Salinas-Palma football

Friday's game
Salinas (4-2) vs. Palma (3-2) at Rabobank, 7:30 p.m.
 Few rivalries match the intensity of this one on and off the field.
 Yet, it's been a one-sided affair for the last 13 years between two schools that sit less than a half mile from each other.
 Than again, no program in Monterey County has had much success against Palma - going back three plus decades.
 "These kids have grown up hearing about it,'' Salinas coach Steve Goodbody said. "To win the title, you have to go through Palma. It's not a secret.''
 Not since 2002 has Salinas knocked off Palma en route to going undefeated in league play. Ironically it came on the road, across the street from tonight's battle at Rabobank.
 "Each individual will have his own take,'' Goodbody said. "But this week is like any other for us. As a team, we don't prepare any differently. Now the community certainly will be hyped up.''
 In part, because most of these kids grew up together, played youth sports together before going in different directions upon arriving in high school.
 "I think this week is different,'' Palma coach Jeff Carnazzo said. "The kids get a lot more fired up for a game like this. Nothing comes close.''
 And while the games have been entertaining, even nailbitting at times, the Chieftains have continued to pound out wins, scoring 21 straight points in the fourth quarter in last year's 35-17 win.
 "You hope to impose your will at some point,'' Carnazzo said. "Sometimes it takes a while to get it going. Sometimes it doesn't happen.''
 Carnazzo pointed to Week 2 when the Chieftains were beaten in the final minute by WCAL power St. Francis.
 "This is a different Salinas team then before,'' Carnazzo said. "It reminds me of the team that beat us 14 years ago. This is a very disciplined defensive squad.''
 Five turnovers were costly back in 2002 when Salinas posted a 23-14 win.
 "We have to find ways to score, find ways to move the ball and keep a balanced offense,'' Carnazzo said. "We can't run the ball 80 percent of the time and expect to be successful."
 Yet, that's exactly what the Chieftains have done this year. It's no secret who is going to touch the ball in Emilio Martinez. Containing him has been a problem for opponents.
 "To stop Palma, you have to stop the running game,'' Goodbody said. "That means you have to slow Martinez down. That's a good offensive line. You can't let them control the ball.''
 The senior tailback, who is weighing an offer from UC San Diego, has rushed for over 100 yards in seven straight games dating back to last year.
 Palma's all-time leading rusher is 92 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, having scored 16 touchdowns on the season and 49 for his career.
 An offensive line, anchored by Stanford bound Drew Dalman, is creating holes for Martinez to blaze through. It doesn't hurt that quarterback Zach Flores has been sharp of late throwing the ball.
 "The kid (Flores) has gotten better every week,'' Carnazzo said. "He had a rough beginning. Now we are comfortable with him. We as coaches had to figure out what he does well and utilize it.''
After going 12 straight quarters without allowing a touchdown, the Cowboys defense bent a little in last week's 27-14 win over North Salinas.
 Anchored by pass rusher Cooper Smith and linebackers Andrew Padilla and Drew Schuler, Salinas hasn't allowed a point in the first quarter in its last three games.
  "This is the best defensive unit I've had since I've been here in 11 years,'' Goodbody said. "Not just the toughest, but the fastest. It's tough for a back to get to the edge. We have to keep that up.''
 As good as Salinas' front seven is, Isaac Moreno, Trevor Simon and Oscar Sanchez have solidified the secondary.
 Offensively, its up tempo attack wears down defenses. Ritchie Cerda has chalked up over 600 yards on the ground while quarterback Brett Reade has thrown for over 600 yards in five starts.
 "We've been simulating the pace of their offense in practice,'' Carnazzo said. "Even though they are a spread team, Salinas wants to run the football. We have to make them one dimensional.''
 Since giving up 52 points in a season opening loss to 5-0 Sutter, the Chieftains defense has given up just 53 points in their last four games.
 Dalman and Robert Hernandez have dominated play in the trenches while linebackers Stan Smith and Mikey Zaragoza are a big part of that front seven.
 Last year Smith had two fourth quarter interceptions against Salinas, returning one for a touchdown during that 21-0 run.
 "If you're Stanford, I think you would have to think of Drew as a defensive linemen,'' Carnazzo said. "He's been that good. The strength of our defense is up front.''
 Special teams have accounted for two touchdowns this season for the Cowboys, including Sunnie Arreola's 52-yard punt return last week.

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