The Wolverine football team enters its Oct. 5 Homecoming matchup against Palisades Charter High School with a 4-0 record after defeating Sylmar on their home turf on Sept. 20. In what many predicted to be a down year, the team has dominated its opponents so far, winning each game by an average of more than 27 points per game and scoring 47 points per game.
The Spartans scored 83 points the Friday prior to the matchup, but the Wolverine defense held them in check, while their offense took care of the rest scoring seven touchdowns in the team’s 65-24 route.
The game was Time Warner Cable’s “Game of the Week”.
“It was pretty cool being able to watch the game on TV after I recorded it,” nose tackle Noah Pompan ’14 said. “It had no effect on our playing style, but it was a cool experience.”
While Garrett Robinson ’15 and Carter Begel ’17 each scored twice for the Wolverines, Marshal Cohen ’16 led the way with 223 passing yards and 108 rushing yards, accounting for four touchdowns.
“I feel it was my not my best game because I missed a lot of easy throws and tripped on a couple of runs,” Cohen said. “That just shows that I still have a long way to go until I become the quarterback that this team needs to beat the very good teams we play in the Mission League. But a win’s a win and I’m proud of my team.”
Cohen, who replaced Chad Kanoff ’12 as the Wolverines’ starting quarterback, said before the season that he had “big shoes to fill,” in replacing the former Big Red Athlete of the Year. Through four games, the transition has been nearly seamless. Only a sophomore and in his first year as a part of the Harvard-Westlake football program, Cohen has already accounted for 1,039 yards during the team’s undefeated start, while Kanoff accounted for 1,358 yards from scrimmage in his first four games during his senior campaign.
“Marshal has done a great job,” second year Head Coach Scot Ruggles said. “Obviously he still has a lot of room to grow and improve but he’s been a pleasant surprise so far this season.”
Teammates say the sophomore, who won an offseason position battle with Albert Choi ’15 after transferring from Brentwood, is one of the team’s primary leaders on and off the field.
“It’s really fun watching him work his magic, he’s simply a playmaker,” Captain Desmond Butler ’15 said. “Marshal has really become a brother to all of us on the team.”
Cohen has led a very balanced Wolverines offense through four games, with nearly half his yards coming through the air and the other half on the ground, despite losing starting skill player Hassan Smith ’15 to a leg injury.
Ruggles credits the offensive line for this symmetry.
“In my two years here, one as an assistant and last year, we really had no running game and I think that a lot of factors go into that,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of injuries but that’s part of the game and someone else has to step up. The offensive line has accepted the challenge and done a good job with that so far.”
Starting lineman Andrew Park ’15 credits some of the team’s success on the ground to their efforts.
“I think the line has played pretty well,” he said. “I’m proud of how we have really come together as a group, but we still have to get even better. We all need to work on our technique and communication. We cannot have any mental errors. Mental errors can kill us against good teams.”
Robinson and Cohen have been very successful running the option so far this season, but, like any other high paced offense, the benefits a team gains from catching a defense off-guard can be negated by disadvantages inherited in the scheme.
Players say Cohen has been exposed to many more hits so far this season than
Kanoff did all of last season. Both Ruggles and Cohen think there is no concern to be had when his quarterback attempts to scramble.
“You’re always worried about how many times your kids get hit,” Ruggles said. “We talk not just with Marshal but with our wide-outs and running backs about trying to avoid useless hits. At some point you’ve got to be smart and get down and get out of bounds but with us being a run-pass type of offense our skill kids are going to get hit.”
“I’m not worried at all. I think I’ll be fine,” Cohen added.
Although the team’s offense has been impressive, both players and Ruggles think the defense has also done its job well.
“To this point we’ve played pretty well,” Butler, the team’s starting middle linebacker said. “The most we’ve given up is 24 points. We definitely have things to work on but our effort is there which is what counts.”
Players say the Wolverines’ defense has been on the field more than in previous years because of the speed at which the offense moves, but it has only given up an average of less than 20 points per game.
“The defense has been awesome,” Ruggles said. “People have said in the past that we couldn’t play defense. The defensive staff has done a good job. It is what it is with how much they are on the field. You can’t really worry about that. We are going to go fast on offense and play hard on special teams and the defense will be out there as long as it needs to.”
The Wolverines’ next matchup is against Palisades High School at home for Homecoming on Oct. 5. The team will look to defeat the Bulldogs and enter the Mission League season 5-0, where they will face what players describe as a real challenge. Regardless of who the team’s opponent is, Cohen said he is ready to dominate.
“I might get a little nervous before a game,” he said. “But every time I step onto the field I just play the game to the best of my abilities. We still have a lot to work on but there isn’t a better way we could have started the season.”