As Manuel Douglas spoke on the phone Saturday morning, the Harbor City Narbonne coach was watching a video replay of San Pedro's Kenny Potter shaking five Carson defenders on a quarterback counter.
"That's the added element that makes them tougher this year," Douglas said of the Pirates, who are poised to contend for their first Marine League title since 2006 in large part because of their senior quarterback.
Potter has led San Pedro to victories in its first eight games, including a 21-0 triumph over Carson on Friday in which he ran for two touchdowns and passed for another.
Potter called his team's first marquee victory of the season "a nice starting point," noting that the Pirates (8-0, 3-0) still must defeat Narbonne (6-2, 3-0) on Friday and Wilmington Banning (3-5, 1-2) on Nov. 10 to clinch the league title and a possible No. 1 seeding for the Los Angeles City Section Division I playoffs.
"It would be great," Potter said. "That's what we're striving for right now."
Potter has taken a somewhat unconventional route to stardom. He started his high school career as a quarterback but switched to safety his sophomore season to get playing time. He moved back to quarterback as a junior and now, in his second season as the starter, has passed for 20 touchdowns and run for eight more.
"He's making some plays with his legs that are pretty athletic, and that's surprising," Douglas said. "The kid makes plays on the run, and they haven't had that in a while. When you think you have him, he'll throw a 60-yard pass for a touchdown."
Or run for a 48-yard touchdown on a bootleg, like he did Friday against the Colts after calling his own play.
"We didn't get the passing game rolling too much, which we usually do," Potter said. "When that happens, it's nice to know I can use my feet too."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Potter would love to use his hand to sign a college letter of intent but has not received any scholarship offers. His counterpart in the upcoming game Friday, Narbonne junior quarterback Troy Williams, had six by the time he was a sophomore.
The lack of attention only seems to energize Potter.
"I feel that's what's making me a better player," he said, "proving to all the scouts I can play."
L.A. Roosevelt and Garfield have split the last four East L.A. Classics, keeping their respective coaches off the hot seat.
"It's like job security," Garfield Coach Lorenzo Hernandez has joked to Roosevelt counterpart Javier Cid. "You win one year and I'll win it the next."
Nevertheless, Cid conceded that his program has some catching up to do in the rivalry going into Friday's game at East Los Angeles College.
"They seem to do better overall," Cid said. "A lot of it has to do with their preseason schedule. They really challenge themselves and try to play a lot of top teams."
Garfield went 0-4 in nonleague play, losing to La Puente Bishop Amat, Huntington Beach Edison, Dorsey and Santa Fe Springs St. Paul. The Bulldogs have lost only once since, to unbeaten South Gate South East.
That means Roosevelt (5-3, 3-1) and Garfield (4-5, 4-1) remain in the running for the Eastern League title should the Jaguars stumble over the season's final two weeks. And the longtime rivals could meet again in the playoffs because Roosevelt has moved up to Division I this season.
"We're right on their tails trying to follow them and move our program into that division even though it's really tough," Cid said. "Even if we do make the playoffs, we'll be one of the bottom teams and have to play one of the top seeds."