Los Angeles Preps: Brad Steward

Western: No. 25 Ventura 41, Dominguez 14

November, 19, 2011

VENTURA – In the blink of an eye, Ventura running back Conner Armstrong swept across the field and into the end zone on his first carry to score a 76-yard touchdown.

By the end of the first quarter, Ventura was up by three touchdowns in its first-round CIF Southern Section Western Division playoff game against Dominguez.

Behind Armstrong’s 235-yard, three-touchdown night, Ventura, the fourth-seeded team in the Western Division playoffs, easily handled Dominguez, 41-14, scoring early and often on Friday night at Ventura High School.

Armstrong scored on runs of 76, 48 and 30 yards. He scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and Ventura was up 21-0 before Dominguez knew what hit them.

A 5-foot-7 running back is what hit the visiting Dons. The run-oriented offense that Dominguez (7-4) uses doesn’t allow for quick scores or explosive plays. Playing with a three-touchdown deficit is not how Dominguez coach Keith Donerson expected to open the playoffs.

“It’s very challenging,” Donerson said. “It’s tough to come from behind.”

Even though Ventura (11-0) jumped out to an early lead, Cougars coach Brad Steward said he expected his players to keep their intensity up. Ventura was up 28-8 at halftime, but the game was far from over.

“I didn’t think so at all,” Steward said. “They did move the ball. We were fortunate we scored the first time we touched the ball.”

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Ventura RB finds opening to Cornell

November, 16, 2011
The Ventura football team does not have a pipeline to USC, Texas or LSU. The team’s top recruit is being sought after by Utah. Some of the best players on the team will not have a football future beyond high school.

But it looks like a couple of the Ventura football players are creating a Cornell connection and coach Brad Steward couldn’t be happier.

Running back Conner Armstrong made a verbal commitment to Cornell University last week. Hunter Winans might be following his teammate to the New York campus and the Ivy League, Steward said. The Ventura coach is counting on his heady players to lead his team in the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs.

Ventura, the fourth-seeded team in the Western Division, opens playoffs against Dominguez on Friday night at Ventura High School. The Cougars, ranked No. 25 in the ESPN Los Angeles high school football poll, are 10-0 entering playoffs and won the Channel League championship for the first time in five years.

Armstrong leads the team in rushing with 1,264 yards and touchdowns with 20. He is a generous 5-foot-7, 170-pound running back who has been carrying the football since his first years in Pop Warner. Armstrong is not going intimidate any team with his size, but his heart and his vision have carried Ventura through an unblemished season so far.

“He is on the small side, so he hides behind those linemen and then darts into openings,” Steward said. “He’s one of the best running backs we’ve had here in a long, long time.”

He has six 100-yard rushing games this season. He rushed for 266 and two touchdowns against Santa Barbara three weeks ago.

“His mom’s father was a football coach,” Steward said. “Football has been important to their family his whole life. He played tailback in youth football. He’s just had a million reps just running the ball. He’s just got great instincts, great vision. I think it’s from all those reps he got throughout the years. People don’t really get a good lick on him.”

Every year, Ventura High School selects a senior scholar athlete who demonstrates strong character. Armstrong’s name came up when he was a junior, Steward said.

“When we were voting on that last year, everybody said can we just vote for next year’s right now,” he said. “That’s just the character, the leadership that the kid’s got. He’s just an awesome kid.”

Winans, Ventura’s leading receiver with 51 catches for 692 yards and five touchdowns, attended a football camp at Cornell over the summer. Steward said the Cornell coaches were impressed with Winans as well.

“He went to their camp and they said he was by far the best receiver at their camp,” Steward said.

Dominguez (7-3) is a tough first round matchup for Ventura. The Dons finished in a three-way tie for first place with Downey and Paramount in the San Gabriel Valley League standings. Dominguez has won seven of its past eight games, the only loss coming to Downey, 36-35, two weeks ago.

“If you read about them, they were expected to win the league running away,” Steward said. “It wound up a three-way tie and they wound up getting the third-place bid. For us, really for a fourth-seeded team, it’s an awfully tough draw.”

