It would be easy to say that for Newhall Hart the key is how their defense matches up against Mission Viejo. It would be easy to talk about limiting the Diablos to 25 points or forcing them to be one-dimensional.
But the fact is Hart isn't going to make Mission Viejo one-dimensional. They aren't going to shut down the Diablos.
It's all about a shoot-out.
For Hart it's about making the game exciting. Getting everybody, especially Mission's junior quarterback Mark Sanchez, amped up.
Hart isn't going to dominate Mission on the defensive side of the ball, so their best bet is to get into a shoot-out, hope their offense makes fewer mistakes, and look for Sean Norton to have the game of his life.
Hart needs to get the Diablos thinking about scoring, and scoring quickly. Mission is going to get their points; they are going to score.
The question is, will they turn the ball over? Sanchez has been scary efficient, completing 75% of his passes this year, and throwing only four interceptions against his 29 TD passes. To look at Mission's season is to pack it in, not even give yourself a chance.
I doubt that's the tactic Hart's Head Coach, Mike Herrington, is going with.
Instead I'm guessing by gametime Herrington will be able to give you play by play of Mission's matchup earlier this year against Long Beach Poly from memory.
That was the last time Mission was tested (and it was two and a half months ago). The reason, Sanchez threw two picks. Backs Jamielle Gummer, Ramon Scott, and Chane Moline don't put the ball on the ground, and Sanchez doesn't throw a lot of interceptions, but when he does that's when Mission becomes vulnerable.
So look for Norton to come out gunning. Watch for Herrington to go deep, WR Kevin Ciccone has the speed to test the Diablos secondary, trying to stretch the defense early and often. Hart won't stop Mission's offense, but if Sanchez starts to think he's going to have to win the game then maybe, just maybe, Hart can force some turnovers.
And if they do, they better capitalize.
Mission's offense is strong. They will not make many mistakes. When in doubt Head Coach Bob Johnson will put the ball in Moline's hands and dare Hart's defense to tackle him. Only if they are trailing, and trailing by more than one score, will Johnson let his offense get one-dimensional. With a big play backfield Mission doesn't discount the run on third and long, but the more obvious problem is getting them in third and long in the first place.
For Mission the gameplan is simple. Balanced offense, stunning defense. Theirs is one of the few defenses in the state that can beat you by themselves. Hart's Norton has the ability to test Mission's "D," but no one dominates Mission. Their secondary has incredible speed, their front seven doesn't get moved very often, and that combination can lead to a long day for an offensive coordinator.
If Hart wins this game the score with be in the 40s or higher. It will be run and gun, playground football. Hart's athletes can win this way. But there are no guarantees. Mission can still win a 56-47 game. Hart will not win a 21-20 game.
I hope Sean Norton's arm is feeling good. He's going to have to use it.