Rodriguez High School has held its own in most sports since joining the Monticello Empire League in 2012. Football would not be one. The Mustangs are 2-13 and were nice enough in 2014 to give Armijo, which had lost 37 consecutive MEL games, a break from finishing in last place.
Nothing suggests Rodriguez’s luck will change in its fourth season as a MEL member. The Mustangs lost 49-0 to Vanden on Sept. 4, and Vanden lost 44-12 to Napa last Friday. That would make Napa an 81-point favorite when it welcomes Rodriguez to Memorial Stadium on Oct. 30.
Rodriguez lost to the team it replaced in the MEL – Fairfield – on Sept. 18. The Mustangs should not feel too bad about that because the Falcons beat Armijo last Friday, dropping Armijo to 1-4.
At least Armijo has had a brief taste of success this season. Rodriguez is 0-5 with no hope on the horizon. The Mustangs host Vacaville in the MEL opener for both teams Friday. The Bulldogs are 3-0 against Rodriguez in league games, and their average margin of victory is 43 points.
Will C. Wood and Napa are also 3-0 against Rodriguez since the Mustangs jumped from the Solano County Athletic Conference to the MEL. The Mustangs have been literally out of their league.
Divide the MEL football standings into the haves (Vacaville, Wood and Napa) and the have nots. (Vintage, Armijo and Rodriguez). The challenge for the haves is to stay sharp when they are facing a have not so they will be ready to battle a have when much more will be at stake. As most coaches will attest, that is far easier said than done.
The Wildcats will remember that Friday night when they host Vintage, which is 6-0 against Rodriguez and Armijo since 2012. The Crushers are 1-8 against the haves in that time, but that one win was significant. Just ask Wood coach Carlos Meraz how much it meant to his Wildcats.
In 2013, Wood knocked off Napa for the only time in Meraz’s first five seasons and was 3-0 in the MEL when Vintage paid a visit to Tom Zunino Stadium. The Wildcats were a week away from a cross-town showdown with Vacaville for the MEL championship, but they forgot they had to first beat the Crushers and lost 24-6.
“They came out and put it on us,” said Meraz, who added he has to play mind games with his team because high school players have a tendency to “perceive themselves as better or not as good.”
The risk of overlooking a have not returns this week for the Wildcats. Napa will travel to play Wood on Oct. 16 in a game that will determine which team is a contender and which is a pretender. That will only come to be if both teams win Friday, and Napa should an easy time against Armijo.
Meraz and Napa coach Troy Mott are in the same boat this week as far as trying to keep their teams focused. Mott has the challenge of attempting to convince his players to avoid taking Armijo for granted, especially those players returning from the 2014 team that beat Armijo 65-6.
“You have to be honest with the kids because they know better,” Mott said. “Beyond that, we have to look at where we’re at as a team and the schedule that looms ahead of us. We have to work hard and get better every week. I’ve always got the mind-set that we’ve got work to do.”
Meraz has been preaching the same message to his players since Wood’s first offseason workout in January. The Wildcats are 5-0 for the first time under Meraz and averaging 55 points per game, but none of that will be worth a dime if Vintage turns from a have not into a have for one night.
“You have to prepare (each week) for the very best opponent you’re going to face. We’re going to worry about us and doing our thing,” Meraz said. “That’s what we strive to do. That’s really been our philosophy.”