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Holtville battling Christian in CIF quarterfinals

November 22, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT

Sports Editor

The Holtville High School football team knows it has its work cut out for it Friday and that's just fine with the Vikings.

The work Holtville must do will be against the San Diego CIF Section Division IV playoff's No. 2 seed, Christian High School, in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The Vikings will stare down a Patriot team that is 9-1 and averaging 29.4 points per game while allowing just 9.1 points. And the team from Holtville (6-4) wouldn't have it any other way.

"We're looking pretty good," said senior Viking running back Frank Lopez. "The coaches have mixed it up a bit and everything is looking pretty good."

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"Every thing has been running really smoothly," said senior lineman Sam Massey

Added senior tight end/defensive tackle Eric Cueto, "Things are looking good. I have a good feeling about it."

The good feeling has spread to Holtville coach Jim Sturgeon. His team will face a Christian squad that will primarily pass the ball. The Patriots have a solid offensive line and dangerous wide receivers. That does not mean Sturgeon is worried.

"They're tough," he said. "They're a really good football team. This is a big game in every way for us. We've matured as a team and we're ready for this type of competition."

Christian is led by junior quarterback Joel Allen, who has thrown for 1,840 yards and 15 touchdowns. His primary target is senior wide receiver Josh Paddock, who has 674 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Colby Shigley leads the ground game with 763 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.

While Sturgeon was not ready to reveal what he has planned to stop that trio Friday, he did say his team would be ready to give the three and Christian difficulties.

"I think we can put some pressure on the quarterback," he said. "We've worked all week on stopping the pass. We need to shut down the pass."

Stopping the pass seems to be a big concern for the Vikings. Christian will probably put the ball in air more than any team Holtville has seen this year, meaning the Vikings defensive backs must step up.

"We're been working a lot on pass defense and that should help," said Holtville wide receiver/defensive back Chase Iten. "Vincent passed a lot, too, so it's nothing we haven't faced before."

Added Lopez, "They'll probably pass the whole time, but I think we can handle it. We should be able to hang with them."

Sturgeon thinks shutting down the pass is only one key for his team to be successful.

"We have to be error free," he said. "We have to put a lot of pressure on their passing game as well. It will come down to our discipline against their skill."

Said Cueto, "We have to fire out and get our blocks.

Added Massey, "Everyone needs to play at a higher level and we need to run our plays smoothly. If we run our plays smoothly then we have a good chance."

The play of the offensive line is a big key, said senior quarterback Jon Singh.

"The offensive line has to be pumped," he said. "They have to step it up and we'll win. Without them the backs are nothing."

The Vikings do have some factors working in their favor. The week off between their final regular season game with Imperial and Friday's game with Christian has given the team time to heal. Another thing helping Holtville is that the team is a senior-dominated squad. This experience is beneficial as is the fact that to a man, not one of the Viking seniors wants his football careers to end Friday.

"It's hard," said Lopez. "You don't want to stop playing. You want to keep going because you don't want it to end. Our hearts are really in it this year. I told the team we've got to step it up and make this season as long as we can."

"I think it encourages us more," said Cueto. "This could be our last game so we have to work harder."

Added Singh, "There's a little more pressure because this could be our last game ever. I'm going to go all out and I know the other seniors will too."

Senior running back Jared Brady seemed to sum up the prevailing attitude among the Holtville seniors when he said, "I've got to go out knowing that I gave it everything I could."

The Vikings' game with Christian kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon.

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