Dominguez has five offensive linemen listed at more than 300 pounds. Running back Michael Garrison has benefited behind that huge offensive line.

“They’re very, very large,” Steward said. “Great big players, very athletic players, good running backs, play great defense. They’re going to be a formidable opponent.”

Ventura 42, Oxnard 7

October, 8, 2011

VENTURA -- It has been nearly a month since Oxnard linebacker Adrian Padilla stepped on a football field.

He suffered a concussion in a game against San Luis Obispo in the second week of the season. Padilla needed brain surgery to reduce the swelling in his head and spent nearly three weeks in a hospital recovering.

He was released Monday and was an honorary captain for the Oxnard football team Friday night in his team’s game against Ventura.

Ventura won the game, 42-7, to keep its undefeated record in tact.

The Oxnard players, coaches and fans, meanwhile, reveled in Padilla’s return. The Oxnard players have patches on their helmets with the initials A.P. and the No. 25, the number Padilla wears. Half the money raised from the 50-50 raffle at the game on Friday night was donated to the Padilla family to help pay for medical bills.

Once the game started, however, Ventura (6-0) took control and rolled to its sixth win in a row.

Ventura quarterback Rodney Stanley threw for 217 yards and four touchdowns. Leo Camacho was his favorite receiver, hauling in four passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

Hunter Winans made a juggling catch in the third quarter and turned it into a 68-yard touchdown.

Nick Januska returned an interception 88 yards in the fourth quarter to give Ventura a 35-7 lead.

Running back Conner Armstrong capped the night for Ventura with a 21-yard touchdown run with 2:40 to play.

Ventura coach Brad Steward called his quarterback’s performance “workmanlike.”

“He did a nice job of taking what they gave us,” Steward said. “They didn’t have an answer for our pass game.”

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L.A. North: Games of the Week

September, 28, 2011
Camarillo receiver Jake Maulhardt had one of the greatest performances in state history against Canyon High School last week. He set a state record with 28 receptions and scored three touchdowns.

But his team lost, 52-28, to Canyon and dropped to 1-2 on the season. Camarillo’s offense has been able to put points on the scoreboard, averaging 23 a game. Its defense, on the other hand, is giving up 30.6 points per game.

Camarillo coach Dennis Reidmiller says he is hoping his defense can increase its intensity against undefeated Ventura (4-0) on Friday night at Camarillo High School.

“We’re scoring points,” Reidmiller said. “We’re not doing a real good job of tackling. We got to do a much better job of tackling.”

Ventura is coming off a 35-20 win over Nordhoff and has been scoring at a rapid clip, 37.7 points per game. Running back Conner Armstrong has rushed for 466 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in four games. Quarterback Rodney Stanley has thrown for 816 yards and eight touchdowns.

Stanley has been posting those numbers without one of the team’s best receivers, tight end Nick Rudolph. He was selected to the MaxPreps preseason All-American team, but has missed the last two games and has only eight catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns. He is expected to make his first start since Sept. 9 against Agoura.

“He’s a little banged up and sat out the last two weeks,” Ventura coach Brad Steward said.

Steward added that receiver Hunter Winans has played well in Rudolph’s absence and is a big reason why the team is undefeated.

“We like to point toward an undefeated season,” Steward said. “We want to be as good as we can when league starts.”

Camarillo presents problems for Ventura, and every other team it faces, with the 6-foot-7 Maulhardt at receiver. One of the nice surprises on the Camarillo side is the play of sophomore quarterback Michael Marin. He has passed for 922 yards, completing 68 percent of his passes, and nine touchdowns in three games. He has only thrown one interception in 124 pass attempts. Steward said his team will have to score to keep up with Camarillo.

“I think they’re very, very dangerous,” Steward said. “We’re hoping to get a few stops. We’re trying to disguise coverages. We can’t let them sit on one thing. Keep it varied and keep them off-balance.”

Here’s a look at some of the other top games in the region:

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