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Mustangs zeroed in on Oilers' star

FOOTBALL: Costa Mesa knows it must shine defensively against standout rusher Gabbard.

September 15, 2006|By Matt Szabo

Huntington Beach High senior Stephen Gabbard has 665 rushing yards and nine touchdowns after the Oilers' first two football games.

Costa Mesa will need to slow Gabbard to have a chance, as the Mustangs (0-2) play host to the Oilers (2-0) tonight at 7 at Orange Coast College.

Mustangs Coach Jeremy Osso said stopping the run will definitely be key against Huntington Beach, which has attempted just three combined passes in wins over Millikan, 42-34, and Los Amigos, 42-15.

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The Oilers' power running game out of the double-wing offense has been all Huntington Beach, ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division, has needed thus far.

Three of Gabbard's four touchdowns against Los Amigos were runs of 40 yards or more.

"[Gabbard's] an amazing back," Osso said. "You don't defend him, you just try to slow him down. You have to make a slight adjustment, but it's still a lot of our scheme. We're just trying to improve and get better at assignments."

The Mustangs did look improved during the second half of last week's 42-12 loss to Rancho Alamitos. Costa Mesa scored all of its points after halftime, when senior quarterback Cody Waldron produced 111 of his 138 passing yards.

"His confidence level has increased, and he looked more comfortable," Osso said. "He's starting to grow to love the quarterback position, which is a huge thing."

Still, Osso said, the Mustangs shouldn't have to rely on Waldron's arm to have a chance to win.

"We don't want to have to do that," Osso said. "We want to rely on ball control, which is what we're trying to get back to. I feel like we did a better job of that against Savanna [in the Mustangs' opener] than against Rancho Alamitos, so we took a step back in that regard."

Osso said he plans to run a double-tight-end set of his own this week against the Oilers' three-four formation, with Josh Lowe and Matt Pisarski penciled into the starting lineup at the position.

On defense, junior strong safety John Salyer and sophomore cornerback Antwon Byrd will likely make their first starts of the season as Osso continues tinkering with his lineup.

"If we can get the guys to do what they're coached to do, that's a huge boost for us," Osso said.

The Oilers topped the Mustangs, 37-14, last season.

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