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Championship Week

Mack Looks for Picture-Perfect Ending

Division X: St. Bonaventure coach hopes Seraphs can turn the tables on unbeaten Nordhoff.

December 14, 1996|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

St. Bonaventure High football Coach Jon Mack has watched more videotape than a Blockbuster clerk with time on his hands since last Saturday, when the Seraphs beat Orange Lutheran to advance to tonight's Southern Section Division X final against Nordhoff.

And as Mack has studied the television mounted high in a corner of his office, he has snuck a peek or two at a black-and-white photograph on the wall.

The picture is from a 1990 game against Nordhoff--Mack's first victory as a head coach--and shows Seraph cornerback Gino Nucci intercepting a pass with no time remaining and the score tied, 8-8.

"The kid returned it 65, 70 yards for a touchdown," Mack said. "That win kind of set the rivalry in tone. Our games often turn on a big play."

Top-seeded Nordhoff (12-0-1) and third-seeded St. Bonaventure (11-1-1) play for the 23rd time at 7:30 tonight at Nordhoff. The Rangers lead the series, 11-9-2.

The 22nd meeting was Sept. 28, and a 14-8 Nordhoff victory was decided in the fourth quarter when Ranger receiver Ben Harrold waltzed by fallen cornerback Shaun Twyman to catch a 36-yard touchdown pass for the winning points.

The game was an intriguing preview. Nordhoff committed four turnovers but controlled the game by running on 56 of 66 plays and monopolizing the clock.

Meanwhile, the Ranger defense rattled St. Bonaventure quarterback Teohua Sanchez. Nordhoff applied pressure with its defensive line, dropped five backs into coverage and was never forced out of that scheme.

Sanchez completed 26 of 44 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown but 10 of his completions were of four yards or fewer.

"We invited them to run but they hardly even tried," Nordhoff linebacker Russell Farrar said after the game.

Much has changed since then but tonight's prospects are no less interesting. A look at the units on each team:

St. Bonaventure offense: A one-back, no-huddle attack that makes adjustments at the last possible second to accurately read the defense.

On a good day, Sanchez is the region's most composed quarterback. He has thrown for 2,822 yards and 25 touchdowns while completing 70% of his passes. Receiver Pepe Villasenor, nursing an injured shoulder, leads the state with 103 receptions.

Whether the receivers touch the ball depends primarily on Seraph tackles Andrew Jones and Robert Winson, who struggled early but have improved.

The threat of a running game should help as well. Tailback Andre Pinedo (1,262 yards and 15 touchdowns) was hurt in the teams' first meeting but is healthy now.

Nordhoff defense: An undersized but aggressive unit that is allowing 9.4 points per game.

"On other teams guys stand around if the quarterback doesn't throw to their area," Nordhoff Coach Cliff Farrar said. "Our guys turn and sprint to the ball."

End Mike Sedlak is a big hitter who starred against St. Bonaventure. He and tackle Jesse Barnett are second-year starters.

Russell Farrar has seen limited duty at linebacker after injuring an ankle in week five.

But his replacement, third-year starter Shane Barrett, has played with a controlled fury and leads the team with 105 tackles.

Free safety Jim Musick has made 104 tackles and strong safety Harrold is a second-year starter.

Nordhoff offense: Executing the Delaware wing-T to perfection, the Rangers pass about as often as a clunker in the slow lane.

Nordhoff relies on superb blocking and the hard running of Farrar (1,507 yards, 11 touchdowns) and tailback Kevin Zielsdorf (863 yards, 14 touchdowns).

"Watching them gives me nightmares," Mack said.

St. Bonaventure defense: The Seraphs, allowing 9.9 points per game, must key on the run while not surrendering the big pass play as it did in September.

Tackle David Bernal (6-foot-1, 310 pounds) is a standout and his ability to shrug off double-team blocking will be crucial.

Middle linebacker Todd Therrien has made 139 tackles and ends Brian Carr and Brian Miller use speed and savvy to smother outside runs.

Other factors: St. Bonaventure, never the most level-headed of teams, was penalized 10 times for 115 yards in the first matchup, including two personal fouls and a facemask penalty.

Nordhoff was penalized once for 10 yards.

Should Sanchez be injured, his backup is freshman Chris Lombardo, who has thrown 14 passes in varsity play.

Nordhoff quarterback Musick is backed up by Matt Cresto, who started the first seven games before breaking his collarbone.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

TALE OF THE TAPE

SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION X CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

ST. BONAVENTURE VS. NORDHOFF 7:30 Tonight at Nordhoff High

OFFENSE

* QUARTERBACKS: St. Bonaventure's Teohua Sanchez (6 feet, 170) has passed for 217 yards and 1.9 touchdowns per game. Nordhoff's Jim Musick (5-11, 167) has averaged 47 yards passing in five games but is not asked to do more. Each is an adept scrambler. EDGE TO: ST. BONAVENTURE

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