TAMPA — After being shut out in its opener a week ago, Chamberlain came into its home opener against East Bay looking to simplify the game for new quarterback Bruce Jackson, get running back Antony Guzman back into all-area form and gain a better read of what it has on defense.
The Chiefs successfully checked all three boxes in a 47-8 victory against East Bay on Friday.
"We simplified," Chamberlain coach Jason Lane said. "Our run game, in essence, we ran three plays just out of multiple formations, using motion ... things of that nature. Same thing in our passing game. We went back to our foundation."
The change in approach immediately benefited Jackson, who saw only limited action at quarterback as a junior, and struggled in a 25-0 loss to Tampa Bay Tech.
Against East Bay, his first four attempts were two wide receiver screens, a pass in the flat and a 10-yard crossing route. He completed all four. He went 9 of 11 in the first half and 11 of 13 overall for 141 yards and three touchdowns. His scoring passes went to Joe Hodge (screen, 41 yards), Nick Poole (2 yards) and Desmond Hearns (swing pass, 21 yards).
“For Bruce, it is going to come down to comfortability,” Lane said. “He has the arm. He has accuracy. He steps up in the pocket well. He does a lot of things that are assets; it is about him getting comfortable. Tech was the first big game he has ever played in.”
Jackson's comfort level will be helped by a return to health by Guzman, who rushed for 1,046 yards as a junior, but has been slowed this season by a groin injury. If not back all the way, Guzman is close. He took the game's first snap, gained the right corner, beat one tackler and outran the East Bay defense for a 75-yard touchdown.
He capped Chamberlain's third drive by taking a pitch and outrunning everyone to the pylon for a 15-yard touchdown that put him over 100 yards in the game's first seven minutes. He carried only once more as the second half was played in moderate rain and finished with 125 yards on five carries.
"He is special, He is one of the best I've ever been around," Lane said.
The defense, able to key on the run game against a largely one-dimensional East Bay offense, benefited from having a size advantage in the trenches and enough speed at linebacker to shutdown the Indians’ attempts to get outside. The unit held East Bay to six first downs (one by penalty) and forced four turnovers. Poole, normally a linebacker, scored twice: the second-quarter pass and a blocked punt recovery in the end zone in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
The Indians returned three offensive starters. East Bay's defense accounted for all of its points. Linebacker Jaden Sanchez-Lopez snared a fumble out of midair at the 3 and bulled his way in for the score late in the third quarter. On Chamberlain's next possession, the Indians' defense produced a safety.
"Unfortunately, we don't have depth," East Bay coach Frank LaRosa said. "What we have is a tough group of kids who are going to dig in and fight, especially inside the 20 after turnovers or bad special teams play or big special teams play by them. Our group is going to keep fighting; we just have to find a way to clean up mistakes."
Notes: East Bay has its home opener against Jefferson next week. Chamberlain is off until Sept. 13, when it travels to Bradenton to face Bayshore.