In the Coastal Conference final last week, the Thousand Oaks High offensive huddle was as chock full of goodies as a Christmas stocking.
There were All-Ventura County linemen Eric Dennis and Greg Banks, jawbreakers who specialize in rolling defensive linemen.
There were All-County running backs Marc Monestime and Mike Moore, the M & M pair who refuse to melt in the hands of opposing tacklers.
There were receivers Lance Alverson and Jeff Ward, sticky-fingered speedsters who stretch defenses like taffy.
And surveying the entire lot was quarterback Steve Sisco, whose cherubic countenance and small stature made him look for all the world like a kid in a candy store.
But, my, how looks can deceive.
Sisco, whose only postseason award was being squeezed onto the All-Marmonte League second team, deftly directed the Lancers to a 27-12 win over Channel Islands for Thousand Oaks' first Southern Section championship.
"Steve Sisco was the major difference in the game," Channel Islands Coach Joel Gershon admitted. "He saw a chance to win a championship and he grabbed it."
Sisco broke the Raiders' backs with a 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave Thousand Oaks a 17-0 lead. The 5-9 senior rushed for 103 yards in eight carries and, while he completed only four passes for 58 yards, three completions were for first downs and the other was a four-yard scoring strike to tight end Mike Hutton.
"The guy has a tremendous presence on the field," Gershon said. "He's a great athlete with a lot of leadership. We went sour for a while after he broke that big run."
How sweet it was for Sisco. And Thousand Oaks.
Not a passing fancy: Because both teams run better than they pass, both coaches acknowledged before the game that the team that fell behind early would have a hard time playing catchup. Channel Islands was quickly thrust into that unenviable position as quarterback Vince Medina was forced to pass 23 times, more than double his average.
"We were somebody we didn't want to be," Gershon said. "And Thousand Oaks ran precisely the sequence of plays they wanted to. They never got out of their rhythm."
Wise to the wing-T: Particularly shocking to several onlookers was the fact that Thousand Oaks shut down for most of the game a Channel Islands' wing-T attack that scored 42 points against Canyon the week before.
But the Lancers had defended against the wing-T on three previous occasions this season, including once in a 27-6 Marmonte League win over Channel Islands. Westlake and Royal, also members of the Marmonte, run the wing-T, so Thousand Oaks is probably the most well-prepared team around against that particular offense. To compound matters, the wing-T is a deception-oriented offense.
"It's no wonder that Canyon, playing the wing-T for first time, was confused," Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards said. "The Canyon coaching staff may have understood the offense, but 11 kids on defense were probably confused. Our kids have gone over and over that defense all season. It had to help."
Crystal football: Thousand Oaks also had done its scouting homework. Often, the Lancers seemed to know what play Channel Islands was going to run next.
Even when the Raiders finally scored, on a 66-yard run by John Johnson in the third quarter, the Lancers were a step ahead.
As Channel Islands lined up to attempt a two-point conversion, Lancer assistant Jim Hansen, who had scouted the Raiders the week before, said: "The quarterback will roll left and try to hit a receiver about four yards deep in the end zone."
Sure enough, Medina rolled left and, just as certainly, a Thousand Oaks defender intercepted the pass.
Cheers and tears: The crowd of 6,500 included several hundred Thousand Oaks alumni, many wearing faded Lancer letterman jackets. Channel Islands had a large, raucous following as well, and the Raider fans did not abandon the team because it lost.
"There was a reception planned back at the school and because we lost I figured it wouldn't be very good," Gershon said. "But the cafeteria was packed with families and friends. They stood and applauded every player as he walked into the room.
"It filled up the emptiness we were feeling. It was very touching."
Records department: Monestime finished the season with 1,636 yards and has a County-record 4,024 yards in his three-year Thousand Oaks career. Johnson, a junior who had 1,672 yards this season, needs 1,622 yards next season to break Monestime's record.
Johnson set single-season County scoring records with 164 points and 27 touchdowns (he had one two-point conversion), breaking the marks of 152 and 22 set by Lamont Fields of Ventura in 1984.
Johnson has scored a touchdown every 6.3 carries in his two-year career. Russell White of Crespi, generally regarded as the finest junior running back in the nation, averages a touchdown every 6.2 carries.
Signing: Channel Islands wide receiver-defensive back Victor Caro will sign with either Utah or Hawaii, according to Gershon. Caro set a school record with eight interceptions this season.