Football Post Season Preview: Western State Bowl

Marcus Knight prepares to turn the corner vs Compton College earlier this season. Image: Treyvon Watts-Hale
Marcus Knight prepares to turn the corner vs Compton College earlier this season. Image: Treyvon Watts-Hale

Citrus Football is gearing up for its first postseason bowl game since 2013. The Owls, one of the top teams in SoCal, will travel east on Saturday to take on host Chaffey College in the Western State Bowl. The matchup of rivals could easily be renamed 'Battle of the 210 Freeway' as the two teams have shared a fierce territorial rivalry for many years along the foothill corridor. 

Citrus, who goes into the game with an 8-3 overall record and a 4-2 conference mark, will undoubtedly face a worthy foe in Chaffey, who comes into Saturday 9-1 overall and with a perfect conference record of 6-0. Both teams have been dominant in their wins this season, and both teams' losses were by very narrow margins, a testament to the strong philosophies and competitiveness of both programs. 

Citrus will look to repeat its winning strategy to emphasize its biggest strengths. The Owls have been top notch in their run game, and have a fire defensive lineup that is amongst the most effective in the state in 2018. 

Citrus has a platoon of running backs who have established a synchronicity that's only possible with a team-first attitude. Sharing the duties in the backfield can often lead to division and internal rivalries that run the risk of hurting a team, but Citrus is different. The running backs have worked together to weave a fabric that is both multifaceted and comes at you from all angles. 

Leading the pack of backs are Marcus Knight and James Brown, who account for around 55% of the total team rushing yards. Knight and Brown are followed closely by Justyn Alexander and Bryce French. Altogether, the Citrus run game has amassed nearly 2,300 rushing yards in 2018, scoring 32 touchdowns (ranks #2 in the state) and averaging 230 yards per game (#8 statewide).

The Citrus defense, which is filled with returners from last year's stellar lineup as well as some key Freshmen, has continued to harass and break down opponent offenses all year. The defense has earned great respect in the state as one of most effective and feared. 

The Owls are #1 in the state in yards allowed per game, with 216.3; #5 in the state in points allowed per game, with just 15.4; #2 in passing yards allowed, with 152.2; #2 in rushing yards allowed, with 57.4; and #2 in sacks, with 45. Individually, Citrus has some standouts that make significant impacts every single Saturday. An impressive 7 players have piled on 30 or more tackles on the season: DJ Allen, Grant Trueman, Henry Karimu, Levi Harris, Derrion Warner, Joseph Castillo and Jonathan Shelley are absolute nightmares for opposing offenses. Karimu has sacked the quarterback 11.5 times in 2018, followed by Grant Trueman with 7. Trueman, a Sophomore that was a huge part of the defensive success in 2017, has pieced together some of the best stat lines in Citrus history. In at least two games, he's posted numbers in EACH category of tackles, sacks, blocked punts, blocked field goals, QB hurry ups, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles and knocked down passes. 

Not to be outdone, look to kicker Sean Bailey, Jr. to continue his consistent PAT, field goal and punt numbers, as he's done all season for the Owls. 

The Owls' last bowl appearance was in 2013 when they faced Saddleback College in the Beach Bowl, Citrus won 25-14. 

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