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Behind enemy lines
Sutter to face loaded Marin Catholic
It was only Oct. 19 and Mazi Moayed already knew which team his Marin Catholic High Wildcats would face if they made it to the inaugural CIF Northern California Regional championship game.
Moayed and his coaching staff made the trip north to Redding's Enterprise High to get an early look at Sutter, a team they had heard about for years and was right behind them in the Cal-Hi Sports state bowl rankings.
After four quarters of football and a 34-27 Huskies victory over the eventual Northern Section Division-I champion Hornets, Moayed knew if his team made it to the regional game, Sutter would be the Wildcats' opponent.
"We wanted to size them up and check them out," Moayed said. "We were very impressed. They have a great football team. They're well-coached and they have extremely tough kids."
Sutter coach Ryan Reynolds has a mutual admiration for Marin Catholic.
Similar to what the Huskies have accomplished in the Northern Section, the Wildcats have established their own legacy in the North Coast Section with nine section championships.
The Kentfield-based parochial school played in the 2009 state championship game where the Wildcats lost to Serra of Gardena 24-20.
Now they eye a return trip to Carson's Home Depot Center with a win on Saturday night over the 13-0 Huskies at Harrison Stadium in Oroville in the Division III NorCal regional game.
Reynolds labeled Marin Catholic the best team Sutter has ever faced.
"They're like no team we've ever played," Reynolds said. "They have talent everywhere. They have no weak links on that football field."
Reynolds saw that firsthand last week when Marin Catholic edged El Cerrito 31-28 through a rainstorm in the North Coast Section Division III title game, a matchup between Cal-Hi Sports' No. 1 and 2 teams.
One week prior, the Wildcats scored 28 unanswered points in a comeback win in the section semifinals against Cardinal Newman.
"What impressed me the most about them is that when they gave up points, it didn't faze them," Reynolds said. "It didn't bother them one bit. They never looked panicked for one second."
The main reason was the composed play of senior quarterback Jared Goff, who's one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation.
Goff, who has already committed to play Division-I football for the Pacific-12 Conference's California Golden Bears next season, is a 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-hander and ranked the No. 20 quarterback in the country by ESPN's recruiting services.
Last summer, he finished in sixth place at ESPN's prestigious Elite 11 quarterback competition that has produced NFL starters Josh Freeman, Matthew Stafford, Jake Locker and a plethora of established NFL signal-callers.
"His technique is second-to-none as a quarterback," Reynolds said. "He's definitely a multifaceted player."
Last season as a junior, Goff threw 44 touchdown passes compared to just four interceptions with 3,220 yards.
He's the pilot behind Moayed's spread offense that averages 40 points per game.
Goff stands tall in the pocket and delivers a beautiful ball, but can also beat teams with his feet as he showed last week against El Cerrito with a 30-yard touchdown run.
Marin Catholic's spread isn't purely pass-happy, as the Wildcats do everything out of their offense, especially with running back Akili Terry in the backfield.
Terry, who's garnered Division-I interest from Eastern Washington (an FCS powerhouse), Colorado State, Fresno State and San Diego State, is a strong runner with deceptive speed, and works in tandem with Goff to run a zone read-option attack.
"They don't stick to more passing or running," said Sutter senior safety Philip Robledo. "They're 50-50. They're a more balanced spread team than we've ever seen."
Goff is a master of precision in the passing game and can get the ball to four reliable weapons.
Senior Andrew Celis is Marin Catholic's go-to target. A Wes Welker-type slot receiver, Celis has great hands and speed to boot. Colton Hanley is a top pass-catcher as well.
Goff's heir apparent at quarterback is junior Morgan Mahalak, who's already been offered a D-I scholarship to South Alabama, but played wideout this season to round out a phenomenal receiving corps.
"(Goff) will kill you if you're not right there," said Sutter senior linebacker Ryan Staas. "And if you're right there on coverage, he still might throw it over the top of you. We'll do our best to get pressure on him."
That may be a tough task with a sizable Marin Catholic line anchored by 6-5, 280-pound University of Colorado commit Gunnar Graham at tackle. Marin's line uses wide splits to spread the defense out even more.
Graham, who recently gained interest from the University of Miami, also plays on the defensive line in front of linebacker Alex Poksay, yet another D-I recruit with looks from the University of San Diego and Sacramento State.
Even with a bevy of talent in his arsenal, Moayed knows Sutter presents his team with a huge challenge.
Marin Catholic has not seen a dynamic wing-T program like Sutter since the teams in its league are predominantly spread. The Wildcats' one loss this season came to 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion Vacaville — a wing-T team.
Moayed scouted the Huskies twice this season. Along with his trip to Enterprise, Moayed saw the Huskies play West Valley in the Northern Section championship.
"They did a great job during that game of making adjustments," Moayed said. "You could see an 'it' factor with this team. They seem like they have very good chemistry and they have a lot of fun together."
This isn't a rivalry since the two schools have never played each other, but the storylines can already be laid out: "City vs. country," "private school vs. public school," "new school vs. old school," and even "dogs vs. cats."
Trumping all of those scenarios is the fact that both coaches are eager for the opportunity to represent their respective sections.
And the Huskies know, against a team like this, the margin for error is just about zero.
"They don't make mistakes," Robledo said. "They make plays."