If you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ.
The Sequoia High School football team knows this. At 3-0 to start the 2012 season and a week away from the beginning of the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division schedule, the Cherokees are in a position to test themselves against Half Moon Bay High School Friday night.
Yes, the Cougars are a Bay Division team in 2012 but, until Week 10 of the season, they’re still technically the champions of the Ocean Division. It’s a title the Cherokees want and Friday night is step one in that direction.
"It’s just a lucky coincidence of the schedule,” said Sequoia head coach Robert Poulos, who added cautiously, "we’re two plays away from being 1-2 right now. The Fremont game was really tight, it was a good learning experience. The Lewiston game in Idaho was a close game that could have gone either way.”
So yes, Sequoia is happy to be 3-0 and they consider themselves fortunate for the clean record. But by no means are they down-playing the magnitude of Friday’s clash with the Cougars.
"These are non-league games,” Poulos said. "They count for seating purposes in the playoffs. As a mater of fact, two years ago when we went to the playoffs, we got a really high seed and a part of that was because of league — we were league champions — but also non-league ... really helped us get the high seed. Since Half Moon Bay is a Bay team, it’s huge.”
It’s for that reason that Sequoia versus Half Moon Bay is the San Mateo Daily Journal Game of the Week. Kick-off for Friday night’s game, under the lights in Redwood City, is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The contest is just as big for Half Moon Bay, who is coming off an embarrassing showing of sorts against another Ocean Division team in Menlo School. The Cougars’ defense had no answer for the Knights’ attack and when all the damage was tallied, Menlo won 56-14. Knight quarterbacks went 12 of 13 in that game for 279 yards and four touchdowns. The rushing attack added 112. That loss was such a huge contrast between Half Moon Bay’s 17-2 dominance of South San Francisco the week before. While Friday’s game against Sequoia won’t be a part of the Bay standings, there’s at stake for the Cougars.
The Cherokees on the other hand, even at 3-0, are still looking for their stride.
"Consistency,” Poulos said, "we’ve been up and down. We started slow against Fremont and then finished well. And then Monta Vista, we started fast and then slowed down dramatically. And then Lewiston, we just had ups and downs — there were times where we did really well, fall apart in the middle, and go up again. So, I’d like to see us play four quarters of football. That would be nice.”
Poulos’ team has a bit of a bone to pick with Half Moon Bay following last season’s 36-15 loss.
"They are an incredible program in terms of maximizing everything they’ve got,” Poulos said. "They will find every ability on that team and they will make use of it. And they’re not afraid to do anything at anytime, whether it’s an onside kick, whatever it is, they know what they’re doing, their kids execute it with confidence when they play.”
For Sequoia, defense will be key on Friday. The unit is playing well following a good showing against Lewiston of Idaho that resulted in a 21-13 win. In that game, the Sequoia defense stopped Lewiston three different times inside the 10-yard line. But Poulos cautioned against over-confidence.
"I’m looking for the opposite of that swagger,” Poulos said. "We battled back from some tough situations and I like that. I like that mental fortitude that they’ve shown. What I don’t want to see is the swagger because what I don’t want is for them to take it for granted.
"They need to realize we’re not going to out-size most teams we play. So, we’re going to have to out-hustle and out-work if we want to be competitive. If we want to try to make it to the playoffs, we’re going to have to play over our heads, not play with the confidence that oh, this is going to come easy.”