The Mount Doug Rams may have the best high school football player in the entire province in Grade 11 all-round star Marcus Davis, but its the opposing runningback who will be key to todays Subway Bowl semifinal.
In a rematch of last years title game, the defending champion Rams will try to chain down Maleek Irons of W.J. Mouat at UBC Thunderbirds Stadium (5:30 p.m. kickoff).
Irons went off on the Rams for a provincial high school single-game rushing record of 491 yards, which included five touchdowns, in an Oct. 13 meeting that resulted in a 52-49 Hawks victory.
Theres no doubt hell draw plenty of attention today if the Rams want to defend their Subway Bowl title in next weeks championship game.
Maleek Irons is a special guy, said Rams linebacker and fullback Mason Swift, who will lead the defensive charge. Hes an outstanding athlete, but his offensive line is where the key is. They pick apart defensive lines and create holes that he starts off with so that he can do what he does.
To stop him, were going to have to wear down the O-line, get them tired and be sure tacklers.
Something the Rams failed to accomplish in that first meeting.
Maleek Irons is all I have had in my mind this week, and it will be the same during the game, said Swift, a graduating senior who is also a horse on offence. Its all Maleek, too. If you stop him, its almost game over, I believe.
Irons had 290 yards rushing in quarter-final play last weekend and recovered six offensive touchdowns and added a seventh on a fumble recovery in a 55-20 pasting of West Vancouver.
Rams head coach Mark Townsend expects more of the same from the Hawks this week.
Maleek is an incredible runningback who runs behind an extremely talented offensive line, Townsend said. The key for us is to tackle. Weve been working real hard the last two weeks because in that first meeting, our tackling was not very good and they were able to exploit it. Weve improved, and the kids have a good feeling going into this game.
It should be another classic matchup between two explosive teams who are a combined 19-2 this season.
Here we go, said Townsend, whose Rams got the better of the Hawks in a 42-35 triple-A senior championship victory last season. The fourth game in two years. Both teams have great respect for one another.
It should come down to which team can stop the others talented running games. The Hawks have Irons, and the Rams feature Davis and Swift but can also hurt you with quarterback Ashton MacKinnon and receiver Brian Dowds.
What I will say is we will not be able to stop Maleek, but what we do have to do is control and limit his big plays and long runs, which we werent able to do the first time, Townsend said. If we can get hats to the football, swarm to the football, well be in much better shape.
Davis, who also lines up in the Rams defensive secondary, looks forward to the challenge.
We have to look out for him and gang tackle him every time he touches the ball, but if we work as a team we should be victorious, said Davis. We have to play more as a team on defence.
I think our offence will be fine, Davis added. Every time we play against them, sparks seem to fly, and there should be some more fireworks this game.
EXTRA POINTS: Mount Dougs junior varsity team lost a tough 14-7 decision to Terry Fox on Thursday in semifinal play. Three members of that club, Manny Lopez, Byron MacKinnon and Jesse Woollard, were named to the U-15 Team Canada squad, which will compete in San Antonio, Texas, in January in the U.S. Army All-American games.
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