ROSEMEAD — You don’t have to be a genius to see why the Rosemead High School football team is 5-0 and full of confidence entering Mission Valley League play. The Panthers are keeping it simple this season under coach Matt Koffler. They run the ball well and play good defense. Beat them if you can, but no team has come even close thus far. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week All of it is by design, according to Koffler, whose foursome of Josh Casey, Cameron Cantrell, Anthony Gonzalez and Mike Morillion are in the process of doing something special. “Their role is controlling the line of scrimmage,” Koffler said. “They’re always disrupting the blocking scheme for the other team’s offense. They’re very disruptive. And if you have lineman in the backfield, it clears up lanes for our linebackers to clean up whatever they don’t get.” The numbers, or lack thereof, the Panthers defense has allowed in five nonleague games are absolutely scary. Rosemead has allowed 19 total points in 20 quarters. The only two touchdowns allowed this season came in the fourth quarter with the game already decided. Rosemead has shut out two opponents, including Baldwin Park, whose running back Aaron Harris went on to score five touchdowns in each of the Braves’ three games since facing the Panthers. Make no mistake, the Panthers have talent. Running back/defensive back Deon Sumler is among the best in the area at his respective positions. Placekicker Jose Camarena, also the team’s quarterback, is comfortable booting field goals from over 50 yards. But what sets Rosemead apart and makes them the most predictable yet unbeatable team around is a defensive line that makes things miserable for the opposition. “They’re pretty tough up front,” said Baldwin Park coach James Heggins, whose team suffered its only loss of the season against Rosemead. “They control the line of scrimmage. That was the difference in our game, which is something very different from the other ones we’ve played. They’re just very physical.” The Panthers got another ringing endorsement this past week by Temple City coach Mike Mooney, who was impressed by what he saw in a 41-7 defeat to Rosemead last Friday. “Let me tell you something, they’re as good as advertised,” Mooney said. “Anyone that’s thinking they haven’t played anyone yet, or anyone real, is crazy. Get them up close, and you’ll see they’re absolutely dominating.” Each of the Panthers’ defensive lineman have a specific strength and role. Cantrell, who plays way above his listed 5-foot-6, 150-pound frame, is a speed rusher. Casey, at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, is a combination of power and speed. Gonzalez (275 pounds) is the resident run-stopper. He clogs the middle along with Morillion, who might be a combo of all three. “I had no idea we were going to be this good,” Casey said. “I didn’t think we were going to allow just 19 points so far, but our defense just came out there ready to play.” Although nobody will undervalue Casey, Gonzalez and Morillion based on their size, the same can’t be said for Cantrell, who opens eyes while earning respect on a weekly basis. “I feel underestimated,” Cantrell said. “They (opponents) just take me for granted and think I can’t do anything. I just put my head down and go full speed.” Full speed has produced nine sacks thus far for Cantrell, who can’t be controlled coming off the end. With such a dominating defense, it’s not hard to see why everyone around Rosemead is thinking big things. The Panthers begin league play this week against Gabrielino, and given the way the defense is playing, Rosemead could be 10-0 entering the playoffs later next month. The excitement created in just five short weeks is something that fans are justified in feeling, according to Koffler. “There’s no doubt about it, we can compete with anybody around,” Koffler said. “Our front four knows that and they love going out there and proving it to people. They want to show that defensive lineman can do special things.” And because of that, Rosemead just might do some special things, too. — Aram Tolegian can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2233, or by e-mail at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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