Atwater football blocks out distractions

slynch@mercedsun-star.comOctober 11, 2012 

ATWATER -- Bob Valladao and his staff are using silence to speak volumes.

Tonight is a big evening for the Atwater High football team, and it has nothing to do with homecoming.

A win over Pitman at Falcon Field gets Atwater to the magic number of six victories and likely locks up their first playoff appearance since Nathan Sanchez led the team into the second round in 2009-10.

Equally important, it instantly throws the Falcons (1-0 Central California Conference, 5-1) into the conference title mix.

"There's a lot going on on campus right now," Valladao said. "But I've been very pleased with the kids' singular focus on Pitman.

"Everyone knows what it means if we win this game, but no one has said a word about it. We're just concentrating on playing our best against Pitman."

That may be what's required of Atwater tonight.

The Pride (5-1) have extra motivation coming off of their first loss and worst showing of the season.

Buhach Colony shut down Pitman's vaunted Wing-T offense and powered its way to a 28-7 victory.

Throw in the fact that a second loss likely eliminates the Pride from title contention, and Valladao is expecting to see their best.

"We're expecting the normal Pitman offense (tonight)," Valladao said. "They possess the ball. They move the chains and they hit big plays.

"Our defense has played great all season, but this is the first time we've played a team that can really grind you down.

"We need to get as many three-and-outs as we can. If we allow them to put together two or three drives in a row, it could wear us down."

The Pitman defense has to be concerned about the same thing.

The Falcons have run the ball consistently, averaging 326 yards per game. Atwater got the passing game going in a 28-6 win over Golden Valley last week, recording a season-high 178 yards and four touchdowns.

"That balance is something we're going to need as the CCC goes on," Valladao said. "The defenses don't face a lot of passing in our league, so if you can hit them when they're not ready, you can get some big plays.

"If we minimize our mistakes running the ball and make good decisions passing, we should be able to score some points."

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