There are more than a few things the West High football team would like to forget about after their tough trip through the nonleague schedule — but they should latch on to at least a few if they want to beat Edison, their premiere TCAL opponent, tonight at Peter B. Kyne Field.
Special teams was the Wolf Pack’s bane and the Vikings’ savior last week. Granite Bay ran the second half’s opening kickoff back 99 yards to deflate the Wolf Pack en route to a 31-17 win, and the Vikings got two touchdowns and 200 yards returning off kickoffs — including one with 14 seconds left in the game — to escape Downey with a 24-20 win.
But that’s not the smallest of the Wolf Pack’s worries. The Vikings, whose only losses this year came in Manteca to the California Bowl-contending Buffaloes and in Stockton against early SJAA favorite Franklin, will roll out an offense centered around quarterback Brandon Dunlap and his two friends — his feet and his arm. The senior is a threat to run, throw — and run and throw.
Dunlap has tosses for 735 yards thus far this season, and receivers Trumaine Johnson and Randell Washington have caught for 343 and 275 passing yards, respectively. But they’re far from one-dimensional — the Vikings threw only six times in Modesto against the Knights last week. Dunlap racked up 151 yards rushing on only 12 carries, and running back Brandon Pasqual notched a score.
“He’s their best athlete,” West coach Steve Lopez said of Dunlap, who took a keeper 52 yards for a touchdown against Franklin. “We’ve got to stop him, or at least contain him.”
Edison coach Elliott Burke will certainly look to throw on West’s secondary — it’s just his nature.
“I’m a man of mystery at times,” he said, describing his play calling, “but we are going to be Edison and put the ball in the air at least 15 times.”
But when he does, it’ll be against a West secondary eager to prove their worth. Jideolfo Okwudiri recorded a pick against the Grizzlies last week, but opposite corner Stanley Arukwe hasn’t intercepted a pass since the 17-7 loss to Monte Vista in Week 2. Edison will look to find mismatches against those two and safeties Bryan Tilos and Kevin Brown, but West is ready.
“We’ve got to play our roles,” said Arukwe, who, along with the rest of the defense, have been preparing for Dunlap’s unique skill-set. “We’ve got to keep them (Edison) in front of us and see what’s going on.”
Burke said the last thing he wants is to be caught in a slug-match with the run-oriented Wolf Pack. And that’s exactly what West coach Steve Lopez will want to do with his bruising fullback Tyler Kenton and the quicker tailback Montrel Richardson. West executed their running game plan to perfection against Johansen two weeks ago, when Richardson amassed over 200 yards and Kenton added over 100 of his own.
But that game, as well as the losses to Monte Vista, Granite Bay and Valley Christian won’t matter at all if West can get it going tonight. League is league, and the only things for the Wolf Pack now are the next five TCAL games.
“We’re feeling good,” Kenton said. “We’re ready for a big game.”