CALIFORNIA CITY — St. Monica’s playoff berth is keeping Head Coach Adam Guerra up nights.

Since hearing that the Mariners’ football team (7-3 overall, 3-1 in the Santa Fe League) earned a second consecutive spot in the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division Playoffs, Guerra has been feverishly reviewing game film of host California City (6-4, 3-2 in High Desert League play).

“It’s playoff week, there’s been a lot of sleepless nights,” Guerra said. “We’ve been breaking down film, trying to figure everything out.”

After watching four games on tape, Guerra has come to the conclusion that California City is even more of a running team than his rush-happy Mariners.

California City is such a run-first team that Guerra doesn’t consider their platoon of quarterbacks passers. He characterizes their quarterbacks as running backs who receive direct snaps. He likened the approach to the way the Denver Broncos use quarterback Tim Tebow.

With that tactic comes extra blockers in the form of two tight end formations and at times two running backs in the backfield. That has Guerra already thinking about ways to attack the line of scrimmage tonight on the road to keep California City from creating favorable field position with successful runs on first down.

“From a personnel stand point,” Guerra said, “they are tricky.”

Figuring out quarterback Greg Nolan has been the most difficult. Guerra considers him California City’s best player who has to be kept in check if the Mariners are to advance.

While Guerra figures he’ll be more of a runner, there’s always the threat that he may pass. Making things even more difficult is the role Dylan Wolford plays in the passing game.

He, like Nolan, are primarily runners, but it’s Wolford who is usually the one called on to throw the ball.

The whole situation is one of the reasons Guerra has been staying up late trying to get a read on what to expect.

“Their plays and players are very similar,” Guerra said. “We’ll have to be sound across the board and make the correct reads.”

For St. Monica, it should be business as usual.

The Mariners will certainly run the ball with the dash-and-smash combo of running backs Sean Martinez and Kevin Holubowski.

In recent games, bruiser Holubowski has emerged as the work horse, gaining over a hundred yards the past couple of weeks. He has also become one of junior quarterback Luke Cain’s favorite target along with Lukas Dretzka.

It’s St. Monica’s ability to pass the ball that Guerra feels should give his team the advantage.

“We just have to do what we’ve done all year long,” he said. “We’ll have to take away their run and make them throw at us. If we can do that, it gives our offense a little breathing room.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

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