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Football rising for the win or cracking under the pressure

Dillon Paris jukes three defenders, as Briar Litz sets up a block
Dillon Paris jukes three defenders, as Briar Litz sets up a block. Photo courtesy of K. Davies.

Varsity football's head coach is interviewed about his feelings toward the homecoming game against Center.

With the end of the season for football approaching, fhspress.com interviewed head varsity coach Allen Berg, and the varsity captains to discuss the season and how the Mustangs were doing.

The first question asked what it takes for a team to make the playoffs. Berg said it requires winning two league games and a winning record on the season. With the Mustangs at 3-4 so far (heading into the homecoming game tonight vs. Center), it is still possible for a playoff appearance. They may have lost the first two league games, but they play the last three games in the FHS Stadium on Negri Field.

The league was discussed, and how the PVL is different from the CVC. Before, it was simply the rivalry between the Rio Linda Knights and the Foothill Mustangs for the past 20 years. Now, FHS has a tough league, but there is no reason that they can't win. The league may be tough, but so are they. With it being only the second year, the only opponent FHS is familiar with is Center, as they moved from the old CVC.

Berg said the toughest opponent would either be Placer or Colfax, and the players agreed with his choices. They played Colfax last week, and lost 53-27. With that in mind, the worst has hopefully already past, and the Mustangs only have one more hurdle to pass if they hope to go to the playoffs.

At the beginning of the year, the main focal point of the office was a running game, with Dillon Paris being ranked 3rd in state. However, due to a suspension during the Foothill at Amador game, he hasn't seen as much playing time, and his yardage dropped immensely. Through this, quarterback David Sanders has been a definite leader, and the head of the offense. "He was a pleasant surprise for me. Being a smaller quarterback gives him a chance to run off a rollout pass if no receivers are open, and he is good at throwing on the run if needed." said Berg as the topic of the Mustang offence came up. With a skilled receiving core lead by senior Kelly
Bender, passing is often a viable option for their offense and is complemented by David Sanders' ability to scramble.

With Homecoming tomorrow night, and the Mustangs playing Center on their own turf, Berg has high confidence that they will win. Even though they blew them out last year, Berg thinks Center has improved from last year, but not enough to beat the Mustangs. Look for a win on Homecoming night for the men in orange and black.

This being the last Homecoming game for the seniors has put some emotion in their game. "It's sad, because it happened so fast." said senior captain Kelly Bender. For some clad in orange and black, there is no other chance for a Homecoming win. For
The Mustangs in general, it is a must win to go to the playoffs.

With the record being 3-4, Berg believes that the Mustangs aren't playing to the best of their abilities. People have been missing practice; on Tuesday alone, only 20 of them were suited up and ready for practice. Due to that, and not turning in grade checks on time, the line up hasn't been stable week to week, with difference in the eleven starters. "We only have about six or seven stable starting positions, and it is hurting the team." said Dillon Paris. "The biggest problem is the defensive starters keep changing every single game." said Kelly Bender. Injuries have been another major factor, and as always remain a game changer. Last Friday's game against Colfax resulted in four injuries. Kenny Williams is one such player who was injured last Friday, breaking his leg during the game. Travis Stockmeyer was another player injured in Friday's game, bruising his spleen, while Kelly Bender and Deshun Clay sprained their ankles'.

However, the biggest problem that Berg believes is occurring within the team is they aren't committed to each other. For a football team to be successful, there cannot be any individuals on the team, which apparently is somewhat of a problem for the time being. They need to begin working as a single team for them to come out of their four game losing streak.

With the last three games approaching, Berg believes that if the Mustangs come together, they can end the season winning all three games, and obtain a trip to the playoffs. For the seniors it is their last chance, "If the team would stop messing around, and get serious about things, we could go to the playoffs." said senior captain Michael Lowman, "Center beat Bear River, and we have only lost to Center once in the past ten years. Our only challenge will be Placer."

For the future of the Mustangs, Berg is confident in the improvement of the team. "The seniors will be hard to replace, as many of them are starters, but the juniors are a talented group, and will be able to step up to fill those spots." As for the sophomores moving from their JV team to Varsity, Berg had this to say, "The Sophomores will be able to help, but the main talent will be in the Juniors next year."

As previously stated, junior captain Dillon Paris was ranked 3rd in the state before his suspension, "It was a stupid thing to do, and it hurt the team," he said. His hope for next year is to take 1st in state as the leading rusher, and with the talent he possesses, it isn't an unreasonable goal.

In the end, the Mustangs will decide their own fate by the way they choose to play. With the chance of a playoffs looming over their head, two outcomes are possible: either they rise to the occasion, or crack under the pressure.


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