By Zach Cavanagh
It’s easy to get distracted by all the bells, whistles and flash the San Juan Hills offense showcases at the line of scrimmage.
There are shifts, motions, reverses, fly action and the dynamic Joey Hobert darting across the formation and drawing the eyes of every defense with his ability to score on any play.
However, when it has become time to get down to brass tacks in the CIF-SS postseason, the Stallions have stuck to the basics with their always strong defensive front and pounding the rock with senior running back Austin Hogan.
While Hobert has grabbed most of the highlights by scoring in multiple ways, it’s Hogan and the run game that have been the backbone for San Juan Hills week after week as the Stallions captured their first CIF-SS championship. San Juan Hills hosts Aquinas of San Bernardino in the CIF Southern California Regional Division 2-AA Bowl Game on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
“That’s who we go to to start our offense,” Stallions offensive coordinator Connor Manning said, referring to Hogan. “A couple games into the year, we focused on being a run-first team. Since then, we’ve found an identity running the ball.”
Hogan has rushed for more than 100 yards in nine of San Juan Hills’ 14 games this season and has carried the ball at least 20 times in seven games.
“Austin has really pulled through,” Hobert said. “He’s shown that we’re not just a passing team that can just rely on one person. We can do anything and the defense needs to be honest”
Hogan built up a head of steam in league play with games of 134, 121 and 139 yards rushing before exploding in the playoffs. Hogan ran for 181 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries in a first-round win over Murrieta Mesa and ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries as the Stallions hit on all cylinders in knocking off Hart.
Hogan didn’t pile up the yardage against Paramount, but the senior still got the workload with 24 carries and scored all four of San Juan Hills touchdowns in a 79-yard performance.
In the Division 4 title-game victory against Loyola, San Juan Hills began its opening drive at its own 1-yard line, but that was the signal for Hogan. Hogan carried the ball 13 times on a 16-play, 99-yard drive and scored on a 9-yard touchdown run for a lead San Juan Hills would never relinquish. Hogan finished with 144 yards on 29 carries.
“He’s a beast,” San Juan Hills coach Rob Frith said of Hogan after the title game. “Hard yards. In league and in the playoffs, we’ve relied on him a ton, and he’s deserved it.”
Hobert even got in on the running game in the championship by taking the ball directly on three straight plays in a “Wildcat” formation to convert a fourth-and-inches and score on a five-yard touchdown run for the points San Juan Hills would need for the win.
As they did against Loyola, San Juan Hills (11-3) will lock horns with another potent rushing attack in the program’s first CIF Southern California Regional Championship against Aquinas (12-2) on Friday.
In the CIF-SS Division 5 championship game, Aquinas rode a 200-yard, three-touchdown performance by senior running back Teryon Sweet to defeat St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs, 21-16. Aquinas has won 12 games in a row after an 0-2 start. San Juan Hills has won nine in a row.
The winner of the game will play in the CIF Division 2-AA State Championship against the winner of the Northern California Regional between Clayton Valley of Concord and Elk Grove. The state final will be played on Friday, Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.