Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rangers Battle Oaks Christian

Division championship on the line


By Mike Miller
The Nordhoff Rangers are returning to the CIF finals for the first time since 1999. This year’s march to the finals, which has included two overtime games, has been an exhilarating one for the Rangers and their fans. After defeating St. Bernard last week, 35-21, the Rangers will face Tri-Valley League rival Oaks Christian tonight for the CIF-SS Northwest Division Championship.
These two teams matched up on Nov. 2 in a game that was won by the Lions, 42-6. Oaks Christian was the last team to beat the Rangers, as NHS seemed to find their stride after the lopsided loss to the Lions. The Lions are currently on a six-game winning streak of their own and have outscored their opponents 279 to 48 over that stretch.
Oaks Christian is led by quarterback Chris Potter, who burned the Rangers for three touchdowns in their first matchup. Potter is dangerous due to his ability to run and pass the football. The other dangerous weapon for the Lions is sophomore sensation Malcolm Jones. Jones has accumulated an impressive 1,879 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season.
For the Rangers, Damian Kaiser and Chris Gibson will need to be able to run the football against the Lions defense if the Rangers are to be crowned CIF champions. Kaiser has put together a super season with 1,197 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Gibson has added another dimension to the running game of Cliff Farrar with a breakout year as he has scored 10 touchdowns on the ground and rushed for 921 yards. The offensive line will be called on to open holes for the Rangers’ running game and they have been the driving force for this play-off run so expect them to continue their inspired play.
The Rangers have been rotating their quarterbacks during the play-offs. Senior Garrett Graham gave way to junior Drew Rodriguez after an injury and since then, Rodriguez has been getting the majority of the snaps for Nordhoff.
Regardless of who is calling the signals, the Rangers will need to be efficient with their passing game so that they can keep the Lions’ defense from crowding the line of scrimmage to stop Kaiser and Gibson.
Defensively, the Rangers will look to limit the big play capability of Potter and Jones. NHS cannot afford to allow Oaks Christian to put up big numbers on offense. The advantage on special teams is on the side of the Rangers. David Brown and his ability to kick off into the end zone is a huge advantage for the Rangers.
Despite the fact Oaks Christian has had the Rangers’ number recently; I do not think that there is another team on the face of the earth that Nordhoff would rather defeat for the CIF title than Oaks Christian. The 42-6 game back in November is not an indication of how these two teams stack up and fans should expect a much closer contest.
The Lions are on fire and have been scoring over 46 points per game in their last six games, but I think that the Rangers will be able to limit their scoring opportunities. Oaks Christian proved that they were vulnerable this season when Oak Park beat them 25-20.
If the Rangers are going to beat Oaks Christian, as well, they will need to beat the Lions to the punch early in this game. The best way of taking down a bully is to look him straight in the eye and take your best shot. Look for the Rangers to be physical early and if they can get on top or keep the score close in their first half, they will beat Oaks Christian.
I do not think that there is a more resilient team than the Rangers and I am predicting a huge upset in this game. Farrar will control the tempo of the game and Kacy Reed, Garrett Gross, Chad Holling, Phil Long, Taylor Kelly, Cody Burr, Shane Wolcott, Alex Luna, Alex Miotti and Mitch Werber will beat the Lions’ line from goal line to goal line and carry the Rangers to victory.
The Rangers win the CIF Championship 24-21.

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