FAIRFIELD — Not counting a few campaigns as essentially a club team in the early 1900s, the Armijo High football team is about to kickoff its 80th season.
It does so with some heavy baggage.
The Indians haven’t made the playoffs since 1937, they’ve lost 33 straight Monticello Empire League games and are coming off three straight 1-9 seasons.
The negative out of the way, Karl Finley is plenty positive as he heads into his third season as Armijo coach.
“There are some great kids here with a lot of heart,” Finley said.
They showed it last season with a 48-20 thumping of Fairfield – the only team Armijo has beaten with Finley as coach, not that that’s bad a thing to some die-hard alumni – after starting out the 2013 season 0-4.
They also showed it by nearly knocking off a deeper and more talented Rodriguez team in the season finale, losing 22-19 on a last-second field goal.
Finley sees team speed on defense and at skill positions as the strength of the team.
There’s a “young and very enthusiastic atmosphere,” the coach said, that is buoyed by “experience in key defensive positions.”
Leading the returners is senior Tyler McGregor, a third-year starter on the offensive and defensive lines and an All-MEL honorable mention pick in 2013.
Another returning All-MEL honorable mention selection is senior linebacker Keelyn Jones. Others back as starters are senior linebacker/running back Amini Kapapa, senior linebacker Adrian Tenorio-Robbins and senior offensive lineman/defensive end Ricky Hernandez.
Junior quarterback Tommy Weisz is up from the junior varsity team to lead the offense. Another key newcomer is senior offensive lineman/James Hines.
“We have several young and new players this season and some that did not return for various reasons,” Finley said.
Lack of depth is the coach’s primary concern and his main goals are to “keep as healthy as possible, minimize mental mistakes, be in top shape (and) concentrate on weight training through the football season.”
Trading American Canyon (10-2 in 2013) for San Rafael (1-9), Davis (5-5) for Kennedy of Richmond (4-6) and Antelope (7-4) for Alhambra (2-7-1) should give the Indians a better shot at winning more games in 2014.
Feelings are mixed for Finley about the season opener with San Rafael – “I coached there for five years 17 years ago as my first head coaching job in 1997,” he said. “Time sure flies” – but it’s a Week 0 game meaning the Indians have one less week to prepare than in previous seasons.
The Aug. 29 opening date is the earliest in school history.
“When we scheduled Week 0 it didn’t seem like it would come so fast,” Finley said. “but that extra week we don’t have to practice is really an impact to the learning curve.”
The quicker the Indians hit their stride the quicker they’ll start some winning streaks.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.