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Spartans Football looks forward to Sierra Delta opener against Vacaville Christian

San Juan High School, Citrus Heights
San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, located at 7551 Greenback Ln. // CH Sentinel

Marcus D. Smith–
The morale at San Juan High School is exuberant and the Spartans (2-3) are having a productive week in practice, following their 30-0 victory against Mira Loma.

The boys are looking to keep that same energy as they lock in and prepare for Friday’s game, as they will be going against the high-powered offense that is Vacaville Christian High School (4-1).

“[The] guys played a really good game, it was the first time they played cohesively together,” said Andy Villegas, San Juan High School’s varsity football head coach, on the big win last Friday.

Related: San Juan HS spoils Mira Loma’s homecoming with shutout win, 30-0

Last season, it was a close battle between the two as they went wire to wire with the Falcons in a high-scoring affair that ended with a San Juan victory, 44-41.

However, this season could be a different story. A lot has changed as players have graduated and this being Villegas’ first year as the varsity team’s head coach. He moved up from junior varsity in June and was the varsity lineman coach the prior year.

Villegas knows there will be a defensive focus going into Friday.

“We as a team have more work to do just going over coverages and learning to play,” said Villegas ahead of the showdown with Vacaville Christian. “We have a really good run defense, so I don’t expect them to run the ball.”

Related: Mesa Verde HS football begins Golden Empire League with momentum, new identity

Defensively, the Spartans are looking to disrupt the Falcons aerial attack that can put numbers on the board in an instant. The Spartans have had a difficult time against teams that can score the ball with the best of them, and it has cost them wins.

The defense has allowed an average 29 points in games resulting in a loss, allowing opponents to score over 30 points, twice. Defense will be a major focus going into Vacaville for the Spartans, and the boys know it themselves if they want to contain Vacaville Christian.

“We better come out strong… be confident but not over-confident,” said Elijah Vernon, senior defensive back and wide receiver for the Spartans.

Spartans safety Justin Mattson, a recent transfer from Mesa Verde, understood that the team needs to do more if they want do remain competitive.

“Get more interceptions and keep the coverage down. Make sure I call whether it’s a run or pass,” said Mattson.

The boys are hoping and working for a repeat defensive performance from last week. Coach Villegas thinks otherwise, he believes they can improve from last week.

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All week in practice he has had the team working on the fundamentals of defense — tackling, hit drills, and tip drills.

“A lot of defensive back drills, I want to practice tip drills. Practicing different defensive formations and coverages,” said Villegas, as he discussed his preparation for the Falcons offense.

Villegas, leading by example, did his homework on the offense of Vacaville Christian and will implement a plan to diffuse their high-voltage offense.

“They run a lot of trips, three receivers on one side, one receiver on the other, and they run spread,” said Villegas. “They run twins, two receivers on each side. There’s a lot of mismatches, sweeps, and motions so just learning to cue in on those and where guys are going to lineup.”

Vacaville Christian will be coming off of their first loss of the season at the hands of Woodland Christian, 28-26. Despite fighting injuries, they found a way to remain neck-and-neck with a really good Woodland Christian football team.

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“We misaligned [snaps] a couple times, we dropped two, we dropped some touchdown passes that were wide open earlier on in the game. We didn’t play our best, we left a lot of points on the field,” said Falcons’ second-year varsity head coach, Manny Tarango. “We made a lot of mental mistakes. But again, that’s not anyone’s fault that’s not the kid’s fault. You have games like this sometimes.”

He believes the loss couldn’t have come at a better time. As the teams move into Sierra Delta league play, he says the team can play much better.

“It was better for that to happen to us in a non-league play, so that way we can see those areas that we need to improve on before we start league play,” said Tarango. “So hopefully this week we’ve done a good enough job of paying attention in more detail to some of those areas of concern, so that way we don’t make the same mistakes again.”

The Spartans will put their defense on display on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, when they travel westbound on Interstate 80 to Vacaville and begin Sierra Delta League play with a conference game against Vacaville Christian. Kickoff takes place at 7 p.m.

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Marcus D. Smith
Marcus D. Smith

The Sentinel is pleased to introduce sports reporter Marcus D. Smith, who will be covering high school sports in Citrus Heights. Smith is a Sacramento-area native and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2017.

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