nonleague game at 7:30.
Vista, third in the county in team offense, is led by running back Tom Booker and wing back Marc Jones. Booker leads the county in scoring with 42 points. Morse, in three games, has scored 43 points. Six of Booker's touchdowns were on rushes, the other was a 95-yard kickoff return to open last week's game against Madison, which Vista won, 44-21.
Booker is third in the county in rushing with 310 yards in 35 carries. Jones is the county's fourth-leading rusher with 284 yards in 11 carries. Last week, Jones ran for 116 yards in only four carries.
Morse, seventh in the county in team defense, has allowed only 13 points in three games. Two weeks ago, Mission Viejo quarterback Tony Arnone was sacked three times and intercepted once in a 3-0 Morse victory.
The Morse defensive line, anchored by defensive tackle Charlie Fishero (6-6, 275), packs a little more weight than Vistas's offensive line.
The Morse option offense is directed by quarterback Willie Davis, who has good speed and is a threat to run.
Haines is no longer worried about the loss of 29 players to graduation last June. Vista shut out Oceanside in its season opener, 28-0, and would have shut out out Madison last week if Haines hadn't brought in his third-string players in the third quarter, he said.
"We're not a great team yet," Haines said. "We have the makings of a great team if we put the pieces in the right places."
Haines is concerned about his defense, which has one starter returning from last year's squad--cornerback Tom Cross. But the young Vista defense has yet to disappoint Haines.
Aside from playing the county's top team, Morse also must deal with playing at Vista, where high school football is a big attraction in the small North County community.
"For anyone who has aspirations of fielding a good football team, you have to play Vista," Shacklett said. "In previous seasons, when we played Vista early, it wasn't a big deal. But I think we have a better team (compared to other seasons) and I want to see where we are.
"It certainly will be a game that will be tough to win. They have a lot of support, a big crowd that is always highly charged. It's a tough setting to play in. But it's good experience for the kids, especially if we go to the playoffs, because it's that same type of atmosphere."
TODAY No. 2 Lincoln (2-0) at Point Loma (2-0)--Lincoln plays its first game against a San Diego County opponent after routing Wilson of San Francisco, 71-0, and O'Dea of Seattle, 37-0. Point Loma has allowed just 10 points in two games, winning at El Camino, 14-6, and defeating Bonita Vista, 7-4. Lincoln quarterback Kevin Mitchell has completed 14 of 28 passes for 322 yards and 7 touchdowns and running back Patrick Rowe is ranked No. 3 in the county in scoring with 30 points.
No. 7 Poway (2-0) at San Marcos (0-1-1)--Surprising Poway of the 3-A Palomar League tries to keep winning after breaking into The Times' Top 10 for the first time this year. San Marcos, from the 2-A division, opened the season with a 26-15 loss to No. 6 Orange Glen and tied No. 8 Fallbrook, 20-20, last week. Poway broke into the Top 10 primarily because of its defense, which has allowed seven points in two games.
Grossmont (1-0-1) at No. 10 Granite Hills (1-1)--Grossmont, of the 2-A Grossmont League, takes on the league's defending 3-A division team. Grossmont played 3-A Helix to a 7-7 tie last week. With nine starters returning on defense, Grossmont has allowed just 13 points in two games. But the Foothillers have scored just 17 points in that same span. Granite Hills, favored to repeat as 3-A division champions, evened its record last week with a 21-3 victory over Torrey Pines. Granite Hills lost to Poway, 13-7, in its season opener.
BIG GAME FACTS
Who: No. 3 Morse vs. No. 1 Vista.
Where: Vista High School.
When: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Morse 3-0; Vista 2-0.
Last meeting: Vista 44, Morse 14 (1985).
Players to watch: Morse: George Jackson (6-0, 185), RB; Steve Palmer (5-8, 180), FB; Willie David (5-10, 165), QB. Vista: Tom Booker (6-1, 201), RB; Tony Trousett (5-11, 170), S; Bill Faraimo (6-2, 185), QB.