BY PETER ELLISON
The CHS Padres won their first four league games in style, outscoring their opponents by 40-plus points five times so far, all while the offense continues to innovate and improve its game, supported by a rock-solid defensive line.
While the story of the Padres may appear to be one of victory this season, their real story is one of innovation. From the beginning of the season, quarterback Kai Lee and a whole suite of capable receivers have had free reign over the passing game with 1,366 yards and 16 touchdowns recorded so far. However, Lee’s quarterback rushing ability, while rapidly improving, was next to nonexistent early in the season as he went negative in his first three games.
To cover this specific hole in their gameplay, the Padre offense has started using sophomore J.T. Byrne, a figure towering a full head over most players, as their rushing ace-in-the-hole, touting a total of 157 yards on only 16 rushes. The Padre staff has started putting in Byrne when it needs to make short-range rushing plays, perfect for punching the ball into the end zone.
“It’s a good play for us,” head coach Golden Anderson explains. “When you run the quarterback, you’ve got all 11 guys participating. A lot of the time when you hand it off you’ve got 10 guys playing and one guy watching, so with this play it’s really 11 on 11, which is really to our favor.”
Carmel’s running game has also come into focus around a single player, junior Dakota Mornhinweg. With over 750 rushing yards to his name, Mornhinweg is constantly running the ball up the side as a potent alternative to a passing play. Also a capable receiver, Mornhinweg has the most points to his name with 84 this season.
While the offense has been growing and changing, a constant on the team has been Carmel’s brick wall of a defensive line, led by seniors Robert Brown, 9.5 sacks 40 tackles, and Zach Dezee with 35 tackles. This defensive line has given up the lowest number of points in the entire league with only about eight per game.
“I thought we played well,” says Dezee about the 53-0 Soledad shutout on Oct. 13. “Our coaches do a really good job of getting us prepared, and they give us a really good game plan, so whenever we execute the game plan good things happen.”
Additionally, the defense has proven its ability to carry the offense through rough matchups like the Monte Vista Christian game when Carmel won 14-0. When the offense struggled and only managed 14 points, the defense was able to shut out the opposing team. Carmel’s aggressive defense never gives the competition a chance to breathe.
Currently, the Padres are stomping through the Mission division of the new Pacific Coast League. This division is beneath the higher up Gabilan division with teams such as Aptos, Palma and Salinas, raising the question whether Carmel should be advanced into the Gabilan division to help balance the obvious disparity.
“All these guys don’t get to come back and play,” Anderson says. “It’s easy for people to think we should go there, but really you need to look at all the teams, who they have coming back and what they’re actually going to look like next year.”
While it may not be reflected in their varsity record, Anderson also points out that the JV program, composed largely of freshmen and sophomores, has been struggling to compete with the physically larger teams fielded by schools much larger than Carmel. This problem would only be further amplified by facing the teams from increasingly larger Gabilan division schools such as Salinas, who has 2,500 students compared to Carmel’s 850 or so.
On Friday, the Padres play North Salinas at the Rabobank Stadium in Salinas at 7:30 p.m.