Veterans Memorial puts its undefeated record on the line Friday against one-loss Moody in a key game in District 30-5A’s South Zone. The game features three of the best running backs in the district.
Running back D’Andre Cage deflected credit for Moody’s 5-1 start this season.
So did Dajon Moore.
Both juniors instead gave credit for the success to the Trojans’ offensive line.
Moody is in uncharted territory — at least recently — this season, winning five games for the first time since 2004.
The Trojans went 9-2 that season, the last time Moody made the playoffs.
Though they chose to spread the credit, Cage and Moore have been a large part of Moody’s success in 2017, giving the Trojans a 1-2 punch carrying the ball.
The duo has combined for more than 1,300 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns and their efficiency on the ground has enabled junior quarterback D’artagnan Padron and the Moody passing game to quietly dash opponents on play action (13 touchdowns to one interception).
“For us, our best defense is to keep drives going offensively,” Moody coach Mike Cantu said. “Our defense has helped us out and made several goal-line stands for us. Both offense and defense have benefited (from the other). There is no question, if we can stay on the field and wind that clock, we’ve got a better opportunity.”
Cage is the fourth-leading rusher in District 30-5A (124 carries, 700 yards, 6 TDs) and the bulk of his carries come out of the backfield straight into the teeth of the defense.
“First of all, it is the offensive line,” Cage said. “When they go, we go. Those five do the work, and we just run the ball.
“We try to do our best to keep the defense off the field. When we can make plays they are able to stay off the field and get some rest while we are out there dominating.”
Moore often spreads out in an offensive set, occasionally runs sweeps and often is carrying the ball on misdirection plays.
Moore has broken several big plays for the offense this season in the passing and running game and is the fifth-leading rusher in the district (77-644, 6 TDs), averaging better than eight yards a carry.
Moore teamed with all-district running back JJ Kelley last year as Moody’s strong backfield tandem, but the Trojans finished 3-7, including a 35-28 overtime win against this week’s opponent — Veterans Memorial.
“Offensive line has gotten a lot better since last year,” Moore said. “They’ve cleaned up a lot of the mistakes.
“We’ve been able to trust the line, follow the blocks and hit a home run. That has been real good for us.”
Moody averaged 19 points a game last year, but is scoring 33.5 points on average this season, and has posted at least 21 in every game.
“Those are our two guys,” Cantu said. “If they are going, it is because of our offensive line. Those guys have been instrumental in our success and for us to get where we are at. Being able to run the ball helps us.
“That means that we are staying on the field and we are getting first downs. They’ve done a good job and they’ve been holding on to the football.”
Moody has been no stranger to playing tight games, as the last four contests all ended as one-possession games, including the only game the Trojans have lost this season, a 34-28 double overtime setback to Miller.
The Trojans bounced back to beat Tuloso-Midway (41-35) and Carroll (33-25) in shootouts.
The Carroll contest was an example of Moody finding ways to win late, as they did against Ray when Daniel Garcia returned a fumble for a score in the waning minutes of a tie game.
The Tigers built a 25-13 lead Oct. 6, only for the Trojans to rally and pick up their fifth win.
“We’ve been able to go to the locker room, stay focused and get ready to play,” Moore said. “In the Carroll game we never gave up. We kept going, kept picking up first downs. The most important play was the next play.”
The Trojans have a challenge against undefeated Veterans Memorial this week, a team that has the 12th-best scoring average in Class 5A (48.1 ppg) and the seventh-best scoring defense in the state at 10.7 points.
“We are going to try to do what we do,” Cantu said. “They are talented. It shows on film and shows watching them in person. It is going to be a tough task for us, but our kids are looking forward to the opportunity.”
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