WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville High football team has been able to play in three of its scheduled games this season amidst the trouble that other Santa Cruz County schools are facing with ongoing cancelations due to Covid-19 protocols.
Second-year head coach Anthony Valdivia did have a small scare about two weeks ago when the junior varsity team was placed in a 10-day Covid-19 quarantine. But, both the varsity and freshman squads have been able to avoid delays and things have gone smoothly, so far.
“Of course, you can’t predict the future but as of right now, we’re good,” he said.
The Wildcatz might not be able to predict the future but they can certainly look at the past to see what can be fixed moving forward this year.
They began the season 2-0 with wins against cross-city rival Pajaro Valley High and St. Francis High. However, they suffered their first taste of defeat in a 42-0 loss to Santa Cruz High on Sept. 10.
Despite the loss, Valdivia said this is where he thought they’d be at this point in the season and playing a team like Santa Cruz was exactly what they needed for a reality check.
“When you win and you’re not necessarily used to winning, you can kind of think you’re better than you are real fast,” he said. “Santa Cruz being right there in the middle of our pre-season, we specifically did it to get humbled and it worked out perfectly that way because our guys got to see a team that’s a level above us, and to be put in their place and understand that we have to come to work on Monday or otherwise this is going to happen to us again.”
Receiver Anthony Campos said the coaching staff told them the Cardinals were going to be the best competition they’d face, up to that point. But, he admitted that most of the players had a different mindset, thinking that they’d be able to get past Santa Cruz with no problems.
“We had that mindset that we’re 2-0, it’s going to be an easy game,” he said.
Linebacker Matthew Flores said he also believes they were still riding high from back-to-back wins to start the season, but Santa Cruz was just one of those teams they weren’t able to handle.
“In a way, it’s a great loss,” he said. “Our coaches say that football has a way to put you back in your place and that’s what it did to us.”
Valdivia has high hopes that they can turn it around quickly and get the victory Saturday against North Salinas High before league play begins the following week.
“We’ve absolutely come back with a fury, ready to get back on the winning side of things,” Valdivia said.
For the first time since 2005, the Wildcatz competed in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League during an abbreviated 2021 spring season, going 1-4 overall and 0-4 in the league’s “A” Division.
It’s been 12 years since they’ve seen a league title banner raised inside their gymnasium when they were co-champ along with Seaside High in 2009 in the now-defunct Monterey Bay League.
This year, the Wildcatz are back in the Pacific Coast Athletic League and will compete in the Cypress Division against King City High, North Monterey County High, Pacific Grove High, San Lorenzo Valley High, Scotts Valley High and the newcomers of the league, Rancho San Juan High based in Salinas.
“It’s a really good league for us to be a part of because I think we fit perfectly in there,” Valdivia said. “Hopefully we can compete with all those teams and see if we can give them a run for their money.”
The Wildcatz have the luxury of playing two quarterbacks—Colin Parker and Marcus Magaña—who bring two different styles. Valdivia said they each add a different element to the offense and are brought in when the time is right.
Parker runs the offense well because he’s been in the system for two years and Valdivia said, “he speaks our language really well, he executes the little things really well.”
Magaña is like lightning in a bottle, Valdivia said.
The Wildcatz have been without senior running back Adrian Arevalo, who has yet to clear the concussion protocol since their game with Pajaro Valley in Week 1. Valdivia is hoping for him to return by the league opener or sometime before the end of the season.
“Arevalo’s a great football player and so not having him be a part of the past couple weeks stinks because he’s someone that can help us be successful,” Valdivia said.
On the defensive side, both Campos, who also plays defensive back, and Flores have been leading the way.
Valdivia called Campos one of the most athletic players he’s seen. Campos had an interception for a touchdown in the season-opening victory against Pajaro Valley and he recovered a fumble the following week in a win against St. Francis.
“His raw athleticism is just fun to watch,” Valdivia said.
Both Campos and Flores said they had to make some major changes coming off a season that saw the Wildcatz go winless until the season finale against the Grizzlies. Some of those changes include staying motivated for the next game on the schedule.
“We can’t just gloat on one win, we gotta keep that momentum going into our next week until the wheels fall off the train,” Flores said.
Valdivia expects this group to compete and he said it’s up to them, as a football program, to decide how good they want to become. He mentioned they had success against Pajaro Valley, which is oftentimes the highlight of the football season at Watsonville High, but the Catz are hungry for more this season.
“We decided we want to be more than just that,” he said. “So, it’s being competitive every week for the rest of the way … and being in position to win each one of our games that we have now and between the end.”
Watsonville football schedule
North Salinas High, Sept. 18 at 6:30pm
At Scotts Valley High*, Sept. 25 at 7:30pm
San Lorenzo Valley High*, Oct. 1 at 7:30pm
King City High*, Oct. 8 at 7:30pm
At Pacific Grove High*, Oct. 22 at 7:30pm
Rancho San Juan High*, Oct. 28 at 7:30pm
At North Monterey County High*, Nov. 5 at 7:30pm
*PCAL-Cypress division play