Ehh, since Freddie is gone til Wednesday, I figured I’d take over the Amat beat in his stead. So here is your Lancers’ update following the bye week and heading into Friday’s game against Loyola.
Few things can make a coach frown like a bye week when his team has started to play its best football of the season.
Count Bishop Amat High School’s Steve Hagerty in that group as his team had won three consecutive games before last week’s bye. Now, Hagerty has to hope all the momentum the Lancers had built up hasn’t gone away with two, big Mission League games left on the schedule.
“I’ve never been a fan of the bye simply because kids like routine and you break their routine,” Hagerty said. “It’s not a huge concern, but if I had my way, I would prefer to play 10 straight.”
Amat hosts Loyola on Friday night in its last home game of the regular season. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. due to web streaming by FOX Sports.
It’s real simple for the Lancers, who are 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Mission League: win the next two weeks and the PAC-5 playoffs are a certainty, maybe even a league championship. Lose one or both, and things could get complicated.
Although Loyola enters Friday’s game at 0-4 in league and eliminated from playoff contention, Hagerty knows the looseness of playing the role of spoiler could actually be to the Cubs’ advantage.
“They’re scary because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Hagerty said. “We respect them because we believe in the pride and traditions of their program. They’re going to come to play. They’re going to be free and less restrictive. They’re going to just let it rip and that’s a dangerous opponent for us coming off a bye or not.”
If the Amat team of October shows up, no matter how loose Loyola plays, it may not matter. The Lancers haven’t lost in the Halloween month despite entering it with a 2-3 overall record and a league-opening loss to Crespi.
There have been several factors in Amat’s emergence. Quarterback Damian Garcia has become one of the top passers around. Running back Torreahno Sweet has gone from reserve to one of the most dangerous weapons in the Lancers’ arsenal. And because of Sweet’s emergence, Anthony Camargo has been able to concentrate on his core position of linebacker, where his impact has helped shore up the Lancers’ defense.
Garcia just missed breaking Pat Haden’s single-game passing yardage school record in Amat’s win over Chaminade. It was the junior’s best performance of the year as he threw for 429 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s been a good blend of him trying to figure out what we want him to do and what he wants to do,” Hagerty said of Garcia. “He’s tough kid. He’s the type of kid where bullets are flying by him and he’s unfazed by it, and that’s an intangible quality.
“Every week he’s got a new injury and he keeps figuring out a way to get up off the floor. I think a lot of us saw potential in him.”
The Lancers were loaded with weapons on the outside thanks to receivers like Tyler Vaughns, Trevon Sidney and Brandon Arconado. But with little to no running game to go with it early in the season, the offense wasn’t as dynamic as it is today. Sweet has changed all that and also helped the defense get better in an indirect way.
“It’s almost like getting a transfer kid to come in because what it does is put one of our best defensive players (Camargo) back on that side of the ball as a full-time guy,” Hagerty said. “Torrie’s run the ball well. I think he sees the field well when he has the ball in his hands. He’s not a burner, speed-wise, but I think he’s definitely shown he has some power to him.
“With every week, he’s gaining more confidence. He definitely has worked hard and earned the right to be where he is now.”
Amat fans can only hope that the product they see on Friday night is the same one they saw the three previous games before the bye week. If the Lancers do win out and make the playoffs, they can use any help they can get in terms of seeding and draw in the playoffs where several Southland powers await.
It hasn’t always been an easy task for Hagerty to sell his team on the importance of situations, but he’s hoping that taking advice from coaches when it comes to things like urgency is another area where his team improves.
“There was a certain point in the season where it was like ‘Guys, we’re done if you don’t get moving. You realize that, don’t you?'” Hagerty said. “That was at a time when they needed to get moving and they did. They’re great-natured kids. I really like this team. They’re really fun to be around. And when they get down to it, they can really get after it. It’s just whether or not they get after it enough.
“I think they understand what’s at stake. They’ve all worked way too hard and come from places they didn’t want to be to just go away easily.”