“We can be nervous, but we can’t have fear” is something Coach Mendoza often says to his team, especially as the Dons went into their big game against San Marcos, with a 1-2 record to start the season. “We gotta be able to go into games with confidence, and I think our boys are confident, not only just for this week, but moving forward given the level of competition and play to start the year.” One thing’s for sure: the Dons were definitely confident as they crushed the Royals 35-0 on September 8th.
As the first quarter began, Wide Receiver Kai Mault was stationed in the backfield where he proceeded to return a 21-yard punt for an incredible 82-yard touchdown. This play set the tone for the game, and by the time Quarterback Abel Renteria converted the two point attempt, the Dons were up 8-0 with 7:15 left in the first quarter. From there, the Dons continued to capitalize off the Royals’ weak defensive play and completed a 71-yard drive, ending in a rushing touchdown by Renteria to cap off the first quarter. Of this impressive performance, injured Dons Safety Jonathon Ortega, said, “It’s going well. We’re playing aggressive, we’re playing physical, and that’s how the rivalry should be.”
The Dons continued to embrace this sentiment throughout the second quarter as Mault scored for the second time on a 1-yard run, occurring shortly after a muffed punt by the Royals put them in prime field position. Subsequently, the defense did a fantastic job holding the Royals back and the Dons scored yet again as Renteria completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to running back Koa Herrera with less than a minute left in the second quarter, leading the Dons into halftime with a score of 28-0.
The second half saw the Dons continuing to dominate, as San Marcos failed to put together a coherent drive. On the offensive side, Herrera scored for the second time on a 1-yard run with 3:04 left in the game, putting the Dons up 35-0. “It felt amazing, you know, I couldn’t do it without my linemen. They’re out there blocking great, it’s a team sport and they definitely did their part, I gotta give them credit.” said Herrera on his impressive game which culminated in 105 total rushing yards.
Even in the final minutes, the Royals never managed to get past the Dons’ rock solid defense which led to the game ending in a 35-0 shutout. “We were supposed to win, and we knew we were supposed to win, we played our asses off…we executed, and it went well, we played well, and we knew it.” summed up injured wide receiver Sammie Congdon. Big Game MVP Kai Mault added, “It went how it was supposed to go, that’s what was supposed to happen”. Clearly, there is no doubt that the Santa Barbara High vs. San Marcos rivalry is still going strong, as the Dons victory marked the 63rd annual game between the schools. As wide receiver/cornerback Monty Lopez said, “It felt great, everyone stepped up and contributed to our win tonight, and nothing feels better than beating our rivals.”
When asked his thoughts on the game Coach Mendoza replied, “the boys have had three tough games against good opponents, and it was nice for them to get this win under their belt and I’m really proud of their effort. Defense played outstanding and we ran the ball very well. We’ve got to clean up our penalties, but it was a good game”
Interestingly, Coach Mendoza isn’t just a football coach, and to many he is simply Mr. Mendoza. This is because he has a background in Special Education, which he taught while coaching at Dos Pueblos. When asked about this, he replied, “it was fun. I just felt like that was a really good job to have during the day. I had a lot of students with IEPs as I currently have students on the football team with IEPs. I’m supporting students throughout the day in an administrative role, and then my players throughout my entire program… I’ve had a really good time doing both jobs.”
When he’s not working, Mendoza enjoys watching college football and when asked about his coaching inspiration, he replied, “Nick Saban,” without hesitation. He said of Saban, “he really focuses on what he calls ‘the process,’ not obsessing about winning, and just really obsessing on the process of preparing, and the mental and physical approach. Physically preparing mentally preparing the players for games and that the winning will just take care of itself if you can really focus on the process.” This definitely rings true for the Dons as they continue through the season with Coach Mendoza at the helm.
[Image Credit: Charley Raymond]