The Minarets Mustangs hosted the Red Cats of Firebaugh in a tune-up scrimmage first Friday before the team enters its inaugural season as a member of the West Sequoia League.
Each team played 30 downs on offense, 30 on defense, with 10 plays dedicated to special teams play. Mustang coaches were encouraged by the teams defensive play but the offense struggled at the line. All three Mustang quarterbacks, Keenan Reardon, Jackson Soares and Mitch Pritchett, had a tough time getting a throw off against the Red Cats heavy blitzing.
The Mustangs have changed things up a bit on the line, giving up some size and replacing it with more physical players. The linebacker core is doing double duty on the offensive line in hopes of giving quarterbacks more time to pass and open some holes for running back Zack Armus.
The team is primarily made up of juniors, but this group that started the program from the ground up, is coming of age and showing signs of maturity. After two tough years, the Mustangs should start to make their mark on the valley football scene this season. The Mustangs enjoyed good success in their first year as a JV program, posting a winning season their first year of organized ball.
The growing pains were many as the new program grew and expanded to varsity and JV squads last year. Last years varsity team went winless, watching teams feast as they piled points on a team that was in all essence a JV squad.
'That which doesn't break us, makes us stronger,' seems to be the Mustangs moto this year and the team is biting at the bit to show teams they are much improved and here to win.
The special teams play and defense was impressive in the scrimmage. The defense did a good job at swarming the ball and tackling. New kicker Scott Parker was a bright spot in the scrimmage, splitting the up rights on every attempt.
Just as the schools teams are developing in other sports such as baseball and volleyball, that is also the case in football. The program has doubled the coaching staff while adding some quite impressive resume's to the mix. With the help of the 12th Man Booster Club, head coach Jay Smoljan has invested heavily in the program with new gear and equipment, while helping to build a youth program to ensure success for the future.
The Mustangs will open the season against their new mountain rivals, the Sierra Chieftains. Last year the Chieftains ran wild on the Mustangs and put the game out of reach by the half, but that was last year. Entering the West Sequoia League, the Mustangs will have their plate full taking on such valley powers as defending Division IV sectional winner Fowler and the always tough Caruthers Blue Raiders, but Minarets is looking forward to the challenge. " I want our program to play as tough a schedule as possible because it is always about embracing competition", said Varsity Coach Jay Smoljan. The J.V. game will kick off at 5 p.m., with Varsity playing at 7 p.m..