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San Diego High School Football Preview : Hoover Looks to History for Some Modern Inspiration

John Johnson, Hoover High School football coach, knows the chances of his team upsetting powerful Lincoln are slim.

But that didn’t stop him from preparing his players with a history lesson this week. Johnson borrowed from the fifth century B.C. when he told his players how 300 Spartan soliders once temporarily held off a powerful Persian army on an ancient battlefield.

In football parlance, it’s a pyschological ploy. And at this point, Johnson will do just about anything to get Hoover ready to face Lincoln, which Cal-Hi Sports of Sacramento has ranked No. 1 among 2-A schools in the state.

Lincoln possesses the county’s most intricate offense. Opposing defenses have been left guessing each time Lincoln breaks huddle, trying to predict the team’s next formation. Will Lincoln run out of the I? The Power I? The Split back? The T-formation?

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That’s the puzzle left for Hoover (2-0, 6-1) as it plays hosts to Lincoln (2-0, 7-0) at 2:30 today. Lincoln is in first place in the City Central League. Hoover is in second. Lincoln has defeated Hoover 15 straight years.

“We haven’t approached this game any different from the others,” Johnson said. “As the season has gone along, we have seen so many (different offensives) that by this time, no matter what they do, we should know the adjustments to make.”

Once teams figure out Lincoln’s alignment, the next question is how to stop this offense, which is the best in the county, averaging 51.1 points a game this season.

“We have such a complicated offense,” Lincoln Coach Vic Player said. “We can do so many different things because we have so much talent at each position.”

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Leading the talent list is fullback Kevin Key, who is third in the

county in scoring with 15 touchdowns for 90 points. Last week in Lincoln’s 70-6 victory over San Diego High, Key ran for four touchdowns, including runs of 83 and 29 yards.

Patrick Rowe is seventh among receivers with 33 catches for 761 yards (an average of 23.1 yards per catch). Rowe is seventh in scoring with 11 touchdowns for 68points. Last week, he returned a San Diego punt 85 yards for a touchdown.

Directing the Lincoln offense is senior quarterback Keith Mitchell, who is 35 of 58 for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns. Mitchell also plays free safety and is routinely replaced by junior quarterback Fred Stokes, who is 25 of 41 for 484 yards and 4 touchdowns.

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Johnson said the key to stopping Lincoln is keeping the ball away from the Hornets. That may be a difficult task against the Lincoln defense, ranked second in the county. Lincoln has allowed an average of only five points a game.

The key for Hoover, Johnson said, will be its secondary. Junior safety Joe Gummerson has sat out the last three games with a knee injury. He was replaced by sophomore Bracey Simmons. Johnson said he is hoping that cornerbacks John Roots and Stacey Damaille can make up the difference.

Hoover lost outside linebacker/offensive guard Bobby Stark this week after he suffered torn cartilage in his right knee. He is expected to be out for the season.

The Hoover offense is guided by quarterback Michael Walker, seventh among passers in the county, completing 42 of 86 passes for 1,037 yards and 6 touchdowns. Walker’s primary receiver is Roots, who is eighth in the county with 30 receptions for 602 yards and 4 touchdowns.

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Johnson is hoping that his team can overcome the size and finesse of Lincoln. Hoover does have the advantage of playing at home and playing in the afternoon. Johnson joked that playing at home gives him the opportunity to “be inside and lock all the gates and not let Lincoln in.”

“We seem to have had problems playing afternoon games,” Player said. “I’m sure it’s just a psychological thing. We’re going to have to try to do the things we’ve done in the past and try and do them better.”


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