With just 30 players on its roster, you'd think Encino Crespi's football team might get worn down as a game goes on.
But you'd have to visit the school weight room to watch players doing their "Countdown" drill, with sweat dripping on the mat as players scream in unison, "One, two, three" while doing push-ups. Or you'd have to go watch the team do its prowler drills, dragging weights on the field on Saturdays. Then you'd understand the more physical it gets, the better it is for the unbeaten Celts (5-0).
On Friday night in a Mission League game, Loyola tried to compete in the trenches, but the Celts overwhelmed the Cubs with the running back duo of Jalen Starks and Torrance Brumfield en route to a 35-13 victory at Valley College.
Starks, a 240-pound junior, rammed his way for 112 yards rushing in 23 carries and scored one touchdown. Brumfield, who's a 5-foot-8 senior, used his speed to pick up 104 yards in 15 carries and score two touchdowns.
"Jalen is always going to run hard, and I'm going to put my burners on," Brumfield said.
In a seven-team league that primarily uses spread offenses, Crespi has installed the two-back veer, and it's going to cause weekly problems with a back like Starks.
"We've given up trying to tackle him in practice," Coach Troy Thomas said. "He's definitely a load. He's got some abs. That's all muscle."
Said Starks: "I just work hard. If the other team can't bring me down, then they have to try a little harder. God gave me a gift, and I'm just using it the way I can."
The veer, which state power Concord De La Salle uses, needs a strong offensive line to be effective, and the Celts have just that. Talalemotu Uili and Marcus Moore were making some big blocks.
Crespi kept putting together long scoring drives, and if not for three lost fumbles and a barrage of penalties in the second half (seven on one drive), the game wouldn't have been close. Loyola (4-2, 1-1) closed to 21-13 in the fourth quarter on a three-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jack Lyddon to Noah Utley.
Crespi was able to put the game away on a four-yard touchdown run by Brumfield and a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive tackle Vaimoe Sekona.
In the first half, Loyola got a taste of Crespi's veer offense.
Brumfield had a 33-yard touchdown run and DJ Beavers had a 16-yard touchdown run. Loyola's touchdown came on a 13-yard run by Myles Bryant out of a wildcat formation.
"I think we have some special running backs and good linemen," Thomas said. "We're trying to take advantage of the personnel we have."