Joseph Miller wants to keep his season going.
The St. Joseph High School senior wide receiver knows there’s only one way to do that.
“Everything is on the line — it’s win or go home,” Miller said. “At this point, our next game means everything.”
Miller and his St. Joseph Knights teammates host Studio City’s Harvard-Westlake at Jay Will Stadium Friday night in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 football playoffs.
“Being at home is an advantage. Playing on the road is always tough especially when you have to make the long trip up from Los Angeles,” said Miller. “They have to make the long trip, will have to play on our turf field and we’ve got the home crowd with us.”
St. Joseph (6-4, 3-1 Los Padres League) finished second in the LPL standings.
Harvard-Westlake (8-2) finished third in the Angelus League at 3-2.
“They’ve got a good offense,” Miller said during Tuesday afternoon’s practice. “They’re a lot like us. They’ve got a good quarterback who can run or throw, some good running backs and receivers. Our defense will definitely have to stop the pass.”
Sophomore quarterback Jameson Wang leads the Wolverines’ offense.
“Jameson started every game for us last year,” said Harvard-Westlake’s sixth-year head coach Scott Ruggles during a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “He’s doing a great job for us in his second year running our offense. The experience he gained last year is paying off for us now.”
Wang is a dual-threat, the team’s leading rusher with more than 700 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He’s also thrown for more than 1,800 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Wang’s favorite receivers are also the team’s leading running backs.
“Cameron Jones has more than 1,500 yards rushing and receiving with 15 touchdowns,” said Ruggles. “And Thomas Glover is our second leading rusher and second leading receiver. Glover has more than 900 yards combined with 13 touchdowns. Both of these guys are very dynamic.”
“They’ll use Jones and Glover as slot receivers and also run them out of the backfield,” said St. Joseph’s interim head coach Jim Chvala during Tuesday’s practice.
“But the key to it all is our offensive line and right tackle Liam Douglass,” Ruggles said of his 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior lineman. “We’ll even use him as a receiver.”
Jones, Glover and Douglass are three of the team’s six seniors.
“We’re a young team but these men provide tremendous leadership,” said Ruggles. “All three are going to the next level — playing Division 1 college football next year.”
Douglass has committed to play for USC, Glover is heading east to Cornell and Jones has several Division 1 offers that he’s thinking over.”
The Wolverines run a spread offense.
“It’s an Oregon-style offense that revolves around our quarterback,” said Ruggles.
Ruggles began his coaching career working with future Oregon coach Chip Kelly on the offensive staff at the University of New Hampshire, later coaching at Marshall University, Central Connecticut State University and Harvard.
“And we’ll use multiple defensive sets, switching from a three-man front to four-man to put pressure on St. Joseph when we need to,” said Ruggles.
The Knights will counter with a balanced attack featuring senior quarterback Dino Maldonado.
“The kids are working hard. They know the secret to success is hard work,” said Chvala. “We’ll continue to do what we do best — work hard, play fast and execute.”
Maldonado has thrown for more than 2,600 yards with 28 touchdowns.
He’s also a capable runner, picking up 268 yards with five touchdowns.
The Knights’ main rushing threat is senior Jayden Vargas with nearly 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Devin Guggia, Justin Maldonado and Mike Ramirez will also share the running back workload.
Miller (595 yards, 10 touchdowns), Ramirez (448 yards, 3 touchdowns), Nate Guzman (795 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Justin Wong (341 yards, 3 touchdowns) lead a talented receiving corps.
“Our timing is good. Everyone is working together,” said Miller. “I just have to run my routes, get open and I know Dino will find a way to get the ball to me.”
“The offensive and defensive lines are really the key,” said Chvala. “We want to replicate the energy from the Santa Ynez game (a 20-14 win last week). If we can do that, then we’ll be alright.”
“I know St. Joseph is really good,” said Ruggles. “They have a really good quarterback and running back. They play tough defense. They play hard. We have a lot of respect for St. Joseph. These are the kinds of games we want to play in. We’re looking forward to it.”