Note: Today’s feature in the paper was cut short because of space, but the full version is here …
Bishop Amat defensive players Daniel Kane, left, and Davis Cazaris, the heart and soul Lancers’ vaunted defense. (SGVN/Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda)
By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
LA PUENTE – Notre Dame quarterback Ryan Kasdorf had a simple explanation for Bishop Amat’s 31-14 victory over the Knights last week that gave the Lancers a piece of the Serra League title. It also sums up what makes the Bishop Amat defense so special. It is led by a pair of seniors in defensive lineman Daniel Kane and hard-hitting safety Davis Cazares. The Lancers are allowing just 17 points a game, quite an accomplishment considering the opponents they line up against each week. To continue, click thread
“Bishop Amat just out-physicaled us in every part of the game,” said Kasdorf, who was sacked five times.
It’s something that could have been repeated after just about every Lancers game, with the exception of their lone loss at Crespi, 38-25.
“It’s not about who we got on the field, it’s about us playing together as a unit,” the normally soft-spoken Kane said. “When we don’t play as a unit, like against Crespi, you see what happens. But when we’re together as one, we can accomplish just about anything.”
Mater Dei (6-4) should expect more of the same when it visits the Lancers (9-1) in the first round of the Pac-5 Division playoffs on Friday at Kiefer Stadium, where the Lancers are 10-0 since coach Steve Hagerty took over.
“We don’t have a bunch of flashy players,” Cazares said. “But we’re solid. If we outhit and outhustle you, the rest takes care of itself.”
After losing defensive standouts Sheldon Price and Isaiah Bowens, now at UCLA, and Brent Seals, who walked on at Stanford, Hagerty wondered how his undersized no-name defense would do.
Go through just about any scouting service, and you won’t find Bishop Amat defensive players at the top of any recruiting list.
It’s something Hagerty discussed with former Lancers head coach Mark Paredes, who phoned to congratulate Hagerty on their first league title since 2002.
“We both agreed that this team reminds us of the 1988 team (that reached the championship and lost),” Hagerty said. “Our defense was really good. I could tell you who played, but I don’t think anybody that year went anywhere on an athletic scholarship.”
The 1988 team followed the much-heralded 1987 team with Mazio Royster that lost in the second round, and the 1986 team with Eric Bienemy that also lost in the second round. That left the Lancers thin on returning marquee players in 1988.
“I remember losing those guys (Royster and Bienemy) and a bunch of other good players and thinking, ‘what are we going to do now that all those guys are gone?'” Hagerty said. “And that year (’88) we end up playing Fountain Valley for the championship.
“This team has a lot of similarities to that one, a bunch of kids that work hard and work together,” Hagerty said. “This team has what a lot of teams have that win, they care about each other. When you care about each other you have the ability to accomplish just about anything.”
At the center of it all is Cazares, a thinking-man’s safety who doesn’t mind getting in a someone’s face. Teammates respect him enough to deliver his message.
“Davis will go over to a player and say, ‘if you don’t get over to the (bleeping) middle, I’m going to put my foot up your (butt). He won’t embarrass you, he will do it a quiet personal way so that you get the message,” Hagerty said. “He reminds me a lot of his father Mark (who also played at Bishop Amat). He’s a very devoted and focused young man. His instincts on the field are as big a part of his success as anything. He reads well, it’s all the things you teach kids, but some kids get it and care about it, where others don’t think it’s such a big deal.
“Davis takes it and absorbs it. His dad has trained him to be focused, that’s why he doesn’t miss a lot of reads, that’s what allows him as a safety to be where he needs to be. He’s religious about that kind of stuff and he has earned a tremendous amount of respect from his teammates because of it.
Kane is the leader in the trenches. He hardly ever says a word, but his teammates get the message, too.
“I think our players watch him work and are inspired by the way he works,” Hagerty said of Kane. “I can’t tell you how many other coaches have come up to me and said `That guy (Kane) is a stud.’ They rave about him.”
“He wrestled (last year) and lost about 20 pounds. He’s about 255 and is faster, stronger and just better. He has completely devoted himself to being the best player he can be.
“It’s amazing how that kind of quiet leadership can come through so loud on team where people love to talk.”
Much of the defense success also is attributed to defensive coach Mike DiFiori, the former Lancers head coach who describes Cazares and Kane as the heart of the team’s character.
“They anchor both ends,” DiFiori said. “It’s nice when you have a guy in the middle (Kane) that can take care of two or three gaps, and then Davis in the back making sure everyone is aligned correctly.
“Those two make everyone accountable for their effort because they bring that effort every second. They’re always going 190 miles per hour. Nobody will listen to you or react to you if you don’t follow through yourself. They just get it, they really do.”
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