Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008 | 2:15 a.m.
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A week after a 41-39 win against Rancho, Del Sol rolled into league play against Southeast Division rival Liberty and made a statement Friday night with a 31-6 victory.
The Sunrise Region runners-up last season, the Dragons’ hard-hitting defense put pressure on the Patriots early and put the rest of the division on notice.
“The kids understood this was a big game,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said. “They understand the importance of a league game and they came out hungry. They didn’t have a very good game last week -- they didn’t play well all-around -- and they bounced back this week and made a statement.”
Led by senior linebacker Jon Kirschbaum, who had four sacks, the Dragons (4-1) held the Patriots to 123 rushing yards and three completed passes.
Where the Patriots were able to pound the inside for consistent yardage in their season-opener against Silverado, the Dragons forced featured back Shawn Murray to test the corners to limited success.
“I was just flying around and trying to keep the intensity up,” Kirschbaum said. “I was sticking to my reads and remembering everything the coaches told us this week. I think the whole team did a good job of sticking to our game plan. The defense, we just hit them hard and fast and made sure to wrap them up.”
Goroff said Kirschbaum wasn't 100 percent healthy before the game but still managed to put together a solid effort.
“Jon played a gutsy game,” Goroff said. “He is Del Sol football. He plays the game the way we want to see it played. He’s tough. He’s smart, and he loves to play the game.”
As the Dragons now look ahead to Foothill, Goroff said they will continue to concentrate on the same style of play that has made them a perennial force in the Southeast.
“We pride ourselves on the run and stopping the run,” Goroff said. “No matter who we play, that’s going to be how we come at them.”
Liberty coach Lou Markouzis said the Patriots’ victory over Silverado, the team’s first in the school’s six years, drained his team emotionally and took some steam out of their preparation for Del Sol.
“We feared as a staff that there would be a big dip in the level of play this week and our worst fears came true,” Markouzis said. “This was a phenomenal learning experience for the program. Games like this, that test us, show you can’t treat one win like the Super Bowl. We have to stay focused.”
The Dragons’ offense was firing on all cylinders as junior running back Earnest Hall rushed for 229 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Saei Huihui threw for 94 yards, including three big passes to junior Evan Weinstock.
Markouzis said defending the pass will be a focal point as the Patriots (3-2) prepare for Basic.
“We truly have to come with a game plan if we want to get back on track against Basic,” Markouzis said. “We’re going to have to scheme it and really put pressure on their quarterback, because the Wolves can air it up.”
Murray said no matter what the Patriots do with the X’s and O’s, the biggest change needs to be in the team’s attitude.
“No one came out with an intensity,” Murray said. “When we played Silverado, we just had more heart. I don’t think we were tired (against Del Sol). It was just mental. We thought if we beat Silverado we’d beat Del Sol. We can’t do that. We have to find that intensity again.”