It would be hard to find two coaches who share more mutual respect than
Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
head coach Harry Welch and St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.)
coach Todd Therrien.
As such, both coaches are excited for Friday night's tilt between the nation's No. 3 team and arguably the top team from the Marmonte League.
"I'm fired up to coach against him," Therrien said of Welch, who is the only head coach to win CIF Bowl Games at three different schools. "Schematically, the guy is a genius. From a pure football standpoint, it's as exciting as it gets. His team on tape is physical and disciplined. The kids do things the right way."
Welch, who has led Santa Margarita to a 4-0 start including a season-opening victory over Brophy, was even more complimentary of his counterpart at St. Bonaventure, calling him the greatest young coach in California.
"He could coach for me any day. And if I retire, and he has an assistant freshman coach position available, I'd take it," he said.
The clash between established coaching titan and budding coaching star is one of the Top 10 Games of the Week
For as good as the coaching matchup is (Welch and Therrien have won five CIF Bowl Games between them), the showdown between the sidelines is equally intriguing.
Santa Margarita has gotten better each week, punctuated by a 72-0 victory over Carson last weekend. Nebraska commit Johnny Stanton
continues to lead the offense. A National Player of the Year candidate, Stanton is also a model citizen off the field.
"Johnny is one of the great young men in America," Welch said of the 6-foot-3 senior. "He's the student body vice president, an A-plus student, a basketball player and an all-around good kid. There hasn't been sunrise on a day when Johnny has used a bad word."
Stanton has already thrown for 817 yards and rushed for 289 yards to go along with five scores. He adds another dynamic to a rushing attack that is led by senior
, who is averaging more than 132 rushing yards per game.
Welch dismissed the notion that his team has been affected negativlye by recent transfers out of the program.
"Someone tongue in cheek said that when we got things together, we won 55-0. Then another boy transferred and we won 72-0. Some else said ‘If they lose another kid, they'll hit 100,'" Welch joked.
He said the players that transferred gave a lot to the program and that he wished them well, but his current group has been galvanized together as a result.
"We're bonded pretty well. It's a tight-knit group and perhaps some of this adversity has brought us together," Welch said.
Santa Bonaventure, meanwhile, has rallied around standout sophomore quarterback Ricky Town
. A transfer from Chaminade, Town was thrust into the spotlight in a pair of marquee early-season games. Against Corona Centennial, he accounted for four touchdowns. Though he struggled against Redlands East Valley, he maintained enough poise to help St. Bonaventure escape with an 18-7 victory to remain undefeated.
His early-season performance came as little surprise to Therrien, who was extremely impressed with Town's dedication to learn the team's offense since his arrival.
"I'll tell you this. He showed up in the offseason every single day. He wants to learn, has the desire to learn," Therrien said.
While Town lines up behind center, senior running back Zachary Green
is the offensive bell cow. He gathered 105 yards on the ground and scored a key touchdown in the win over Redlands East Valley.
The entire game could hinge upon which team is able to effectively run the football. If Green is productive, it will take pressure off Town and help keep Santa Margarita's offense on the sidelines.
Therrien knows if he can slow down Santa Margarita on the ground, his team will have a chance.
"From a defensive standpoint, we need to stop the run. The way I liken it is Jedi mind tricks," he said. "If you're weak-minded, they'll pound you. If you fall for Jedi mind tricks, you will get beat down."
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Saddleback College.