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Breaking down the Huskies, and their keys to winning
Div III Regional Bowl game set
It will go down as one of the biggest football games the Yuba-Sutter area has ever witnessed, and Saturday night's inaugural CIF Northern California Regional Division III championship game between Sutter High and Marin Catholic figures to be a contrast in styles.
On one side of the ball are the 13-0 Huskies, owners of eight Northern Section championships and a team built on hard-nosed, swarming defense and a machine-like execution of its wing-T offense.
On the other side stand the 13-1 Wildcats, a highly-touted program that has claimed nine North Coast Section titles while perfecting the quick-striking spread offense that has taken the nation by storm in recent years.
Both teams enter the contest with mutual respect for one another as well — and why not?
When football practices began in the summer, there were 1,067 high school teams in California vying to get to this point. Now, just 20 are left standing.
Playing football in December is extremely rare, and the Huskies couldn't be happier to take on the juggernaut Wildcats at Oroville's Harrison Stadium with a state championship berth on the line.
"It's definitely a dream come true. It's a situation we always wanted to be in," senior defensive end Garrett Wallace said. "Winning a section championship was our goal from the beginning of the year, but going to state is awesome. It's a lot different than anything we've experienced so far."
And so far, the Huskies haven't faced an opponent like this.
With a Cal-bound quarterback, a Division-I recruit at running back and a host of speedy wideouts, Marin Catholic is putting up an average of 42 points per game and can hurt teams both through the air and on the ground.
Add to that a strong and talented offensive line and a top-notch coaching staff calling the shots, and the Huskies' defense will have its work cut out for them come Saturday night.
"This is definitely the best team we've faced," Sutter defensive coordinator Matt Schamanski said. "They have quite a bit of Division-I athletes, their O-line is big, they're tough, and they get after it. They will run or pass the ball on any down or distance."
Schamanski added that stopping the run will be paramount. However, the key to the slowing down Marin Catholic will be collapsing the pocket and crea ing a pass rush — something that is easier said than done.
"We've been watching a lot of film on them and not a lot of teams have got pressure on their quarterback. For us to have success, we have to get in his face," Schamanski said. "We can't let him sit back there and through the ball on us or he'll pick us apart."
With 66 sacks on the year, Sutter certainly has the players to do it.
Wallace leads the team with 16.5 sacks, defensive tackle Trevor Carr has 11.5 and defensive end Jake Koranda has recorded 10. Philip Robledo also has nine sacks from his hybrid linebacker/safety position.
Of course, Sutter has some offensive weapons of its own, too.
Fullback Nathan Ahlers has rumbled his way for 1,369 yards and 25 touchdowns, while halfback Mat Sanders has provided a burst on the outside with 1,014 yards and 14 combined rushing and receiving scores.
The Huskies will also lean heavily on the steady play of third-year staring quarterback Trent Little. A threat with both his arm and legs, Little came up big in Sutter's 38-31 double-overtime victory over West Valley in the section championship when he passed for 173 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for an additional 91 yards and a score.
He will need to provide more of the same in Oroville to give the Huskies balance and keep the Wildcats' defense guessing.
"Trent's a key factor in this game, as he was against West Valley," Sutter coach Ryan Reynolds said. "I knew he'd be the X-factor in that game and he was. He had the best game of his career both throwing and running, and made the difference."
Like Sutter, Marin Catholic fields a swarming defense with the key cog being middle linebacker Alex Poksay, a Division-I recruit whom Reynolds labeled as a "stud."
"They're good. They fight off the blocks well and they're big all the way around, so it will be a challenge for us," Little said. "We're pretty excited and just waiting for the game to come around."
But if there is one thing that works in Sutter's favor, it's the fact that the Wildcats have faced nearly all spread teams during the course of the season. In fact, Marin Catholic's lone loss came against Vacaville, a wing-T team just like Sutter.
Even so, Reynolds knows his team will have to execute and be at its best if they hope to pull off the upset.
"We've got to move the ball, keep possession of the ball and sustain drives," Reynolds said. "The more we have the ball, the more success we'll have. If we're going three-and out, three-and-out, it's going to be a tough, long night."
The Huskies practiced through the mud and slop on their practice field Monday and Tuesday before bussing out to Yuba College for practices on Wednesday and Thursday.
Reynolds said that both practices went extremely well, and the fact that Yuba has the same field turf as Harrison Stadium should benefit the Huskies come Saturday.
"It's been great. They rolled out the red carpet for us and provided us with everything," Reynolds said about Yuba College's athletic department.
Even with the help, the Huskies know they will have to be on point come Saturday.
"Their program is very similar to ours — they're well-coached and they're disciplined," Wallace said. "I think it's going to be a really great game and I'm excited about it."