Coming off the huge home win against Foothill last week, College of the Redwoods will be traveling to Pittsburg on Saturday as they try to keep their three-game win streak going against Los Medanos. The Mustangs are riding a two-game winning streak, including their own conference opener win against De Anza last week.
Unlike most of the matchups this season, this game is especially intriguing because of the similarities between the two programs. Despite the 2-3 record, Los Medanos has been competitive in every game they played in and barely lost to West Hills Coalinga, a team Redwoods narrowly beat. Conversely, the Corsairs have also been competitive in all their games and lost a close game to San Jose, a team that the Mustangs edged out by only a field goal for the win. The two evenly matched teams take pride in their relentless efforts will make for an interesting game on Saturday night.
“You look at all their games, they’re all close every single week.” Said Redwoods coach Jason White. “So we expect a dogfight.”
As much as the character of Los Medanos is difficult to factor in on paper, the Redwoods should feel some level of relief as they face an offense that isn’t quite as electric as their previous two opponents. And given the ferocity shown by the Corsairs defense this season, there’s a chance to really go to work against a Mustang offense that doesn’t particularly excel in any one aspect offensively.
The Corsairs defense has been stout and resilient this season, and the defensive front of Julian Garcia, Jayden Sandusky, and Tyse Whigham has been a force all season that should be capable of stifling the Mustang running attack. The back end of the defense is more intriguing as Los Medanos does tend to rely more on their passing attack, but the defensive backs of Redwoods made great strides last week and bounced back quickly after negative plays. The Corsairs corners seemed to respond well to the one-on-one coverage situations, but coach White was quick to point out how defensive coordinator Damaro Wheeler will tailor the defensive looks to the opponent.
Redwood’s defensive back and Ferndale native Lane Branstetter struts around the Redwood Bowl after the big win against Foothill. (Jake Matson/The Times-Standard)
“In this day and age of explosive offense,” said White, “you have to do things like get turnovers.”
Redwoods have their share of generating explosive plays on defense in special teams. The defense and special teams outscored the offense in the win against Monterey Peninsula. And White wanted to highlight one player in particular for his contributions.
“The guy that sometimes gets overlooked for us is Mason Priddy,” said White of the safety from Vancouver, Washington. “He may be the best athlete on our team honestly.”
But for all the explosiveness on defense, the offense will try to build on their best showing of the year last week against Foothill. Max Hough showed poise and control of the offense not seen thus far at the quarterback position for the Corsairs, and the ability to spread the ball to the various athletes on offense was a boon for the offense. Coach White talked about the philosophy behind the run-pass option looks and what they’ve done for the Corsairs.
“We want to spread the ball around a bunch of different guys,” said White. “You can’t just load up and key on one guy and say, ‘Hey we got to stop you.'”
The improving offense will be tested against a Los Medanos defense that has stifled opponents in the last two games. The Mustangs’ 35-20 score against De Anza was a little misleading as the Los Medanos defense shut out De Anza in the first quarter while the offense got out to a 21-0 lead. They then only allowed 6 points in the second half and capped off the victory with a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.
A win in the key conference matchup will bring the Corsairs one step closer to a conference title. But after taking out the incredibly dominant Foothill Owls last week, one can’t help but wonder how far this Redwoods team could go. And fans are sure to be eyeing the final game of the year against another undefeated foe in Feather River. But within the College of the Redwoods, no such talk is allowed. And coach White quickly shot down any notion of his team looking ahead.
“I’m worried about Los Medanos, that’s it,” said White. “One game at a time, I know it’s a frickin’ cliche but we don’t even talk about anybody else.”
The amount of edge in the response underlays the intensity for his team as they seek the win ahead of their first bye week. The win would give them firm control of first place in the conference. And cliche or not, it’s hard to disagree with the results of coach White’s grounded and gritty approach.
Jake Matson can be reached at 707-441-0526.