Brandon Hernández 1 p.m., March 28
CARLSBAD – Physical play isn’t typically a hallmark of small-school football, but that approach worked for Army-Navy on Saturday afternoon. The Warriors used size and power to dominate Inland Empire visitors The Webb School 42-0 and continue an undefeated start to the season.
“We made it clear that we are going to be a smashmouth football team, and that’s what we were today,” said Army-Navy senior running back/defensive lineman Joe Naotaola. “We came out running, and that’s how we’re going to keep it.”
Army-Navy (3-0) set the tone by rolling out a 500-pound backfield on its first offensive possession. The tandem of 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound Naotaola and 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound senior tight end Doug Deering established the Warriors’ physical intent early.
“They’re not a physical team – they’re a finesse team – so we thought we’d come out and be physical,” said Army-Navy head coach Frank Henry. “It was the first time going with that look, but we’ll probably go with it more often.”
Naotaola opened the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. Later in the opening quarter, he raced past the Webb defense for a 70-yard score to put Army-Navy ahead 12-0.
“The quarterback and I saw the safety blitz at the same time, and once he blitzed there was a wide open gap. We just took off with it and my teammates blocked for me,” Naotaola said. “At my size nobody expects me to run that fast, but it’s a good feeling to have that speed on me.”
While Army-Navy overpowered Webb (1-2) for most of the game, the Warriors’ victory didn’t come without flash. Five of Army-Navy’s six touchdowns against the Gauls were longer than 30 yards, including a 68-yard pass from sophomore Chris Salisbury to senior Sam Harlib that gave the Warriors a 26-0 advantage headed into halftime.
Webb requested a running clock in the third and fourth quarters, assuring that Army-Navy would win in comfortable fashion. Sophomore running back Tim Mack punctuated the victory with touchdown runs of 32 and 51 yards in the second half, as the Warriors coasted to their first 3-0 start since 2003.
“We talked about it since spring ball and even right after football season ended last year,” Naotaola said. “This year we’re trying to make it to CIF and win a championship for the seniors from last year. We promised them that and that’s what we’re going to do.”
With the win, Army-Navy remains the only unbeaten team in the Pacific League. The Warriors are aiming for a league title this season and the chance to break up the Coastal League’s stronghold on Division V.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think if we keep improving we can,” Henry said. “We still have some work to do though.”
Pictured: Army-Navy senior running back Joe Naotaola raced for a 70-yard touchdown against Clairemont Webb on this carry in the first quarter
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