The Orcutt Academy Spartans’ football team is looking for some payback.
“I call it The Redemption Tour,” said Orcutt Academy head coach Ben Alberry after Wednesday’s practice.
To be successful, the Spartans have to avenge losses to the two teams that beat them during their inaugural Central Sierra League season — the Fresno Christian Eagles and Mission Prep Royals.
“The first stop is Fresno Christian,” said Alberry. “We just played them a few weeks ago (a 45-27 loss on Oct. 12). But we were missing six players — three starters — and that really set us back in our game planning.”
The re-match is Friday night at Fresno Christian High School.
The Spartans (8-3, 5-2 CSL) are the No. 3 seed in the CIF Central Section 8-man playoffs.
The Eagles (9-1, 6-1) are the No. 2 seed and, if the Spartans clear their next hurdle, they’ll likely face overall No. 1 seed Mission Prep (9-0, 6-0) in the championship game.
Mission Prep faces another Central Sierra League opponent, No. 4 seed Riverdale Christian (7-3, 4-3) — a team whose three league losses were to Orcutt Academy, Fresno Christian and Mission Prep.
“We got everyone ready to suit up for this game,” said Alberry. “It should be a completely different game. I definitely feel more comfortable heading into this game.”
The Spartans are led by senior quarterback Max Daniels.
Daniels has run for 635 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has also thrown for another 780 yards, completing 47 of 91 passes with 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Daniels has several talented teammates sharing the offensive load.
Workhorse sophomore fullback Alex Sutton has pounded the opposition for 1,092 and eight touchdowns.
David Conable, Bryce Cofield, Cooper Wood and Daniels’ younger brother Casey Daniels will also get opportunities to carry the ball.
Max Daniels also likes to spread the ball around in the Spartans’ passing game.
In addition to throwing to his running backs, Max Daniels will look for Dylan McIntire and Cameron Carpenter downfield.
“We’re lucky on offense to have all the weapons that we do,” said Alberry.
One weapon missing will be Josiah DeBruno. The wide receiver trails only Sutton in touchdown receptions. DeBruno is also the team’s kicker but he’ll miss the game after aggravating a shoulder injury.
“That’s the only bad news — he’s done for the season,” said Alberry. “He’s done a tremendous job for us all year. It’s a bummer not having him but he’s been out every day helping David (Conable) get better at kicking.”
Despite the loss of DeBruno, the Spartans still have a high powered offense.
“Max has been great. I told you at the beginning of the year (at the Times’ annual Football Media Day) that Max would have a season to remember. He’s a real leader, both on and off the field. He’s already broken the school record for touchdown passes and we plan to take advantage of his passing.
“Alex has been huge. He never played fullback before and he’s closing in on 1,100 yards. David does anything we need — run, catch — and Casey is another player who can do it all. We’re been able to spread things around to so many playmakers.”
To be successful, the Spartans have to stop the Eagles’ nose tackle, Darren Williams, the cornerstone of the Fresno Christian defense that is giving up an average of 15 points per game.
The Eagles will bring their own talented offense to the party — an offense that has averaged 47 points a game.
Senior quarterback Anthony Lonardo is the leading rusher with 745 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Senior Aaron LaCroix is right behind with 718 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
“Lonardo is their main guy. He does it all and he likes to run a lot so we have to find a way to slow him down. We expect he’ll throw a lot of screen passes to LaCroix.”
And junior Blake Burdon is another threat after picking up 603 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
Senior Jonah Lozano is a dual threat. He’s gained 130 yards rushing and has come in to spell Lonardo at quarterback. The Spartans also have to be on guard against Lozano throwing downfield from the tailback position.
While the Eagles average 47 points per game, the Spartans are scoring at a nearly 50 point per game clip.
“They like to score. They’re very good at it but so are we,” said Alberry. “These are two very good offenses. The first time, we stalled out a bit late in the game. We’re more evenly matched this time. I expect the game will go down to the wire. One or two plays will determine the winner.
“This has been one of the best weeks of practice we’ve had all season. We’re as ready as we’ve ever been. We told Mission Prep (after a 42-28 loss on Oct. 26), ‘We’ll see you in three weeks.’ Hopefully we’ll hold up our end of the bargain.”