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Taking the next step

Football: Yoder is determined to spoil any holiday plans his team may have this season.

August 31, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
(Tim Berger/Staff…)

For the past few seasons, La Cañada High football Coach Dan Yoder has been intent on spoiling Thanksgiving for his players.

"I have been saying the past couple years that I want to ruin people's Thanksgiving by having practice on Thanksgiving Day," said Yoder, who's entering his third year coaching the Spartans. "I haven't been able to do that, but I'm working on it."

In order for Yoder to accomplish his goal, the Spartans need to win a CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoff game. La Cañada has made the postseason the past two years without getting out of the first round. The Spartans fell to Covina, 42-14, in the first round last year, finishing the season with a 5-6 record after going 3-2 in the Rio Hondo League.

Making a playoff run this year will be a challenge for La Cañada after 32 players, including all eight of the team's all-league selections, graduated last year.

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"We graduated a ton of seniors and that left us young and thin but the guys are doing a really good job," Yoder said. "The guys we needed to step up have done so and we've moved some guys around into new positions."

Matt Jones, a junior who started one game last year, is stepping in at quarterback and taking center stage in Yoder's option attack after competing with Grant Owen for the position all summer.

"Our offense is looking surprisingly good [with all the changes]," said Kyle Herron, La Cañada's starting fullback and linebacker. "We have a new quarterback and one returner on the line, and we have adjusted very well.

"The option is going to work out really well because of the speed we have at our wing backs."

The Spartans have four primary running backs who all figure to get plenty of work this year. Yoder plans to use his running backs — Kevin Stoner, Franklyn Cervenka, Andy Paynter and Derek Georgino — in a platoon situation this year, mixing up the looks for the defense.

"We have four really legitimate backs competing for carries," Yoder said. "That's a nice problem to have."

Stoner was a home run threat at fullback for La Cañada last year. He averaged 8.5 yards a carry (391 yards on 46 attempts), scored two touchdowns and was responsible for the team's longest run of the year — a 57-yard scamper. He also broke off 56-, 41- and 38-yard runs.

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