While it may not be the main event, the West High football team’s attention is squarely focused on tonight’s visit by second-place Tokay — and with good reason.
A loss to the Tigers, who were outgunned by West’s final opponent and arch-nemesis St. Mary’s by a score of 37-19 last week, would not only take the Wolf Pack’s playoff chances out of their own hands, it might just be enough to eliminate them.
The Rams are undefeated, and will in all likelihood continue to be so after tonight’s game at Edison. After the Wolf Pack, Tokay faces TCAL weakling Stagg.
“This is a big game for us,” West coach Steve Lopez said. “Probably the biggest game this year — so much is riding on it. If we lose one, we’re not in the playoffs.”
While West will miss wideout Kevin Brown, who broke his leg on a play he drew up — “That play’s thrown out of the playbook,” Lopez said — the return of senior lineman Amin Silatolu, out for the beginning of West’s league schedule, gives the Wolf Pack a boost on both sides of the ball. And they’ll need it.
The Tigers are similar to the Wolf Pack in that they feature a powerful running attack. But they run it out of a spread formation, which means West will have fewer players in the box available to stuff leading runner William Miles, who has racked up 910 yards on the ground thus far.
“They’re going to come out and test us early with the run,” said senior linebacker and defensive captain Robert Soto.
But the Tigers can also pass. Quarterback Casey McCurdy is 67 for 109 on the year with nine touchdowns and 900 yards passing. The plan, according to Soto, is to force McCurdy to take matters into his own hands.
“Our main focus is to make them one dimensional,” Soto said. “We’ve got to make them pass the ball. If we do that, half the battle’s won.”
Cornerbacks Stanley Arukwe and Jideolfo Okwudiri will be expected to back up linebackers Soto, Mike Donato and Michael Fleming in stopping the run, and when the passes come, they’ll have to be on top of their games.
West won’t fool anybody with its offensive game plan, but that doesn’t mean Tokay will be able to stop it. Led by senior tailback Montrel Richardson and junior fullback Tyler Kenton, the Wolf Pack running attack is physical, grueling and consistent.
Kenton has four touchdowns over the last two games, and Richardson scored twice last week, gaining 113 yards on seven carries. The output’s surprised a lot of people, including Kenton.
“I just do the best I can to help the team out and play my game,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d be this good this year.”
That includes Kenton’s coaches, teammates, and their opponents throughout the TCAL.
“I don’t think anyone runs the ball like we do in our league,” Lopez said.
The veteran coach isn’t known for making outlandish statements, so a platitude like that means he’s serious. “People who play us have to be physical, and I don’t know if (Tokay’s) had to be physical in their games.”
“But we’ll have to see how it works out,” he added. “Right now, I feel good about the game. But we’ll just have to see.”