"Boots on the Ground": Hart - St. Bonaventure

Our Southern California Recruiting Observer Bob Miller, an admitted Friday night lights addict, Southern California-style, took in Saturday's powerhouse play-off game between Hart (Newhall, CA) and St. Bonaventure (Ventura, CA) and reports in on the highly-anticipated match-up between red-hot Cardinal recruit Delano Howell and #1-ranked and uncommitted St. Bonaventure running back Darrell Scott.

"Boots on the Ground": Hart vs. St. Bonaventure (12/09/07)

Southern California football is wrapping up as the area championship games were contested over the weekend. Today (Sunday), teams will be selected for the State championship games in each of three divisions. Division I schools have an enrollment in excess of 2,400; Division II schools have enrollment between 1,100 & 2,400 while a Division III school's enrollment is less than 1,100.

Much like the BCS, a panel of "EXPERTS" selects the participants for the finals from the pool of section winners. A team from Northern California is selected in each of the three Divisions to play a team from Southern California. There is no guarantee the best teams will be selected to participate. This year, in the large school division, three Southern California teams were considered viable choices, Long Beach Poly, Corona Centennial, & Birmingham Lake Balboa. Each won their respective section championship games. Poly won 13-3 over the Crespi team that took Mater Dei out earlier. Centennial was a 42-7 winner over Santiago while Birmingham won 41-6 over Carson. Having seen Poly & Centennial play this year, I think Poly may be the better team but until they played, how would you know? Poly has been able to stop the run while Mater Dei was able to run against the Centennial defense. Complicating the situation further, the playoffs leading up to the final selections are organized geographically, not by size of school. For instance Division I Poly played their championship game final against Division II Crespi.

While there is certainly theatre in the current process, a viable "state championship" it is not. I heard rumors at the game last night that the unselected schools in Division I in southern California may look to an outside consultant for wet work in the corridors of power. They have identified a consultant, code named Sharon, who is a velvet hammer type with Gator teeth from Florida. Supposedly, the consultant has submitted a proposal about a coup to overthrow the California Interscholastic Federation if they refuse to stage meaningful playoffs with a real SEC-style championship game. The plan includes facebook attacks against administrators making Clinton's recent op research in Obama's kindergarten classes look tame in comparison. "The Governator" has asked for calm but has placed State police at airports and train stations in an effort to interdict "Sharon" in the event she attempts to enter the state. Adding to the panic though is the fact that "Sharon" is rumored to be moving freely in the state having recently recorded an interview in the Chuck Taylor Grove. These recordings are being subjected to the same scrutiny as a message from Bin Laden himself.

Anyway, before the public school system in California is taken apart over the lack of a football playoff system, I took the opportunity to see St. Bonaventure of Ventura, Calif. take on Hart of Newhall, Calif. at the Home Depot Center (Carson, Calif.). The obvious marquee headline for the game is the running back match up between Stanford-bound Delano Howell and uncommitted Darrell Scott who some feel is the best running back prospect in the entire country this year.

Making the game particularly interesting was the fact that there was some bad blood between the two rival schools as many folks were unhappy about superstar Scott's never-fully-explained transfer for his senior year to powerhouse St. Bonaventure, a move that left his abandoned former teammates at Moorpark High less than happy and the Hart head coach, among others in the league, quite upset - so much so that Hart cancelled an earlier regular-season game with St. Bonaventure in protest.

The match-up of the two star backs lived up to the hype for as long as it lasted. Unfortunately, Howell was forced to leave the game due to injury near the middle of the third quarter. St. Bonaventure won the game 42-28 and wasn't really threatened past the beginning of the third quarter when Hart's first possession after the second half kick-off ended quickly and the Seraphs went down for a touchdown. The rest of the way St. Bonaventure used the running game to shorten the game. The QB, Casey Serna, gained 140 yards on the ground on well-timed scrambles as well as designed plays.

Howell had 93 yards on 15 carries; 6.2 yards per attempt for the Indians while Scott had 156 yards on 32 carries for the Seraphs. Howell had another 37 yards on three receptions. Scott had one catch for 40 yards and a td. Scott ended up scoring four touchdowns while Howell scored once (which gave him 13 TDs in four play-off games and 36 for the season - who knows what he would have had if he had continued to play).

Both kids are similar in style. They run north & south, have excellent vision, and cut back effectively to exploit space. Scott and Howell both attack the defense to get the last yard or two out of a play. They can exploit openings, but also do the tough work to get the two or three positive yards out of each and every touch. Neither believes in negative yardage. Scott is noticeably larger at 6'2", 215 lbs. while Howell is listed at 5'11", 190 lbs. Scott appears to be a little more explosive and certainly takes full advantage of his physical size. Scott focuses only on offense. Howell, on the other hand, plays both ways for Hart and he takes a pounding because of his running style. It was a real pleasure to see these kids compete.

Running backs aside, with the conclusion of this recruiting cycle approaching, it is fun to take a look at younger players on high caliber teams like these. There are several worth mentioning. It should be noted I do not know much about the academic credentials of these kids.

An offense, the running game in particular, is dependant on the kids up front and it is rare to see a sophomore lining up at left tackle for a team that controls the line of scrimmage. Giovanni Di Poalo is the starting left tackle for St. Bonaventure. He is listed at 6'4" and 260 lbs. His helmet is the highest in the huddle and he is lean at that weight. As a result he moves extremely well pulling or working down field. Getting downfield in front of Darrell Scott on a sweep says something about his mobility. Di Poalo is agile and he sets up with his butt down in pass protection so he can maintain his balance. He works well in the running game whether drive- blocking or setting up to cut off backside pursuit. His punch stops defenders. From a single observation, I believe Giovanni will be a high profile recruit in the 2010 recruiting cycle. Two years in the weight room and work on technique will produce a dominant offensive lineman.

Two defenders on St. Bonaventure also passed the eyeball test. Xavier Ramos is a junior safety listed at 6'0", 180 lbs. He is a hitter who took out a wide receiver over the middle and the Hart QB on a safety blitz. He does from time to time miss a tackle instead looking for the big hit, so he will need to develop additional assignment discipline. If he grows he may be a player of interest. Dyland Davis is a sophomore starting at middle linebacker. He had two sacks. Davis is listed at 6'0" and 210 lbs. If he develops physically he could be a player of interest for 2010.

On the Hart side, sophomore wide receiver Blake Borland makes plays. While he is only 5'9" and 160 lbs., he ended up with seven catches for 71 yards. He has hands and speed- the question will be whether or not he grows a bit.

I suspect St. Bonaventure will be selected to play in the Division III state championship game so there will be one additional opportunity to see this team line up. All in all this was a good match up of well-coached athletes.

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