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Running With A Sense Of Urgency PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 13 September 2012 02:54

MIKE TERRY/SFVS

Galloping Along -- Defensive end Thomas Munoz and receiver Jose Jimenez, both seniors, are major reasons for the Arleta Mustangs' 2-0 start.

It’s Early, But Arleta Looks Like The Class Of The East Valley League. However, With Their Senior-Dominated Roster, An Unusually Large (For Them) Offensive Line And More Than One Offensive Playmaker, The Mustangs Feel They Have An Opportunity To Make A Bigger Impact On City Section Division I Football And Are Therefore…

A casual glance at the results of Arleta's first two football games – blowout wins against Los Angeles Marshall (56-7) and Chatsworth (56-0) – and it appears to be business as usual.

After all, the Mustangs have been a high-scoring team since 2008, when they went 14-0 and won the Los Angeles City Section Division II championship.

Last season, the teams' first in Division I, Arleta went 9-2 and won the East Valley League, averaging 56 points a game.

But there are some notable differences in 2012. There is legitimate beef layered on the blockers. The starting offensive line of David Diaz, Joe Murga, Adam Chavez (6-2, 264), Jonathan Macias and Pedro Vallanueva averages 272- pounds, give or take a cheeseburger. "And they're pretty athletic to be that big," Arleta Coach Dan Kelley said of the group.

The run-option offense was dominated last year by running back De'Jon Coleman, who set a City single season record with 47 touchdowns (37 rushing). But more players are getting touches this season. Arleta has six running backs, led by Anthony Silva and Francisco Iglesia, with at least 36 yards rushing.

Even facing two weaker teams, the Mustangs are showing a defensive strength and desire not often seen in these parts. According to Kelley, "I think we're physical on defense, we're flying around the ball. It's [also] a little different attitude on defense this year."

Last year's 21-18 defeat to Birmingham in playoffs did not leave the Mustangs feeling overmatched going into Division I and facing against bigger, faster players for the first time. "I think a lot of those kids took that Birmingham game as a huge step forward," Kelley said.

"These guys have a pretty good chemistry, and we have a lot of guys who can play at the Division I level in the Los Angeles City Section."

And the experience level is extremely high. Of the 49 players on the Mustangs' roster, 31 are seniors.

Combine those factors with the knowledge the team – even with a promising junior varsity group waiting it's turn – undergoes massive rebuilding in 2013, and you have a herd of Mustangs both eager and desperate to leave a huge imprint this year.

Who's to say they won't? Certainly not the Arleta players. "I think we can go far as long as we work together," said senior wide receiver Jose Jimenez. "We have to rely on one another to do the job as we were taught, and I think we can go far."

Adds defensive end Thomas Munoz, a senior, "We're more of a team. We're not worried about De'Jon running the ball all of the time. We're more rounded; we have more receivers, throwing the ball a little more, have more runners. Don't get me wrong, we didn't mind De'Jon running; but it seems we're trying to move the ball in more different ways."

Both Munoz, 18, and Jimenez, 17, came to football late.

Jimenez – who is 5-feet-9 and 164-pounds, and has caught six passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns – was a basketball player when he came to Arleta as a freshman, but a junior varsity coach asked him to try out for football and Jimenez discovered he loved the game.

Munoz, who stands six feet and weighs 195, and has a forced fumble among his four solo tackles, played baseball as a freshman but wanted to try a contact sport. Football was his choice and he's never regretted the change – especially when he can dominate an opponent with quickness.

"Against Chatsworth, (the (opponent) was easily 6-3, 290, and I was working him all game," Munoz said. "I'm pretty sure by the third quarter he was done."

As the Mustangs prepare to face Cleveland on Friday, Sept. 14, Kelley is already fretting that the team is getting caught up in its early success.

"You can get complacent when you beat two teams 56-7, 56-0," he said. "It's hard to get your kids to say 'this week won't be that easy.' And I don't think it is. You try to teach them to be intense each week, to not take anyone lightly.

"That's the biggest goal.

Because our biggest enemy is ourselves, when we come out and are not doing certain things."

Munoz is one player whose head won't suddenly outgrow his helmet. Not after last year's Division I playoff game against Birmingham.

"It was a whole different level – more competitive, more 'into the game,' more 'everyone wanted to play,'" Munoz said. "When you played D-II or DIII, if you're losing you might roll over. I don't like that; I like going full speed throughout the whole game, finishing 100 percent.

"The players are bigger and faster. The first play (against Birmingham) I wasn't even ready and the play was already going by me. I learned my lesson. I realized it's no joke. I feel better prepared for it now; I know what's coming at me."

Again, it's still September.

But after Cleveland, the Mustangs don't face another potential nonleague landmine until Sylmar on Oct. 19. And in the East Valley, where Arleta has won 23 of 24 games since 2008, none of the other teams has yet fashioned a .500 record.

Perhaps the meaningful question is whether the Mustangs' schedule will prepare them for the postseason.

"Even if we had a heavy [nonleague] schedule, does that get us ready for the playoffs?" said Kelley, playing devil's advocate. "We're just trying to do our best to get as high a seed as we possibly can so maybe we don't have to a monster like face a Narbonne in the first round."

Of course, maybe it's the Mustangs who become monstrous by November. Or at least a Trojan horse.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 13 September 2012 02:56