Tom Harp, the offensive coordinator at Granada Hills High, carries a Manila folder with him on the sidelines--the same folder, game in, game out, for the entire season.
The dogeared folder is adorned with scribblings and assorted notes, kind of a crib sheet. On one side are passing plays, on the other are runs.
As one might expect at what once was pass-happy Granada Hills, the pass formations outnumber the running plays, 2 to 1.
Old habits die hard, but in Friday night’s North Valley League game at Kennedy, the Highlanders attempted just 5 passes in a 21-0 victory.
Can it be? Granada Hills has forsaken finesse for power football?
“It’s called Smashmouth,” Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh said. “Everybody’s doing it. Taft, everybody.”
Granada Hills (8-1, 6-0 in league play) simply outmuscled Kennedy (5-4, 3-3). The Highlanders rushed for 186 yards, passed for a whopping 1 and shut down Kennedy when it mattered.
The Golden Cougars finished with 178 yards but squandered several scoring opportunities.
An example: Kennedy took the opening kickoff and drove to the Granada Hills 8-yard line. Quarterback Tony Smets, who completed only 4 of 11 passes for 39 yards and threw 1 interception, was sacked by Granada Hills’ Brett Washington on fourth and 2 from the 8.
Washington and Marrio Walker keyed the Highlander power attack. Washington rushed for 62 yards in 17 carries and scored on a 1-yard blast up the middle for Granada Hills’ first score with 6:56 left in the first half.
Walker finished with a game-high 90 yards in 17 carries, including a 2-yard run in the third quarter that gave the Highlanders a 14-0 lead.
Quarterback Chris Gadomski, who completed 1 of 5 for 1 yard--that is no typographical error--scored Granada Hills’ third touchdown on a 1-yard sneak with 11:57 left.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we wanted it to be pretty conservative,” Harp said. “With the wind and all, it paid off, especially in the second half.”
The Granada Hills defense, again, was stingy. Trailing, 14-0, in the third quarter, Kennedy failed to score from the 3-yard line. The Golden Cougars drove 77 yards in 10 plays, but Smets missed on a fourth-down pass and the Highlanders took over with 7:19 left.
“The defense, bless them, they seem to give up a lot of yards,” Stroh said. “But when they have to, they get the hair up on the back of their neck and hang in there.”
Granada Hills limited Antiwaun Carter to 77 yards in 17 carries, the second week in a row he has been held under 100 yards.
Smets was hit in his left shoulder in the first quarter and was ineffective for most of the game.
Heading into the regular-season finale against San Fernando in a game that will decide the league championship, Granada Hills is feeling a little numb, too.
“I’m very pleased,” Stroh said. “This is right where we wanted to be.”