BURBANK — Should St. Monica prepare for the pass or the run this week against Santa Fe League rival Bellarmine-Jefferson?
To hear Head Coach Larry Muno say it, his team should be ready for anything.
“They run a combination of the wing-t and the spread,” he said. “Kind of a unique combination.”
In short, Bell-Jeff is alternately a passing team or a running team. That sort of combination is enough to make a coach crazy in preparing to face them on the football field.
The game, scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Burroughs High School in Burbank, features a contrast of styles. Bell-Jeff (4-3, 0-1 in league) isn’t shy about mixing things up while St. Monica likes to air things out.
“We have to stop them at the line,” said Muno regarding Bell-Jeff’s unorthodox offense. “We have to enable our defensive lineman to absorb some blocks.
“That’s key, to understand where they are trying to attack you.”
Stopping them won’t be easy thanks to Bell-Jeff’s overall talent. That talent is most evident at running back where defending Santa Fe League MVP Alex Davidians lines up. Muno said slowing him down will be the focus of his defensive unit.
Stopping Davidians will be subject to the health of St. Monica’s defenders.
St. Monica’s defense has been slowed in recent weeks by injury. Muno said the most promising news lately comes in the form of the return of defensive lineman Jack Porter. The senior, considered one of St. Monica’s best defenders, should see reduced playing time, but Muno is confident that his return could make an impact.
“I don’t want to rush him back if he’s not ready,” Muno said.
Defensive end Kyle Schwan is again expected to miss a game due to injury. That makes the return of Porter paramount to St. Monica’s plans.
When St. Monica is on offense, Muno expects Bell-Jeff to again take a novel approach.
“They play a wide variety of fronts and coverages,” he said. “They have the talent to bring it.
“That’s going to be a real challenge for us.”
If there is a unit on St. Monica that is up for the test it is the offense. Led by sophomore quarterback Matthew Partyka and a talented bunch of receivers, the 2-3 (0-1 in league) Mariners are sure to put points on the board.
Hoping to confuse Bell-Jeff on defense, Muno will continue to look to senior running back Tommy Murray as his primary ball carrier.
“He’s really good, he gets up inside [of the defense],” Muno said of Murray. “He’s really improved his speed over the summer. He’s our go-to guy.”