■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
Coach Matt Willard has one goal for his Mustangs: NOT going 0-10 again in 2018.
It’s often said that when you start at the bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up. This holds especially true for West Valley High School’s football team. The Mustangs have experienced two 0-10 records in the past three seasons. Bearing that in mind, the Mustangs did have a relatively winning season in 2016, bringing home the Ramona Cup in its inaugural season.
With a fresh assistant coaching team, and nowhere to go but up, Coach Matt Willard has high hopes for his team: “We’ve experienced some significant turnover from last year’s squad. As we know, last year was a terrible year on the field for us, but we have a great group of seniors this year, a great supporting ‘cast’. We’ve got some new coaches, a new (team) structure… We’ve kind of ‘imploded’ the whole thing and started the year from scratch. And we’re really happy with the results right now.”
One thing that hasn’t changed from year to year is Willard’s approach to the game: Taking things game by game, learning from each game how to play better, and improving team camaraderie as they do so. “This team is very close,” he says.
According to Willard, part of this season’s mission is to help change West Valley athletic reputation: “I think, from a community standpoint, our players have for the most part over the last few years really exhibited class.”
These seniors are happy to help Willard out in that effort:
Quarterback Alex Zavaleta hopes his leadership skills can be of service: “I think the best thing I can bring to the team is leadership that we didn’t have last year. That’s going to be (the big thing).” Alex cites the desire to improve West Valley’s reputation, his mother and grandmother, as well as the rest of his family as an inspiration to play.
Outside Linebacker Jacob Heling is trying to be a self-starter for the team: “This year I think I’ve (taken) more of a leadership role on the team. So I hope that’s going to turn us around.” Jacob says his love for the game since age 8, as well as his dad and his family, give him his get-up-and-go.
The Mustangs’ first game is at home, as the Shadow Hills Knights come in from Indio to do battle against the horses. This should be an exciting game!