The 2022 high school football season is over the half-way mark and the Warren G. Harding Raiders are sitting at a 1-5 record. While it is not exactly what the players, coaches and support staff, expected, it is the reality of where this program is at the half-way point. There is one thing that is for certain each week, the Raiders are playing physical and tough football. The other side of the that is - self-inflicted wounds, execution, and mistakes continue to plague this team.
Akron St. Vincent- St. Mary came into Mollenkopf Stadium on Friday night and the start could not have been better for the Raiders. On the opening drive, St. V's fumbled the snap and Raiders defensive end Ny'sier Coleman (#16) recovered and took it for a touchdown. The extra point was no good and the Raiders led 6-0. Fast starts have occurred since the week 4 matchup versus the Massillon Tigers. It does not matter how fast you start but if you can continue to keep that momentum and come out with a victory -- something this Raiders team is struggling with.
Defensively, the Raiders get a stop and the offense jogged right back onto the field. After a short drive, the Raiders are in punt formation when... it is a FAKE, Javontae Jones takes the snap and runs right and is tackled short of the sticks. St. V's takes the next drive in for a touchdown on a 19-yard run by Santino Harper and the extra point is good. St V's 7, Raiders 6.
It began to unfold late in the second-half of the game when the Irish's defense became more dominant and the final from Mollenkopf was 27-12 SVTM. The biggest need for improvement and the matchup to watch in this upcoming game versus the Boardman Spartans is the Raiders' ability to run the football with their tailbacks. We know and understand what Dalys Jett can do running the ball, but there has been an inconsistency at the running back position. If this area can be improved upon, the Raiders will have an offense that is two dimensional, which will help all phases of the game become more successful.
From 2007-2010, Daniel "D.J" Dota was the head football coach at Warren G. Harding High School. He compiled a 23-17-1 record in that time and in 2008, his team was a Region 1 Quarter-Finalist. Since then, Dota spent time at West Branch over in Beloit, Ohio (eight seasons) and in January this offseason, Boardman hired Dota at an outdoor event in 17-degree weather where hundreds of spectators looked on.
The previous Boardman team that the Raiders took on last year, had a different head coach in Seth Antram, who is now at Chaney. Antram's staff and players faced the Raiders last year and lost 10-21, ending their 2021 campaign with a 4-5 record. This season, the Boardman Spartans are firing on all cylinders and are sitting at 4-2 at the halfway mark of the season. Dota and his staff have instilled a winning culture thus far this season, and look to continue the winning at home this week versus Warren G. Harding.
Boardman's Defensive Outlook:
The Spartans run a 4-3 defensive front with their outside linebacker #6 Willy Torres, (JR) 5'11" 180 lbs, at times playing down on the line of scrimmage. This may look like a 5-2 defensive front; however, it is really a 4-3 just with your outside linebacker playing down at the line of scrimmage in several looks. Torres is a feisty athlete and is not afraid of getting in the action. He will be someone to watch on the defense, especially with Harding trying to establish some sort of running game to keep the Spartans defense off balance.
When the opposing team is behind the sticks, they run a 3-2 defensive front and play a prevent style defense behind. They trust their defensive front that consists of four seniors, one who is an absolute stud and is a game wrecker in, #10 Jordan Saulsberry (SR) 6'1" 200 lbs. Saulsberry seems to be in the backfield almost every play and has a veteran presence on defense. Their defensive ends are Isaiah Torres (SR) 6'0" 220 lbs and Fernando Ortiz (SR) 6'0" 210. And within the heart of the defense at nose is Kyle Barrett (SR) 5'10" 240 lbs. These are four down lineman who will play a big factor on Friday night within the trenches.
The secondary of the Spartans run a multitude of coverages. They are very heavy with cover 4 and cover 3. There are times where they bring a cornerback blitz off the edge to try and confuse and or get the quarterback to throw the football out quickly. Within the redzone, the Spartans do what most teams are comfortable playing and that is man-to-man within the 10-yard line going in. At times, within the true redzone (20 yard line going in) they did play zone coverage but when it is within the 10 to 5 yard line, expect man-to-man.
The Spartans' secondary have two-way starters at cornerback. Their two corners #14 Kejuan Robinson (SR) 6'0" 170 lbs and #7 Joel Cuevas-Pixley (SR) 5'10" 160 lbs also are their starting wide receivers on the offensive side of the football. Similar to what the Harding Raiders employ with their two-way starters, expect the Spartans to have a similar fatigue and tiredness due to snap count. The free safety is #2 Phil Clark (JR) that sits at 5'6" 140 lbs. Clark plays way above his height and would not be a starter on both sides of the football if he didn't have the "it" factor. At strong safety, you have #12 Andre Freeman (SR) 5'10" 165 lbs. Freeman was the leading tackler last season on defense. He is a threat in the secondary and someone who has experience and is taking that with him into 2022.
