Game Preview: Tustin vs. El Dorado

Tustin (3-1, 7-2) averages 375 yards per game rushing out of its Texas full-house option, while averaging only three passes per game. El Dorado (4-0, 8-1) totals 350 yards per game with a mix of run, pass, and return.

Tustin will have to bring surprises for Placentia El Dorado on Thursday when the two meet in a effort to settle the Century League championship.


The talent level for this contest is such that the stands at the Valencia High Stadium could reach nearly 5,000, including many college recruiters whose beat runs the western region.

Tustin (3-1, 7-2) averages 375 yards per game rushing out of its Texas full-house option, while averaging only three passes per game. El Dorado (4-0, 8-1) totals 350 yards per game with a mix of run, pass, and return.

"Our offensive line has come a long way and if they take the run away, we'll pass," said
El Dorado coach Jeff Bailey.

The Golden Hawks lone loss came in its season opener to state-ranked Anaheim Esperanza, 32-14. Their star RB Phillip Van Holland was hurt after pulling a hamstring on the game's opening kickoff and was lost for two weeks.

Tustin lost its two games by a total of eight points, including a 13-7 loss last week to Century League rival Anaheim Canyon. The Tillers lost its season opener 17-15 on a last second field goal by Inland Empire power Moreno Valley Rancho Verde.

Tustin is a very good team and are a great running team," said Bailey. "They have a 280-pound full back (Brian Lambert) who is tremendous."

Seniors Javes Lewis and Michael Clemmons are one of the best 1-2 punches in the Southland, combining for a season total of 34 TD's and 2,500 yards rushing. Tillers coach Myron Miller says Lewis is as strong and fast as one of former pupil's, DeShaun Foster.

Lewis and Clemmons run behind the surprisingly quick Lambert, who is close to 300-pounds and serves as a pulling guard out of the backfield.

El Dorado will win this game, however with Lambert in the backfield, it will be an ugley win in more than one way for the Golden Hawks.

Tustin QB Nick Gniadek is an X-factor in this one. He has thrown almost exclusively to Lewis, who has pulled down 11 receptions for 300 yards and 5 TD's. Gniadek serves as the third option out of the wing and has run for 7 TD's.

Gniadek helped orchestrate important nonleague wins over Santa Ana Foothill, Anaheim Western, and
Los Angeles Washington.

Miller has been saying the same thing before winning most of his games for nearly 20 years. "I'm sure our opponent knows what to expect, I've been running the stuff since 1989. It works half the time," said Miller.

The late addition of Clemmons to the
Tustin squad, gave Miller his first legitimate punt returner in years. Clemmons and Lewis are also standouts as defensive backs, and Lambert plays DE and will play that position at the Division-I level next year.

"Those guys have made me a better coach. With Clemmons in the backfield, we've got two guys who can pop it," said Miller.


But Tustin isn't going to throw unless forced to. Like every other Tustin opponent, El Dorado will play the safety blitz. Linemen Cody Hilgenberg, Clay Leyton, and Anthony Lorezi have led a defense that allows 10 points per game. Golden Hawks defenders have intercepted 17 passes, with Justin Di Tolla swiping four.

"Our defense has been playing very well and has been stingy against the run," said Bailey.


In this game, Tustin will have to rely on the element of surprise to dethrone the defending Century League champs and that could come from Miller's use of Lewis, who was Tustin's QB last year.

El Dorado senior QB Michael Coulter puts the Golden Hawks in a favorable position on every snap. He can throw to Matt Cardenas, who has a league leading 32 catches for 634 yards, 10 TD's, in only seven games, or he can hand off to Van Holland, who has been running for 3 and 4 TD's per game of late.

Van Holland has finally healed and has totaled 17 TD's, basically in the past month. He also has 3 INT's. "Van Holland has been a 4-year player for us," said Bailey. "He's just unbelievable. He returns punts and plays safety, too."


Coulter was out all last season with an injury, but has come back strong by completing 83 of 129 passes, 1,300 yards, 16 TD's, 3 INT. Coulter has aided in the Golden Hawks 34-per game scoring average and directed shocking 38-0 and 35-0 wins over Valencia and Anaheim Canyon.


Hilgenberg has converted all 41 of his PAT's for El Dorado and gone 3 for 3 on FG attempts.

Tustin's defense has been sneaky good as well, limiting the opposition to an 11 point-per-game average, while scoring a median of 35 points. 

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