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Taft Dominant in City Playoffs

Toreadors romp past Dorsey, 30-6, in avenging last season's loss in title game and appear bound for a championship.

November 28, 2002|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

The path to the City Section football championship appears devoid of challengers to unbeaten Woodland Hills Taft.

Unlike last season, when the Toreadors lost the City title to Dorsey on the last play of the game -- a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone as time ran out -- it doesn't appear there's a team in the City that can stay close to Taft.

The Toreadors (12-0) dispatched visiting Dorsey, 30-6, on Wednesday in a City Championship quarterfinal game. Up next is pass-happy Venice, which beat Roosevelt, 44-35.

Taft beat West Valley League rival Lake Balboa Birmingham, 30-, in the regular-season finale. The Patriots, who whipped Fairfax, 35-14, in another quarterfinal, are favored to advance to the final from the lower half of the draw.

As much as Taft's coaches and players downplayed the matchup this week, preparing for the Dons put the Toreadors on edge.

"After suffering last year's loss we didn't even want to put ourselves in that same position," senior wide receiver Steve Smith.

Taft has used that experience to sharpen itself for another title run. The Toreadors have reeled off 12 consecutive victories and have rarely been tested along the way. Their core of skill players is considered to be unmatched in the Southland.

"They're as loaded as any team I've seen in the last few years," said Jefferson Coach Doi Johnson, whose Democrats knocked off second-seeded Carson in the first round.

Trying to stop Taft's offense is a daunting task. To wit:

* If you try to double-cover wide receivers Steve Smith, the reigning City Section player of the year, and fleet-footed Noah Smith, how do you account for Paul Pratt over the middle?

Steve Smith had the biggest offensive numbers Wednesday, catching seven passes for 141 yards.

* If you add extra defensive backs, are there enough linebackers to stop tailbacks Ian Bell and Litrele Jones? Jones had the big night Wednesday, rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown in 19 carries.

* If you blitz quarterback Cary Dove, how do you keep from getting burned by his quick release or scrambling ability? Dove completed 10 of 18 passes for 183 yards and touchdown. He also ran for a score.

If you're lucky enough to slow down the Toreador offense, you might have problems with their defense, which is led by Lance Broadus at linebacker. Taft held Dorsey (5-7) to 175 yards and intercepted four passes -- Pratt returned one 39 yards for a touchdown.

"We know defense wins championships," Taft Coach Troy Starr said.

Banning Coach Ed Lalau considers the California-bound Dove a better talent than Matt Moore, the former Newhall Hart and current UCLA freshman quarterback. Dove threw for a career-high 389 yards against the Pilots in Taft's 42-14 first-round victory.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks I've seen in the City in the last two decades," Lalau said. "He can run and he's got a great release. And it helps that he has a great receiving corps to complement him."

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