The 2015 Tulare Western football team hopes to go a couple of steps further than the 2013 and 2014 versions. Coming off back-to-back 7-4 seasons and losing in the playoffs, Head Coach Ryan Rocha wants his team to finish out the season strong and be able to win in the playoffs.
Rocha, who is in his third season at the helm for the Mustangs, believes that in past years, the team has put too much emphasis on winning the Bell Game against Tulare Union, and forget that there is another game after; in the playoffs.
“We have to learn to finish the job,” he said. “The last two years we’ve come within a game of winning the EYL (East Yosemite League). We just have to finish a little more strong. It also comes to winning in playoffs, because especially in Tulare, winning the Bell game is everything. After that game we have to remember that there’s another game to play and that the season doesn’t end with the Bell game.”
Some of Rocha’s standouts this season, including senior wide receiver Jesse Macias, and senior linebacker/fullback Elijah Alonzo, are looking to improve from their previous two seasons and to get a little further into the playoffs.
“We’re a work in progress as a team right now, we’re a young team, but we’re getting better. We want to get that first playoff win,” said Alonzo.
Macias talked about some of the mistakes the team made in its Week One loss to Mt. Whitney, and that the team needs to tighten some things up on the field.
“We need to fix mistakes, and cut down on giving up the big plays,” he said. “We need more leaders on this too. We have a lot of people that want to be leaders, but they’re not vocal.”
There is one big aspect of the game that Rocha would love to carry over from last year’s team and is something he hasn’t seen yet with this year’s team, and that is being ready to have your number called.
“If someone goes down, we need to have the next man up,” he said. “They need to be ready to play with enthusiasm, and just continue to play. We lost a lot of athletes off of last year’s team, and these guys have the ability, they just haven’t proved it. They’ll eventually catch on.”
In order for his team to get the place he wants them to go, Rocha tries to impress on his team important and some of them simple tasks to becoming successful. “I want to see toughness; mental toughness and physical toughness,” Rocha said. “They need to be able to fix boo-boos on the field. Make the right decisions and be smart about injuries, but also be able to fight through injuries.”
“They need to stop being so wide eyed,” he continued. “They’re gaining experiences through all of this. They need to take advantage. ”
Rocha said he would really like to see his team get more excited during games, and enjoy the good plays they make during games.
“They need to take away the individual aspect and celebrate fourth-down stops,” he said. “All 50 players need to be involved.”
Through their first two games the Mustangs stand at 1-1 after defeating Golden West High School on Friday, September 11. Their next game will take place on Thursday, September 17 at the Hanford Bowl against Hanford West High School. Game time is at 7:30pm.