Running backs in the Marmonte League can almost be assured of additional attention this season.
In fact, chum receives less attention from ravenous sharks than certain ball carriers will from defensive units.
The reason is simple--there is a glut of talent at the position. A Marmonte team without an exceptional ball carrier is like a family moving into a yuppie neighborhood without a Volvo. It can be done, but don't expect to keep up with the Joneses.
League coaches agree: To challenge for the title requires the ability to stop the run. And against Thousand Oaks, more than any other team, that will not be an easy task.
While Camarillo has Bill Bell and Channel Islands has Johnny Johnson and Newbury Park has Darren Jelly--all aces in the deck--the Lancers have a full house in halfback Marc Monestime and fullback Mike Moore, both seniors.
The M & M backfield, as the tandem is nicknamed, accounted for 1,877 of the team's 2,134 rushing yards last season, leading the Lancers to a 10-2 record and the league championship.
Monestime, a third-year starter, is the quick back, slashing through the line and maneuvering around linebackers and defensive backs. He missed half of the Simi Valley game and the entire game against Camarillo last season with a bruised left foot but still gained 1,090 yards. He has 2,350 in two seasons.
Moore, in his second varsity season, is the pounder at 6-0, 195 pounds. He's not slow, but on the same field with Monestime, a gazelle would look sluggish.
Except for two years ago when Monestime was promoted to the varsity and Moore was left on the sophomore team, they have been a formidable tandem since youth football.
Rival coaches concede the edge at running back to Monestime and Moore, but they point to the loss of much of the Lancer offensive line.
"People talk about their backfield of Monestime and Moore," Newbury Park Coach Ken Cook said. "But I'll tell you, where they beat people last year was up front, on the line."
No problem, according to Monestime, whose success depends upon adequately replacing body movers like Mike Yasenchok, Mike May and Ken Haefliger.
"They've left," Monestime said, "but the lineup we have right now can be just as good as last year's. Maybe better."
Returning starter Greg Banks (6-0, 250), plus Eric Dennis (6-1, 195) and Rich McCathron (6-4, 230) are being counted on to live up to such expectations.
"We've got bigger guys, and they're pretty quick," Moore said. "I'm happy about them. They're improving a lot more."
That, in turn, has given Moore even loftier aspirations.
"I think we'll take league," he said. "Beyond that, we're looking at winning CIF."