Early on, Canyon's coaches implored its defense to wrap up Villa Park running back Chris Bell. But as the game went on, Canyon's coaches and players knew they were fighting a losing battle because there was less and less of Bell to wrap.
The slippery-quick Bell finished with a career-high 216 yards in Villa Park's 19-0 victory over a disappointed Canyon homecoming crowd at El Modena High. Friday night's victory moves the Spartans (6-2, 2-1) into a three-way tie for first place. Canyon, which only passed midfield twice all night, fell to 5-3 and 1-2.
"I was pretty busy tonight," Bell said. "That's all I could do. The offensive line was great."
Bell didn't expect greatness, but he didn't sound surprised when he heard his final statistics--216 yards in only 25 carries.
"I expected to play at the top of my game," he said nonchalantly.
Bell's game was all about hitting the holes quickly and then eluding Canyon defenders as he reached the secondary. He rushed for 116 yards in the first half, including 64 on his last two rushes, but Villa Park's offense was unable to get the ball in the end zone.
The Spartans reached the one before being stopped on downs in the first quarter, then they fumbled on Canyon's 13 in the second quarter.
"It was frustrating," Bell said. "We just couldn't get it in in the first half so we decided to make some adjustments at halftime."
"We decided to stop fooling around and take it straight at them," Bell said.
But before they took it at Canyon, the Spartans threw the ball toward the sideline to Greg Granito, who took a Sam Stremick out pass, broke a tackle and ran 49 yards to the Canyon 29. Six Bell rushes and a 10-yard completion to Tim Redfern took the ball to the one. Stremick then scored on a sneak to give Villa Park a 7-0 lead.
From there, Bell took over. He put the game away by scoring on a 48-yard run with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
"As I get in the groove, I get going," Bell said. "I was trying to run hard, run to daylight. Every play I think I can break one."
Said Villa Park Coach Pat Mahoney: "Chris Bell has great vision and it's not always at the point of attack."
Canyon tried to shake up its attack by starting running back Cody Miller at quarterback for Craig Scott, who had struggled lately. But the switch didn't work. Miller didn't complete any of his three passes and he rushed six times for 12 yards.
By the third quarter, Scott was running the offense again. But he didn't do much better than Miller as he completed only six of 14 passes for 49 yards with an interception.