The allure and crowd-pleasing nature of “spread” passing formations have taken over football on the high school and college levels, giving speed the edge over power by putting skill players in “space” so they can light up scoreboards like a city grid map.
Chatsworth understands and respects how effective the spread game can be. The Chancellors even have a few of those formations in their playbook. But they still like the more traditional game of lining up at the line of scrimmage, blowing defenders away and letting the running backs rack up yards and points.
“I love it,” said two-way lineman German Valenzuela, 17, a senior. “A dream come true if you’re a lineman. You like running blocking instead of pass blocking because we can put people on their butts most of the time. … I enjoy it.”
It still works, judging by the Chancellors’ overall 5-1 record. After beating previously undefeated Cleveland last week, 38-20, Chatsworth is also one of three West Valley League teams with a 1-0 record after the first week of league play.
There is something else going on: a rising level of group confidence that this could be a year Chatsworth, a City Division II school, has a legitimate shot at winning a league home to three City Division I teams — Birmingham, El Camino Real, and Taft — as well as contend again for the Division II championship.
“There are a lot of good teams in league. But we have a chance,” said running back Javin Mitra, 16, a junior, who tops the Chancellors’ stable of backs. “If we want to win, we can’t be intimidated by the other teams that in past years have been dominant in the West Valley. Now we can keep up with them; we just need to beat them.”
Linebacker/tight end Giovanni Rodriguez agrees. “I think we have a pretty good chance. We play some pretty good people but our line is amazing, we have some great skill players. I feel we can match up against teams like Taft and Birmingham. We’ll find out.”
The Chancellors made a run (no pun intended) at the Division II title last year, reaching the semifinals but losing to eventual champion San Fernando. Sometimes teams don’t come into the next season with the same level of desire and commitment. But that was not the case here, to the delight of Coach Andrew Kim.
“I think there is momentum from last year’s [playoff] run,” Kim said. “I felt like we fell short of what we could have done last year. We had some miscues during that game, and San Fernando did a good job of stopping our run game. But we were also one-dimensional. We didn’t throw the ball too much. And if they could stop the run they were going to beat us.
“This year we are multi-dimensional. We have some definite threats at receiver, at quarterback, and at the running back position. We have more skill players that can do the job.”
The players say they sense the season could be a memorable one as long as they stay focused on what they must do to be successful.
“The coaches have really installed in our minds that we want a championship this year,” Rodriguez said. “We were so close to it last year, and now to have a chance to make something out of what we’ve been given, some new coaches this year, new weight room, I think the team is finally putting it together. But we’re only going to win it as a team.”
“There’s more discipline than last year,” adds Valenzuela.” Our defense is more disciplined and we are more aggressive and fundamental. Some of that is maturity.”
The running backs right now are the story, as Kim rotates Mitra with Tawan Funches (who broke loose for 178 yards against Cleveland), Keenan Harris, Ben Broadwell and Justin Santos to keep them all fresh and strong.
But another factor is brewing. Quarterback Tyger Goslin, a sophomore, had to sit out the first five games after transferring to Chatsworth from Westlake High in Westlake Village. The Cleveland game was his first. The stats were modest — 5 of 8 completions for 51 yards and a touchdown — but Goslin’s arm wasn’t needed to win the game since the team rushed for 368 yards in 38 carries.
Kim expects Goslin, who replaced David Valladares as the starter — Valladares returns to his “natural” position as a receiver, Kim said — to have a bigger impact as a passer as the season goes along.
“We have a veteran returning line, which helps,” Kim said. “We can run the ball if we want. If a team can’t stop our run game, that’s what they’ll see.
“But Tyger, he offers an extra dimension. He can run, he can throw, and has a good arm and accuracy. He’s only a sophomore. That last game was his very first varsity football game in his life. There was a lot of hype he had to live up to. But…he’ll get better. I think he managed the game pretty well. And he knows the playbook. He’s recalibrating our team.”
The next two weeks will tell Chatsworth a lot about its 2014 pedigree. Taft is on Friday, and Birmingham is the the following week. Both games are home games.
The tables are set. And the tables are ready to be turned.
“Winning league: that’s our goal, and also the City championship,” Valenzuela said. “I think we have a good chance.”