Wildcats ready for tilt with Lincoln

November 21, 2001|By TOM RONCO

Special to this newspaper

BRAWLEY — It will be teamwork and discipline versus speed and athleticism when the Brawley Union High football team hosts the Lincoln High Hornets in a CIF San Diego Section Division III quarterfinal football game at Warne Field here Friday night.

Brawley, with a record of 9-1 overall and the Imperial Valley League champ (4-0), is the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and knows it may need to play its best game of the year to beat the Hornets.

"They are a tough football team and we look outsized and outmanned," said Brawley head coach John Bishop. "If we have any advantage it's that our kids play together, we play more disciplined and we play more as a team."


Being the smaller team physically is not an unfamiliar one to the Wildcats, who this year defeated Division I schools Rancho Buena Vista 7-0 in Vista and Clairemont 41-7 in San Diego.

Lincoln, the fifth seed, has an 8-2 record and lost only to second-seeded Mission Bay in the tough Western League, where its record was 5-1.

Lincoln's eighth victory came Saturday when it defeated El Centro's Southwest High 40-7 in an opening-round playoff game in San Diego.

Brawley had a bye thanks to the fourth seed.

"The bye let us heal up and now we have pretty much everybody healthy," said Bishop. "It also gave us a week to work on things, but the players were antsy to play somebody."

In the Southwest game, Lincoln tailback Tank Cannon ran for three touchdowns and 311 yards on just 11 carries. For the year, Cannon has rushed for 1,572 yards, primarily behind offensive linemen Gerald Robins (5-foot-9, 195 pounds) and Condo Grimes (6-foot-2, 225 pounds).

"They have a lot of speed," said Bishop. "Cannon has speed and runs well in the open field."

Brawley also must contend with sophomore quarterback D'onte Sharp, who runs the option well, primarily out of the I formation, and can pass well, mostly to tight end Steve Smith, who has good hands and at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds is tough to bring down.

"It's the same old story. Our defense needs to shut them down and not let them get outside and we have to have some take-aways," said Bishop.

The Wildcat defense has been superb and is rated fourth among CIF San Diego Section schools, allowing under a touchdown per game.

Defensive leaders are Chris Ramirez (28 solo tackles), Shawn Palacio (14 tackles for losses), Arturo Ayon (26 assists) and Adrian Vandiver (nine sacks). Two other key members of the defense are Steve Duran and Bobby Myers.

While the Hornets' offense gets a lot of attention, their defense is just as potent.

"The real strength of their team is their defense. They have been sporadic on offense but consistent on defense" said Bishop.

"Our offensive line needs to be efficient, make no mistakes and pick up their blitzes."

The offensive line — Russell Abubo at center, Robert Platt and Brandon Wellcome at guard and Tomas Ibarra and Mark Martinez at tackle, along with Duran at tight end and Joel Aguirre, Richard Encinas and Daniel Martinez at wide receiver — has helped Brawley literally "run up" some impressive numbers.

Andy Buckner has run for 1,196 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, good enough to be rated as the fifth-leading rusher in the San Diego CIF Section.

Despite missing two games, Mitchell Ruiz has gained 930 yards and scored eight touchdowns and option quarterback Dominic Aguirre has close to 400 yards rushing.

Aguirre has mixed in about eight passes per game with an average of more than 20 yards per completion.

The veer option offense of the Wildcats will pose problems for the Hornet defense.

"They have had really only three days to prepare for us and they probably do not see the true option veer that often," said Bishop. "We need to use quick-hitting stuff against them … running laterally is not going to make it."

The winner of Friday night's game will face the winner of top-seeded Marian Catholic and seventh-seeded University of San Diego High School, a 21-20 winner over Madison last week.

While the Wildcats will have the home-field advantage, Lincoln is no stranger to the Valley. In August the Hornets played at Southwest and they have already commented to the San Diego press that they know the desert and they think it will be cooler this time.

Brawley, meanwhile, is hoping to cool the Hornet offense and see to it that Lincoln's season will both start and end in the Valley.

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