The walls of the visitor locker room could not contain the excitement of the varsity football team as victorious chants echoed through the St. Paul football stadium.
“Olé! Olé, olé, olé!” sang the team in perfect unison. “Olé! Olé!”
After exchanging high-fives and embraces with his coaching staff and athletic directors, a visibly animated first-year Head Coach Scot Ruggles joined the party in the locker room to congratulate his team on its accomplishment.
The Wolverines have not reached the playoffs just yet, but they are finally on the road to it following a 44-11 win at St. Paul last Friday, Oct. 5.
After being on the receiving end of several blowouts in the Mission League the past two years, the Wolverines were finally on the giving end of one for the first time since joining the league.
“We came out with a purpose,” offensive lineman Davey Hartmeier ’14 said. “That purpose was to be 1-0 in league and here we are.”
St. Paul defeated the Wolverines last year 41-28 on the last game of the season. But this year, Ruggles said that the Wolverines came into the matchup with a much more prepared and motivated team.
“The coaches did a great job game planning and the kids responded to the challenge,” Ruggles said. “We really came together as a team. It was a great win for everybody from the administration all the way down to all of our players and fans.”
Quarterback Chad Kanoff ’13 led the Wolverines offensively with six touchdowns. Hartmeier said that St. Paul blitzed heavily most of the game without putting any pressure on Kanoff.
“They blitzed pretty much seven guys every time,” Hartmeier said. “So the secondary was pretty much always open.”
Despite the addition of running back Kurt Scoby, who transferred to St. Paul at the end of last season after averaging over 8 yards a carry with Charter Oaks, the Wolverine defense surrendered 30 fewer points than in last year’s matchup. Scoby, a junior with scholarship offers from the University of Miami and Oregon State, was held to one touchdown. Defensive lineman Henry Schlossberg ’13 said that the Wolverines had spent their bye week studying film on Scoby to prepare for the game.
“Our main focus was stopping the run,” defensive lineman Henry Schlossberg ’13 said. “We knew they were going to run the ball forty to fifty times. We had been breaking down film on them for two weeks, so we knew everything they were going to do the second they came out.”
The Wolverines have already matched their total of league wins in the past two seasons with the win. The Wolverines went 0-5 in 2010, the year they joined the Mission League, then went 1-4 last season.
The top three of the six teams in the Mission League automatically qualify for playoff. Non-league performance plays no factor and just the record in league play determines the end of the year standings.
Ruggles said that the team can almost guarantee a spot if they win at least two more games.
“The top two teams I’m sure will be undefeated [or with] one loss and the third team I’m sure will have two [losses],” Ruggles said. “I think if you win three games, you’re in the playoffs.”
The Wolverines stand at 5-1 overall after coming into the game with non-league wins over Granada Hills, Sylmar and El Camino Real. They beat their last three league opponents by a combine score of 144-27. Due to the insignificance of non-league play with regards to playoffs, the football team schedules relatively weaker opponents before league play to ensure that players are not too physically drained for the playoff push. The Wolverines host league opponent St. Francis on Friday, Oct. 12. Defensive lineman Chase Klein ’13 said that if the team plays as well as it did last week, it should stay undefeated in league.
“No, [not] if we play like we did tonight,” Klein said when asked if there was a specific area the team needed to improve for St. Francis. “I think they throw the ball a little more, but our defense is looking [very] good. Whatever we face, we’ll scheme it up pretty good.”
Beyond the St. Francis game, the Wolverines will face three opponents that may give the Wolverines more trouble.
They host Chaminade on Oct. 19 then Cathedral on Oct. 27 before ending the regular season at Serra. Chaminade and Serra both defeated the Wolverines by over 40 points last year. Cathedral was the only team Harvard-Westlake beat last season. However, quarterback Hayyden Rettig, who missed all of last season with an injury, is back this year to lead the team.
He committed to play college football at Louisiana State, who was the runner-up National Champion in the Div. I-A last year. Defensive lineman Matt Edelstein ’13 said that although next week’s St. Francis matchup was a must-win game, the team always puts everything it has into preparing for each game every week.
“First step is definitely St. Francis,” Edelstein said. “We have got to take it week-by-week and keep playing like this. This was a great showing by the team tonight.”
“It’s a step in the right direction for our playoff hopes. One at a time, though. That’s what we tell our kids every week. Our goal is to be 1-0 at the end of the week and we did that today. We’ll enjoy this one, but get to work tomorrow.”