By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
The key to Bishop Amat High School’s chances of winning the Serra League may belong to junior running back Jalen Moore, someone coach Steve Hagerty envisioned leading his backfield long before last year’s starter, Jay Anderson, opted to skip his senior season of football to concentrate on baseball. (To continue, click thread).
More Amat: For those who haven’t seen receiver Wallace Gonzalez, here is a glimpse of what you might see in his Serra debut. Keep in mind, these are his sophomore highlights from Glendora, he’s a senior now.
Moore is averaging 126 yards and has rushed for more than 100 yards in five consecutive games for the undefeated Lancers (6-0), ranked third in the CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division poll.
The Lancers face once- beaten Crespi (5-1), winners of five straight, in Friday’s Serra League opener at Kiefer Stadium at 7 p.m. – a huge concern with Celts quarterback Ken Stenhouse averaging 285 yards and coming off back-to- back record performances.
Stenhouse threw for a school record 484 yards in a 45-31 win over Vista Murrieta, then set a school record for touchdown passes, throwing six in a 53-47 win over Taft last week, passing for 364 yards to raise his season total to 1,730 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Safe to say, the longer the Lancers keep Stenhouse off the field, the better chance they have, which makes Moore’s impact so vital.
“I wish we could be that smart,” Hagerty said. “We move the chains by taking what the defense gives us, whether that’s running or throwing it.”
Taft’s Kenny Thompson rushed for 170 yards on 25 carries against Crespi, so challenging the Celts at the line of scrimmage will come often, especially against a team allowing 23 points a contest.
If that’s what they need to do, Hagerty has no problem calling Moore’s number.
“I’ll be honest: I think Jalen might have beat out Anderson as our starting back,” Hagerty said. “That’s no knock on Jay, but even when Jay made the decision not to come back, Jalen had his sights set on winning the starting position. He was working that hard, and I would not have been surprised if he beat out (Jay).
“We might have had to move Jay to receiver, I’m not sure, but sometimes you can tell with kids, and the way Jalen was working, you knew what you were going to get.”
Moore’s production, along with that of backfield mate Zach Shay, has allowed junior quarterback Rio Ruiz to blossom after a slow start.
Ruiz is averaging 166 yards passing with nine touchdowns, though he does have four picks.
“I’m not concerned (with the interceptions),” Hagerty said. “Rio’s different; he’s kind of a gunslinger, he likes to make plays and stuff.
“Sometimes he’s running right and throws left across his body. You don’t like it, but he’s going to be more successful than not.”
It’s a risk Hagerty’s willing to take.
“You live with the results, because I have every reason to believe that the bigger the game, the bigger the performance,” Hagerty said. “I believe that about him.”
Whether the Lancers are ready for the Celts’ athleticism is a different story.
Devin Lucian, a 6-foot-2 receiver, has 12 touchdowns after hauling in six receptions for 188 yards and three touchdowns against Taft.
Chris Harper also is a dangerous threat, plus the Celts have 5-foot-4, 130-pound receiver Michael Davison, who had six receptions and scored twice in their win over Vista Murrieta.
“This is my third season; the first two we faced Long Beach Poly and Lakewood,” Hagerty said.
“Crespi is just as athletic as both of them. That’s the challenge, staying with (receivers) that make plays.”
Amat’s secondary is a concern, but overall, the Lancers’ defense has been solid, allowing just 10 points per game.
“It’s not a great matchup for us – we’re better defending the run than the pass – but you have to defend the pass this week,” Hagerty said. “There’s no way around it. They’re explosive and we have to deal with it.”
Hagerty said one thing is certain, despite Amat’s undefeated start: they’re ready to start league with something to prove.
Amat is undefeated at home since Hagerty took over in 2008, a perfect 14-0 and bring a 15-0 undefeated streak into Kiefer Stadium, having not lost since a 2007 defeat to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.
“This is what you come to Amat for, to be in games like this,” Hagerty said. “Whether it’s an Angelus, Del Rey or Serra league game, there are five teams in our league, and three make the playoffs. You have to go to work now; our coaching staff and kids understand that.” f