Above: From left, offensive linemen Chris Cisneros, Nathan Rodriguez, Nofo Tii, Memo Monreal, Hugo Correa and Spencer Fox have helped lead La Mirada deep into the CIF-SS Southeast Division playoffs. (Keith Durflinger / Staff Photographer)
LA MIRADA – An offensive lineman’s world doesn’t change much.
It consists mainly of an imaginary three-yard box, and it doesn’t matter if the ball rests near the opponent’s goal line, on the 50 or inside his team’s own 10.
Success from this view comes from attitude and work ethic, and that’s what La Mirada High School’s starting front thrives on.
Quarterback Gerry Myres and running backs Johnny Hills and Andy Gramajo have received most of the glory for the Matadores, but the difference-makers have come up front where seniors Spencer Fox (6-foot-5, 265 pounds), Memo Monreal (6-0, 250) and Nathan Rodriguez (6-3, 260); juniors Hugo Correa (6-2, 245) and Chris Cisneros (6-2, 235) and sophomore Nofo Tii (6-2, 300) have paved the way for the Matadores’ rebirth from an 0-3 start to be within two games of the program’s second CIF-Southern Section Divisional title during the past three seasons.
“It’s a good group of kids,” said La Mirada coach Mike Moschetti, whose Matadores host top-seeded and 2010 champion West Covina at 7 p.m. on Friday in a Southeast Division semifinal. “They don’t speak two words, but they just show up and work. That’s who they are. They want to be the guys who show up and work and don’t want a lot of publicity.
“They’ve done well all year long. There was a concern going into the year about the offensive line. But the more you practice, the more you work, the better you are going to get. And they’ve jelled and gotten better. They are by no means a finished product. We made a ton of mistakes last week. But they are the type of kids who get into the film room and want to learn and get better.”
This group also wants to live up to the La Mirada’s tradition of producing some of the better line play, not only in the area, but the section.
La Mirada, which won the Southern Division two years ago, had one of its better groups last season. It produced four players who signed Division I scholarships: Isaac Luatua (Alabama), Bryan Peters (Kansas), Zach Ponce (Colorado State) and E.J. Galvez (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo).
Those accolades are not lost on this group.
“I always knew we had (the ability) to do the things we’ve done, especially following the group from last year,” said Fox, who has received a scholarship offer from Hawaii. “To match those guys, that’s pretty tough, especially when you see where they are now.
“We’re always reminded that La Mirada is known for offensive linemen. We want to carry on that tradition, carry on what this program is all about.”
So far, they have, especially of late.
La Mirada, which started 0-3, has been solid over the last month and half. It’s averaged just over 45 points per game while putting together a seven-game winning streak.
The six-man rotation has paved the way for La Mirada to break the 100-yard rushing mark each of the past three weeks, including gaining 288 yards (219 from Hills) in last week’s 31-28 victory over Arcadia.
The Matadores also got 168 yards from Hills in a 35-30 victory over Crescenta Valley two weeks ago, and Hills and Gramajo combined on 162 yards in the regular-season finale on Nov. 10. Myres threw for 229 yards in the win over Crescenta Valley.
“We just keep battling, come to play each week,” said center Monreal of the team’s turnaround and seven-game winning streak. “That’s what we did this year. We all love this game. We’ve all been playing it for so long. We come to play.”
La Mirada certainly did in the second half against Arcadia. The host Apaches, who some had tagged as the second-best team behind West Covina in the Southeast playoffs, jumped out to a 28-10 lead at halftime.
But the Matadores just rode its line play to score three touchdowns in the second half en route to the win.
“We challenged them at halftime and told them we are going to run our offense and focus on the next play,” Moschetti said. “We told them to don’t look at the scoreboard because that’s the key to competing and playing winning football. You just have to play each play like it’s your last.
“That’s what these kids did. They took the game over. We ran the ball on a team that really hadn’t had a team run on them before.”
But now the attention is on the Bulldogs, who even have Fox putting aside future college plans for the present possibilities.
“It’s a good feeling (to receive the offer),” he said. “But right now, I’m focusing on getting a championship and facing West Covina.”