Gene Edwards, the La Jolla High School football coach, admits that his team runs a pretty simple, conservative offense.
Nothing fancy, Edwards says--just run the ball from tackle to tackle and try to move downfield.
"We'll throw a little bit to keep the defense honest," said Edwards, who estimated that his quarterback, John Tribolet, averages 10 to 12 passes per game.
So far this season, La Jolla's offense has proven that simple can be better. After six games, La Jolla has scored more points (188) than any team in the county.
Today, La Jolla and its simple scoring machine will play host to University of San Diego High in a battle for first place in the City Western League at 3 p.m. USDHS, another team that doesn't take many chances on offense, is ranked fourth in the county with 174 points.
Edwards, however, doesn't think this game will be a scoring showcase.
"I expect it will be the same type of ballgame," said Edwards, referring to last season's game, which La Jolla won, 14-7.
"Neither offense is a high-risk offense," said Coach John Johnson, whose Hoover team has lost to both La Jolla and USDHS. "They are both good, solid ballclubs. They are not going to make a lot of turnovers."
So it might turn out to be a defensive battle.
La Jolla (5-1 overall, 1-0 in league play) has allowed 6.0 points per game, which ranks second in the county. USDHS (6-0, 1-0) has allowed 10.3 points per game, which ranks 10th.
La Jolla's offense centers on Brent Woodall, a 6-foot 4-inch tailback who is leading the team in rushing. Jerry Walker also will carry the ball, and Tribolet likely will run the ball as often as he will pass it.
A year ago, USDHS had two running backs--James Wilson and Martin Correia--who provided the bulk of the offense. This season, Coach Ron Hamamoto has been able to vary his offense a little more.
"Last year, we had two kids we could give the ball to, and we didn't care who knew it," he said. "This year, they don't know where the ball is going."
"I feel they are a little more balanced," he said. "I don't think they are as predictable as they were last year."
Anthony Massa, USDHS junior quarterback, has thrown for more than 600 yards, and Brian Duplessis, sophomore running back, has more than 400 yards rushing.
Against Hoover, La Jolla's defense returned two fumbles for touchdowns and had four interceptions. Leading the defense are linebackers Brent Woodall (6-4, 220) and Brad Raulston (6-2, 215), defensive lineman Glenn Armstrong (5-10, 200) and defensive backs Sean Edwards 6-2, 174) and Willie Barnett (5-11, 170).
Both teams have several players who are on both offense and defense. Coming into the season, Edwards feared he would lose one of his key two-way players, but those fears have yet to be realized. However, two of the USDHS two-way starters were injured in last week's 23-18 victory against Kearny.
In that game, John Montali, a senior tight end/safety, was hit in the back by a helmet, and Tony Moeder, a junior linebacker/running back, suffered a concussion. Hamamoto says both are questionable this week. USDHS also has been without junior linebacker Steve Walker, who hasn't practiced this week because of strep throat.
"All three may be out," Hamamoto said. "No way we can replace them. We have guys we'll stick in there, but we can't replace them."
Hamamoto has been starting two sophomores aside from Duplessis, who shares backfield time with senior Matt Christian and also plays free safety. The other sophomores are defensive tackle Matt Miller and offensive tackle Chris Letourneau.
Johnson said that La Jolla may have an edge in experience.
"La Jolla is probably a bit more seasoned," he said. "They are very physical, and that is their strength."
Other Games to Watch
No. 3 Point Loma (6-0) at No. 9 Mira Mesa (5-1)--For much of the season, Mira Mesa has relied on its defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the county, to keep it in games. Now, with the return of senior running back Ricky Hanson, the Marauders could have an impressive offense, too.
Hanson, who was injured in the third game of the season, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and came back last week to face Serra. Hanson scored on runs of 52, 1 and 49 yards in Mira Mesa's 27-0 victory.
Meanwhile, Point Loma has exhibited very few weaknesses all season. The Pointers have relied on solid defense, a good running game and a quick-striking passing offense to win their first six games.
The Pointer offense is led by running back Kelby Downey and quarterback Mike Bennett, who throws best when teams are concentrating on Downey.
Mira Mesa has a defense that is capable of slowing down Point Loma. The Marauders have recorded three shutouts in six games and limited their opponents to an average of 5.8 points per game.
No. 1 Vista (5-1) at Orange Glen (3-2-1)--Though he is coaching the top-ranked team in the San Diego Section, Dick Haines always sounds a little worried before each game, and this week is no exception.