Boardman's Offensive Outlook:
Starting at quarterback is junior Tomas Andujar, who is 5'11" 175 lbs and is a dual-threat rushing and passing the football. Andujar is similar to our quarterback game plan as they like to get the ball in his hands early and often. Boardman likes to run lead sweeps with Andujar. What is a lead sweep? It is when your running back is set to the side where you are running the football and he is your blocker. The quarterback just takes the snap and follows his running back on the outside and tries to get as many yards as he can.
One thing that coach D.J. Dota likes to do is run the football. He has that old school mentality and is a fan of the "Dave" run concept. To keep it simple: Dota and his offensive staff like to pull their guards a good majority of the game. This is what I mean by they like running Dave. Similar to "Power", but different in who pulls and who wheels through. The Spartans running back is #6 Willy Torres, who I mentioned above as that outside linebacker who plays down to the line of scrimmage. Torres is someone who loves contact and does whatever he can to make the most out of his touches.
Boardman's top formation is Ace (requires only one running back) and then you can include multiple receivers or a tight end. In this case, they go Twins (two receivers on both sides) and have their running back to the left or right of the quarterback. Their second favorite or top formation is Trips. You have three wide receivers on the left or right and then you have a single wide receiver on the other side. The vertical passing attack is something they enjoy with vertical switch, or just verticals and the flood concept (go by #1 receiver, deep out by #2 receiver and arrow route by #3 receiver. They do switch the 2 and 3 receivers like a swap or switch style, trying to confuse the secondary of opposing teams). They also run slants, bubbles, posts, etc. Andujar like I mentioned earlier is a dual-threat quarterback as he can throw the football with nice touch and has an offense designed around his ability to run the football.
Lastly, expect the Spartans to try to establish their running game early. If they watched the Harding, Akron STVM film from last Friday, they will know how St. Vincent-St. Mary established the line of scrimmage in the second half of that matchup. It is imperative that the Raiders stop the run early and continue to keep fighting for all four quarters.
Matchup to Watch: Harding's Offense (Running Game) versus Spartans' Defense
I am keeping it really simple and vanilla this week with the matchup -- Harding's Offense (Running Game) versus the Spartans' Defense. Why? The Harding Raiders are averaging 10.3 points per game. Self-inflicted wounds and execution have been the Achilles heel for this team. It is extremely important that the Raiders start off fast but not only do that, but establish a successful running game.
In order to keep the opposing team's defense off guard and get Boardman's outside linebacker (#6 Torres) to stop playing down to the line of scrimmage, the running game needs to be successful. This opens up play action and not just that it opens up the passing game as a whole. It is imperative this week that Harding running backs Ryan Powell, Javontae Jones, and O'Ryan Dukes can make things happen when their names are called on Friday night.
Having a running game on Friday night from the Harding Raiders will be something that will either win or lose this matchup. Harding has not been successful running the football with their tailbacks. The Dalys Jett show with his running has been successful; however, it is time for the running backs (Powell, Jones, and Dukes) to step up and make plays this week.
If this occurs, it not only opens up the offensive's passing attack, it removes that outside linebacker #6 Torres from playing down on the line of scrimmage. That removes an extra body within the trenches that should free up space and yards for the Raiders. Competition breeds success and this Boardman Spartans team is tough, physical, full of grit and will come to play on Friday night. Establish the running game, be successful throwing the football, and continue to make plays with a defense that is playing lights out, will give the Raiders a victory and their second win on the season.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Record: 63-50 (Includes 1-5 this Season)
Years as HC: 11
Record Last Year: 5-6
Defense: 3-4, 4-3
Aug. 19 at Medina - Loss - 10-33
Aug. 26 vs Buchtel - Won - 14-7
Sept. 2 vs Hudson - Loss - 7-21
Sept. 9 at Massillon - Loss - 12-41
Sept. 16 vs Ursuline - Loss - 14-28
Sept. 23 at St. Vincent-St. Mary - Loss - 12-27
Sept. 30 at Boardman
Oct. 7 vs Mooney
Oct. 14 at Chaney
Oct. 21 at Fitch
Head Coach: D.J. Dota
Record: 4-2 (First year at Boardman but veteran coach)
Years as HC: 1
Record Last Year: 4-5
Defense: 3-4, 4-3, 3-2 Prevent
Aug. 19 at Cardinal Mooney - Win - 10-7
Aug. 26 vs Chaney - Loss - 14-40
Sept. 2 vs Jackson - Loss - 14-43
Sept. 9 at Howland - Win - 40-13
Sept. 17 at Youngstown East - Win - 42-8
Sept. 23 vs Benedictine - Win - 20-12
Sept. 30 vs Warren G. Harding
Oct. 7 vs Dover
Oct. 14 at Austintown Fitch
Oct. 21 at Canfield