CLAN Must do Six Things to Beat Mission Viejo

La Habra, September 1, 2017—So, the Clan bounced-back nicely from their opening-night loss to the Upland (35-7) thoroughly manhandling a formidable Tesoro lineup 45-14 on Friday night. Game-time was pushed back 30 minutes due to heat, but the delay only served to mock the crowd who typically pack The Pit early for Highlander games. It was 100 degrees and dead-calm at kickoff. For about 5 minutes.

The Clan took a 13-0 lead midway through the first quarter before Tesoro applied a quick poke-in-the-eye via a nifty 70-yard TD on a stop-and-go up the eastern sideline. But, from there on it was all heat, humidity, and Highlanders. Their ground game, in particular, was as impressive as the thunder-heads building over the high desert at the start of the contest. But, as nice as it was to see the Clan shake-and-bake the Titans in their home opener, there are other matters to address before the Mission Viejo Diablos blow into town next Friday night:

There are six things the La Habra Highlanders must do if they are to have a chance at beating the highly regarded Diablos:

  1. Dispense with running QB Zach Fogel on play-action keepers and intentional rushes from the QB position
    Fogle has heart, is a tough kid, and a great scholar-athelete. But he is not Eric Barriere. So, coach Mazzotta, you need to tear a couple of pages out of the 2017 playbook (the ones with all of Barriere’s stupendous ad-lib, electrify-the-stadium-miricle-makers from the recent glory years).
  2. Fogel must hit his safety-valve, into-the-flat, and short passes at near-100% on September 8th
    It’s difficult to connect with a moving target on an extremely acute angle-of-flight with several 220 pound teenagers bearing down on you up the middle. But the short-stuff was too erratic to be “passible” in next week’s contest. Fogel needs the highest passer rating of his career against the Diablos.
  3. The Highlander ground game must be as impressive as it was against Tesoro
    That means that the Clan’s ground-pounders up front are going to have to connect and sustain their leverage on what will probably be the biggest defensive front they’ll see in 2017. They don’t have to hold their blocks “forever”—Skyler Taylor proved that he only needs a bit of daylight in order to turn nothing into six (or perhaps 42). O-Line: If you block them, he will run.
  4. The Clan D-line must lay at least five hits on Mission QB, Joey Yellen
    Let’s face it, if the Clan D doesn’t enter the tatoo application business next Friday night, the evening could be a very long one.
  5. The Clan D-line and linebackers must contain the Diablo running game
    Again, D-line: If you stop them, they must throw—and, in that scenario, you’ll know when the ball is going up in the air.
  6. The Clan MUST convert all point-after-touchdown attempts against the Diablos
    Look, at some point this season, one point is going to be the difference-maker. Don’t let it be against the Diablos next Friday night.

Against the Titans, the Clan defensive backfield was impressive. They played with the mindset of “receivers” with a right to the ball, and they made some great plays defending Titan wideouts. There are some pick-sixes in the Clan’s future. Bet on it.

Clan special teams—kick-off and punt return teams especially—are going to be worrisome for opponents all year long. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be fine on special teams. #EXCITING

Last but not least, an improvement that applies to every future game, not just the Mission contest: Clan, you need to totally eliminate the delay-of-game penalty from your performance lexicon. Period. I repeat, NO MORE DELAY OF GAME PENALTIES, PERIOD.

Do all of this at The Pit on September 8, and you may pull-off a miracle of epic proportions against Mission Viejo. Perhaps, even an EB3-like miracle.

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