Daily Journal Sports File
El Camino running back Brandon Gip gets most of the publicity, but teammate Danny Ruiz, above, has proven to be equally effective for the Colts this season.
OK, now it’s for real.
And if you are Mills and El Camino football teams, Friday doesn’t just mark the beginning of the 2013 Peninsula Athletic League schedule. No, with five non-league games in the books, it’s clear the Vikings and Colts are the two front-runners in the PAL Lake Division.
So, with their 3 p.m. matchup today in Millbrae, the winner assures themselves of the upperhand very early in the league season.
It doesn’t get much realer than that.
“In my mind, Mills is definitely someone to contend with,” said El Camino head coach Mark Turner. “They’ve had a real strong preseason. It’s tough to tell who’s at the top of the league. Every week, every day things can change within this league. I do like the fact they’ve had a good season because it helps us know that they’re for real. If we want to get where we want to get — our goal is to win the championship — then that’s the first step.”
Mills is off to its best start in ages. Under Mike Krieger, the Vikings are 3-1 — which equals last year’s season total. With running back Antonio Jeffrey leading the way, Mills has put up high offensive totals. They come into the game averaging almost 38 points per game. Defensively, they’ve pitched a shutout, and despite surrendering 28 points twice, only one of those games ended in a loss — two weeks ago against Los Altos.
“They’ve been playing good football,” Turner said. “So with that said, that’s alerted our guys with, ‘Hey, they’re for real.’ They’re a real contender in this league which we believe we are also. It’s helped motivate our kids. Now the games really count. This league, you only get five games, you really have to take advantage of them. We’ve been through this before, but we have a new group of guys and we’ve been trying to stress to these guys the importance of executing and cutting down on the mental mistakes. If we do those, we’ll be fine in this league.”
So far, the formula has worked for the Colts, who are also 3-1. In El Camino’s lone loss, they gave Ocean Division contender Aragon all they can handle. In their three win, the Colts have allowed less than five points a game. Turner said the week leading up to the league opener, it’s been back to the fundamentals — solid defense and handing the ball to their workhorse, Brandon Gip.
“We accomplished a lot of what we wanted to accomplish during the preseason,” Turner said. “But that said, there’s a lot of work to do, it’s a work in progress. These are young minds we’re dealing with, so every day consistency is what we’re looking for and we haven’t gotten that yet. But that’s why we have to keep coming out and working, keep getting better.”
With a high octane offense led by Jeffrey and complemented handsomely by Victor Beglitsoff and Marquis Adkins, the El Camino defense will have to be on point.
“I believe your defense travels with you,” Turner said. “You have to take it everywhere you go. We just have to execute and run the ball offensively. We have to execute a little bit in the passing game, but we really need to get some defensive stops, take care of the ball on offense, and run the ball like we’re used to. That’s what we need to do. That’s El Camino football. Maybe we’ll make a big play or two.”
Mills — and Turner for that matter — knows a thing or two about big plays. On Friday, it’s something the El Camino coach knows his team will have to limit.
“That’s a scary team over there,” Turner said. “They have speed over there. And speed is one of the things we’ve struggled with over the years. We’ve had issues with that. And Mills has three guys that are scary, scary speed-wise. They can fly. But I feel pretty confident with what we’ve done these last couple of weeks and how we’ve been working. I feel pretty good.”