By Michael Bower
The Poway High football program has enjoyed two straight trips to CIF San Diego Section championship games — winning the Division I crown in 2011 and finishing runner-up to Oceanside in Division II in 2012.
The Titans, for the most part, did it with a smothering defense and ball-control offense. But with 20 new starters taking the field in 2013, the formula for reaching a third consecutive title game starts with one word: speed.
And it’s all over the place at Poway.
Senior running back and defensive back Lance Mudd: one of the top sprinters in the section. Wide receiver Brandon Lucas: one of the top sprinters in the section. Wide receiver Will James: one of the top sprinters in the section.
Incoming freshman quarterback Tate Martell, a University of Washington commit, has been clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.61-seconds. Returning quarterback and safety Max Washam can scoot, as can freshman receiver Tyjon Lindsey and senior receiver Trent Laliberte. And the list goes on and on.
“I am not exaggerating when I say we probably have the fastest team in San Diego,” Lucas said. “Our offense is fast. We are like a machine gun. We are just going to keep spitting out as fast as we can.”
To take advantage of all the speed and athleticism, the Titans have moved away from the fly offense in favor of the pistol. This will allow Poway to spread the field and get its skilled players the ball in space.
“We have a lot of depth in our athletic-skill positions,” Poway coach Damian Gonzalez said. “And what we are doing now is going to present different challenges for other teams that have seen us do the same thing for years now.”
The Titans have not named a starting quarterback. Washam, the senior who started all of last season, returns but 15-year-old sensation Martel is on the varsity roster. The 5-foot, 11-inch signal caller is rated by many as the No. 1 quarterback in the state in the class of 2017.
“The starting quarterback is still to be determined,” Gonzalez said last week. “It might not be until the first snap of our first game that you find out.”
Lindsey, a good friend of Martel’s and an up-and-coming track and field star, will start as a freshman at receiver. Gonzalez and Lindsey’s teammates have raved about the athleticism of the speedy 5-8, 158-pound wide out.
“Tajon is the shiftiest kid I have ever seen on the field,” Lucas said. “He is making some guys that have been on varsity for two or three years look bad.”
Mudd, who recently committed to Cal Poly-SLO, will be starting at defensive back and running back. He did a solid job backing up tailback Nehemiah Gross last season, but saw his year cut short after breaking his arm in October.
The defense, which had three shutouts last year, will rely on a group of fresh faces. But Gonzalez thinks they can get the job done by working as one unit.
“I think it is going to be a team effort on defense with this group,” he said. “Last year, we had some big-name kids and this year we just have a lot of kids that are working really well together and their seems to be some great cohesion on the team.”
The Titans, which have a bye in Week 1 and will open the season at La Costa Canyon on Sept. 6, have one of the toughest schedules of any San Diego team.
Poway will play three teams that were selected into the Open Division playoffs, including defending Division II champion Oceanside. San Pasqual, Valley Center, Mt. Miguel, Ramona and Carlsbad all figure to be pretty tough, too, this season.
The Titans will look to their newcomers to rise to the challenge.
“A lot of teams have returners and that helps, but I think our newcomers have explosive abilities,” Gonzalez said. “I think we will be one of the fastest teams around. We just have to execute.”