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Saugus football: Cents live in the now

Newly crowned co-league champs more concerned with winning on the football field

Posted: November 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Favorite or underdog, good playoff draw or not, Saugus football isn’t going to change anything.

That’s how they got here in the first place — keeping the focus internal.

That philosophy will be tested today at 7 p.m. when Saugus takes on Highland High of Palmdale at Highland High School in the opening round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.

Due to recent developments that have forced Canyon to forfeit an Oct. 14 victory against Saugus, the Centurions are now technically 7-3 and co-Foothill League champions.

To Saugus head coach Jason Bornn, it doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to Friday’s game.

“We’re the third place team from the Foothill League ... On the field we’re 6-4,” Bornn said. “(Highland’s) the clear-cut favorite and they should be,”

In terms of seeding, Bornn is right. Highland (8-1) is the second-place finisher out of the Golden League and a 23-21 loss to Quartz Hill away from being undefeated.

Other than that, the Bulldogs have rolled through nearly every other team on the schedule with a prolific offensive attack.

At quarterback, Christian Tago has amassed 2,037 passing yards while completing 62.5 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions and he’s added another nine scored on the ground, where he’s rushed for 362 yards.

And those numbers may not tell the whole story.

“We’ve kind of called the dogs off in the fourth quarter,” said Highland head coach Troy Jackson. “Christian probably hasn’t played a full game in three or four weeks.”

The main running threat for the Bulldogs is senior back Leonard Merriweather, who has 617 yards on 87 carries to contribute to the total team average of 157 rushing yards per game.

Though the numbers might lean toward a relatively balanced attack, Jackson said he doesn’t hide the fact that the Bulldogs like to throw the ball.

On the other hand, the Centurions aren’t hiding from their usual run-heavy style.

“By this point in the year, you’ve already established who you are and what you’re going to do,” Bornn said. “At this point there’s not a whole lot you can do. A couple personnel changes here and there, but you are who you are.”

Given the strengths of each team, it makes sense.

Saugus is a bigger, more physical team, whereas Highland relies on its speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball.
Highland will likely need to be quick on defense to contain Saugus quarterback Jared Carbajal, who has 1,026 rushing yards.

“We like their quarterback,” Jackson said. “He runs all over the place. We’re really going to have to get some hands on him.”

As a team, the Centurions average 252.3 rushing yards per contest, though they managed just 52 yards in last week’s 35-0 loss to Valencia.

Saugus has already shown an ability to bounce back from losses this season though, and now there’s an added motivation.
“I think the biggest thing is with the advent that we are now in the playoffs and it’s a whole new season now,” Bornn said.
Call the Centurions Foothill champs or call them a longshot to make it past the first round. To them, it’s another football game.


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