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Conquistadors Will Be More Defensive In 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 26 July 2012 03:36

El Camino Real Is Known For Its Offensive Prowess, But The Team Wants To Be Better At Stopping Opponents

MIKE TERRY/SFVS

A Cluster Of Conquistadors -- (l-r) Dominik Barillas, Greg Morton, Andrew Casarez and Jacob Bojsza bring a large chunk of experience to the 2012 El Camino Real football team.

Kevin Williams is sitting back in his coach's office, discussing plans for El Camino Real High football in the upcoming season, when a visitor comments on a blackand- gold Pittsburgh Steelers key chain on his desk.

Does Williams envision a Valley version of the "Steel Curtain" to emerge this fall?

"Not exactly," he said, chuckling. "They're just my favorite (NFL) team."

But Williams is serious about a stronger, defensive effort from El Camino Real this fall.

That would not necessarily be a radical departure for a team known more for it's offensive explosiveness. But it is an acknowledgement the Conquistadors need to alter some things now that they have moved from Division II to Division I.

Because Williams doesn't want to just partake in the bigger, better Division, he wants to compete.

"I think we're where we're supposed to be," Williams said. "When I came here, we were definitely not a Division I program. And that was the goal: to be able to play at a more elite level. And we achieved that. Now we have to work on getting deeper in the playoffs."

Indeed, an 8-2 regular season and second place finish in the West Valley League was a good season by most standards. But then El Camino Real saw a definitive difference in talent and intensity when the Conquistadors were routed by then two-time defending City champion Crenshaw in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

"That's really the only difference from previous years, the playoffs," Williams said. "We already play in a league that has a majority of D-I teams, so our league doesn't change. Our nonleague schedule includes a defending state champion (Sierra Canyon) this year. We've played Southern Section schools and D-I schools in our nonleague schedule. So there's really no difference. But it's more difficult to (make a run) in the playoffs.

"We had a good record so we got in the middle of the pack. We were hoping to get a home game, which we barely missed (being seeded ninth); we had gotten leapfrogged in Week 10 even though we had won. If we had won league we would have had a home game. Our goal every year, right now in Division I, is to win the league. What happens outside the neighborhood, we can't control that. We'll play whomever they put in front of us. But the league is very important. We want to beat the people down the street. We will start there, and each level after that will take care of itself."

To do that, he said, the Conquistadors have to become better at stopping people. It starts this season, in part because ECR – which has only three returning starters among its 11 returning players – may have better players on the defensive side of the ball.

"I do think we'll be much better defensively," Williams said. "I think we're more athletic, and better prepared to play defense this year. We needed some stops last year that we didn't get at key times. I think we'll be much better against the run.

"We looked out and saw the guys we're putting out on the defensive end, and I believe we're just going to be better."

The 2012 defense, anchored by senior linemen Dominik Barillas and Jacob Bojsza, could be bolstered by a couple of transfers. Tyson Jones, a 6-2, 230-pound senior, comes in from Calabasas. Ray Blake, a 6- 0, 185-pound senior, comes over from Los Angeles Baptist.

But with only 11 returning players, Williams also admits, "it's like starting from scratch. It kind of feels like my first year here. It's helpful the JVs run the same system; that's by design, to have a more seamless transition (to varsity)."

Under Williams, the Conquistadors have been known primarily for outscoring teams with its sometime bewildering double wing-T offense, which depends on both the strength to run the ball constantly and the occasional deception of who is carrying the ball – and the direction they run toward – on any particular play.

ECR has enjoyed two exceptional running backs the past few seasons: Ra'Shon Harper, who finished his high school career in 2010 as the team's all-time leading rusher, and Kawan Rally, who last season piled up 2,588 yards and 32 touchdowns on 268 carries and supplanted Harper on that statistical mountain.

Senior Greg Morton will handle the bulk or the running duties this season.

"He's been described as a 'slasher,'" Williams said of Morton. "But Greg is a very strong kid, too. He's sturdy, about 5-11 and 205. So he's a strong runner but also elusive.

"It's going to be his time. We've kind of established a tradition of running backs here; Ra' Shon Harper had his time. Kawan definitely had his time. And Greg is going to have his time."

For Morton, who totaled 885 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns, the goal beyond team success is a simple one – 1,000 yards. And the Conquistador's running schemes should make that possible.

"The double-wing offense, for a running back, is glory," Morton said. "The linemen pull, the fullback blocks, and when you see the hole you hit it. It's the kind of offense you should have success in."

Especially with blockers like Barillas and Bojsza (who will play both offense and defense) that understand and accept the sacrifice and selflessness needed by lineman here to make the Conquistador attack work.

"In the double-wing the linemen are really important, especially the pulling guards, to make big plays for guys like Greg," Bojsza said. "Sometimes you don't feel like you get as much credit as the guys in the end zone, but the team gives you credit."

But, as with all offenses, it's the quarterback who puts things in motion. Senior Andrew Casarez, who was a backup last season, will take over the starting duties. And even though he has a strong arm – he's also a pitcher on the baseball team – Casarez isn't planning on racking up monstrous passing numbers.

"Our main thing is run the ball first," Casarez said. "But I'm very comfortable with throwing in any situation. I feel like I trust my arm, and [the coaches] trust me. And that's important."

Williams does like Casarez' arm strength, but is not planning a wholesale change in philosophy to accommodate him.

"He can throw, and we will throw at times. But we will be 'run strong' again; it's what we do," Williams said.

And he wasn't defensive about it.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 26 July 2012 03:56