"You'd think I wouldn't feel this way after having been involved in so
many big games in the past, but I am," Barnes continued. "Marina's an
excellent football team. Their offensive line is super, their defense is
playing better than I can remember, and they run their option very, very
well. Actually, what's making me sick is that I have to see (Ray)
Mietkiewicz again. Thankfully, we don't have to see him again after
Under Barnes guidance, Los Alamitos has won Sunset League titles in '98,
'96, and '94 - the first year both the Griffins and Esperanza joined the
He'll go after title No. 3 against a Marina squad he deems "very
The Vikings' run toward a possible Sunset title has become a near
reality, thanks to quarterback Beau Brown's direction of the option, the
punishing rushing of Mietkiewicz, and a defense that has grown with
confidence each game.
Mietkiewicz comes into Friday's contest with 1,567 yards and an 8.5 yards
per rush average.
A big chunk of that yardage - 853, to be exact -- has been gained in
"There are a lot of keys to this game and one of them, naturally, will be
for us to stop Mietkiewicz," Barnes said. "But, in reality, that's not
possible. The best we can do is try to contain him. If he gets more than
200 yards, then Marina will win; if we hold him to around 150, then I
think we have a good shot. I'm just sick trying to find a way to stop
But Barnes counters with a pretty good back of his own in senior Damon
Johnson, a Division I prospect who has captured the attention of such
Pac-10 schools as Oregon and Washington State.
Johnson, a sprinter who runs a 4.5 40, is a tough inside runner who,
Barnes says, will "beat you if he gets a step on you. However, Johnson
was banged up in the Esperanza game a month ago, but has played on. He
saw limited action last week against Huntington Beach, but scored a
touchdown in a 44-7 victory.
The Griffins, traditionally a strong passing team, have grown into their
passing attack as the season's progressed, with quarterback Mike Sanford
throwing for 470 yards in his last two outings.
"I know it sounds crazy when I say this, but we really didn't have a
passing game when the season started," Barnes explained. "We're getting
better in that respect each week, and Mike (Sanford) has come along
nicely. He was right on the money last week against Huntington, and we'll
need him to do that again to get by Marina."
This championship showdown might become a tale of two talented backs, but
the keys to the contest for Marina will be its ability to hold on to the
football and solve what has become a very strict Los Alamitos defense.
"They've got a great defense, a good running back, and a solid passing
game, and those add up to a lot of strong elements," said Marina Coach
Mark Rehling, whose Vikings are poised on the threshold to win the
school's first league championship since 1986. "I really think the key
for us will be our ability to play defense the way we did at the
beginning of league play.