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During the 42-21 stunner against the top seed in the CIF Division 12 bracket Montebello Schurr last Friday, Santa Maria football placed the clamps on national prospect Lance Babb II – who entered Ralph Balvidez Stadium with 11 scholarship offers in tow as a wide receiver.

Babb II, however, had his worst statistical night of the season according to our Kenny Cress: Five catches for 48 yards and an average of 9.6 yards per catch against the Saints defense.

Now, the Saints will take on a South El Monte team that’s not only 11-1 entering the semifinal contest, but has one of the more dangerous running backs in Los Angeles County in senior Sal Tovar.

Here’s what I discovered about Tovar after watching him in my film room:

Speed: The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Tovar is an accelerator with the ball in his hands. He not only has the wheels to run through a hole in a span of 1.5 seconds, but has an explosive second gear once he reaches the linebackers. According to his Hudl account, Tovar runs a reported 40-yard dash time of 4.42 – already making him one of the fastest running backs the Saints will have to prepare for this season.

Cutbacks: This is another area of strength for Tovar judging from what I’ve seen on his reels. Tovar is adept at planting his foot to one side – which fools defenders into thinking he’s going into their direction – but instead immediately shifts to the other side and takes off sprinting.  

Balance: While he may be considered a small back at 185-pounds, Tovar isn’t one to go down on first contact. He has enough speed to blow past arm tackles and maintains his footing after contact is made.

Stamina: Tovar is a workhorse, proven by the fact that he’s reached the 2,000-yard plateau twice in his three-year varsity career, including his 2,801-yard mark as a junior. Numbers like that proves he won’t get gassed during a game.

Ball handling: I believe this is the area the Saints need to target when countering Tovar. I’ve noticed he swings the ball away from his body when he runs – a trait Adrian Peterson has had a problem with during his NFL career. That trait leads to multiple fumbles. If the Saint defensive ends and linebackers are quick enough to reach Tovar, knocking the ball loose can become easy.

The last thing about Tovar is that I noticed South El Monte has him attacking the outside on pitch plays most of the time. So outside containment is a must for the Saints defense, which was effective against Schurr last week.

Overall, I believe slowing down Tovar just enough – even if he reaches 115 yards – will swing the advantage toward the Saints’ way. South El Monte is 11-0 in games when Tovar runs past 200 yards, but 1-6 overall when he doesn’t go past 115 yards.  

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Sports Reporter