TEMECULA — A power running game and stifling defense are said to be needed to win in the NFL playoffs. In these days of the spread-happy high school offenses, Chaparral High's football team just might make a run of it following its professional counterparts.
Junior running back Justin Harris ran for 183 yards and a touchdown and fellow junior Skyler Seibold added 99 yards and two rushing scores as Chaparral downed Los Osos 38-14 for a CIF Southern Section Inland Division first-round playoff victory Friday night.
With the win, the Pumas (7-4) earned a road trip next week to visit their old friend, top-seeded Corona Centennial (10-1), which defeated Redlands 49-35 on Friday.
"Well, this has kind of fit our personnel this year," Pumas coach Ryan Tukua said. "After Week 3, we took a look at it, and with the way our guys have been in the weight room, we were like, we might as well use it. And we'll keep using it as long as we can."
Said Seibold: "I'm loving it. It's just good to win these football games playing hard and playing tough."
For a program that has pushed players like quarterback Tyler Hansen and running back Talmadge Jackson on to Division I universities, the change in approach has been startling, but effective.
On Friday, Chaparral ran for a whopping 387 yards on 50 carries. On defense, the Pumas — who had not allowed double-digit points since a 27-10 loss to Vista Murrieta on Oct. 14 — forced two interceptions of Los Osos junior quarterback Stephen Johnson and recovered a fumble.
"They really played tough defense tonight," Los Osos coach Tom Martinez said, "and we knew they would play tough defense."
But perhaps the Pumas' biggest play came out of the bag of tricks.
Early in the third quarter, on a third-and-22 from his own 30, Tukua called a double-reverse flea-flicker, and San Diego State-bound quarterback Matt Morin hit Chris Stratton a 70-yard touchdown pass for a 31-7 lead. It was one of just two passes Morin threw on the night, but it was a masterpiece, as Morin threw the ball 70-plus yards through the air as Stratton adjusted and got behind the Los Osos defense.
"We have it in our repertoire," Tukua said. "It was a good opportunity to use it, and we took advantage of it. It was kind of the turning point of the game."
A few plays later, though, Morin injured his hip on a scramble to the left side. After the game, he was on crutches, as Tukua called him "day-to-day."
Then, late in the third quarter, Harris, who was so effective running the ball between the tackles — he had a 75-yard sprint for a touchdown in the second quarter — was hit hard at the Los Osos 17 and fell to the ground.
Harris was helped off the field, and though knocked woozy, Tukua also called him "day-to-day"
"But knowing those guys," Tukua said, "they'll be playing next week."
After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, Chaparral, the Inland Division champion in 2009, scored 38 unanswered points, taking leads of 24-7 at halftime and 31-7 after three quarters. It was as close to a complete game as the Pumas have played this season, and it comes at the right time, with the top seed up next.
"We always love playing Centennial," Seibold said with a smile. "They are one of our favorite teams to play, especially up there."