Up and down season for East and West
Nov. 4, 2011 at 6:04 a.m.
Leonard McAngus called sports the ultimate reality show, because the endings are so unpredictable.
This was in the middle of a season that has provided its fair share of climaxes - and not always good ones - for varsity football at Victoria's two public high schools.
Victoria West and Victoria East meet with little more than bragging rights at stake. The Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs last week, while the Titans are assured of the top seed in Divisiion I regardless of the outcome.
"Anything that happens in the first nine games won't mean that much to anyone," said East coach Mickey Finley. "I don't think there is any ball game our kids would rather win and I think their kids are the same way."
McAngus has witnessed that first hand at Victoria West. Conceivably his Warriors (2-7, 0-4) could have seven wins had the breaks gone their way this fall as they did in 2010.
Across town an East team that broke preseason huddles talking about going to state, didn't win for a month as injuries and turnovers punctured their pride. However, a trio of wins in District 30-4A play means the Titans (5-4, 3-1) have a chance to record a second straight winning season, something a Victoria public school has not accomplished since 2000.
"We thought it was going to be a stroll, it might even be a little easier, after going 11-2," said East quarterback Nic Wallace during an Oct. 13 interview. "After recognizing it's not going to be a stroll, we're waking up. We're fighting now. This is the team I like to see."
West is likely going to throw everything they have at the Titans in an attempt to send the nearly 30 seniors on the squad out victorious.
"Not a lot of people get to end their careers winning," said West defensive back Jayce Serrano, who has blocked nearly 15 kicks in his varsity career. "A lot of people if you make the playoffs, you either lose or win state. So to beat East it would be better."
That might be easier said than done because Serrano and the rest of the defense will have to find a way to stop East running back Johnathan Garner, who has run for 1,290 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The senior has run for more than 100 yards in each of the past three games largely because the Titans offense is more balanced than it was earlier in the season.
Gregory-Portland lost to East on Oct. 21 and defeated West last week. After the Wildcats 16-14 win over West, head coach Matt Anastasio broke down what he witnessed from the two schools.
"East has figured out what they want to do," Anastiaso said. "They are going to come downhill and give it to No. 5. They have figured that out and they became a very good team when they started doing that. They are also playing very good defense. West, they spread you out, but they try to run the ball. .That (Garner), he is just so strong and so much faster than a lot of people, which is going to give (West) problems."
Meanwhile, the Warriors will counter with the trio of Dylan Edgerton, Jacob Armstrong and Qualian Bryant in the backfield. Top running back Chris Franklin has been ruled out for the game. That means more will be left to junior quarterback Garrett Rother.
Rother's 1,747 total yards, 12 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions might look pedestrian to the naked eye, but the improvement he has shown as a first-year starter has been very evident to McAngus, and his teammates.
"We've implemented more things with him than last year we did with (Kyle) Motal," said West's leading receiver Seth Harrison. "(Rother) is so smart, understands everything and knows exactly what our coaches are trying to tell him. .within a matter of four of five days he's learned new plays and new things. He's a year younger and a year less experienced and picking it up and running with it every game."
Players on both sides know what is at stake. They hear it at school, or from parents or when hanging out around town. However, many are like Serrano, they would rather let the scoreboard in the east end zone of Memorial Stadium speak for them.
Late Friday night that noise will be deafening for one team, and the ultimate realty check for the other.