High school football schedules can be like suits.
Looking just at nonleague games – the only part where the coaches have a say in things – some schedules fit wonderfully and are a big part of superb season.
Other schedules leave fans and players scratching their heads and wondering “What were they thinking?”
There’s a little bit of both in the schedules of each of the four city schools. Here’s a look:
The Vikings, 8-4 in 2013, have, at least on paper, the toughest nonleague schedule among the four. Each opponent had a winning record last fall and all made the postseason.
“It’s a good schedule,” Vanden coach LeVon Haynes said. “We’re going to play some good football teams. We have to play those types of schedules, I feel, to compete in our league (the Solano County Athletic Conference). It’s always a tough league. Every year we’re always battling to be part of the league title. It’s what you want to do, but this year we want to be the league champs, not be second or third, and make the playoffs.”
A balance between winnable games and solid foes is crucial as win totals by opponents is a big part of the seeding process.
Center of Antelope, a holdover on Vanden’s schedule, had the best 2013 record of any of the Vikings’ 2014 opponents at 9-4 and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals. They play Vanden at George A. Gammon Field on Sept. 19.
The Vikings’ other opponents each went 6-5.
Vanden opens the season at former league rival Dixon on Sept. 5 before “Celebrating 50 Years of Vanden Football” on Sept. 12 with Rancho Cotate of Rohnert Park providing the opposition.
After Center, Vanden plays at Modesto Christian on Sept. 26 and hosts Napa for the second straight year on Oct. 3.
“I think our schedule’s a good schedule,” Haynes said. “We’ve had those tough schedules before, teams playing good competition with a tradition of good football and winning football, well coached schools. We’re looking forward to playing them.”
Berwyn Hutcherson is looking forward to being the first Rodriguez coach since the days of David Fishleigh (2006 to 2008) to be around after the first year. Hutcherson was the sixth different head coach in six seasons in 2013 and wasn’t hired until August, roughly a month before the start of the season.
His Mustangs have arguably the toughest nonleague foe among city teams when they go to California of San Ramon, the 2013 North Coast Section Division I runner-up at 11-3, to open the season on Sept. 5.
Hutcherson sees the Grizzlies as a good measuring stick for how the Mustangs will fare against Monticello Empire League powerhouses Vacaville and Napa.
“This is a test for me and my staff as well as my players to play a ranked team,” Hutcherson said. “They put on their pants the same way in the morning. . . . This is a test to see how we stack up against the top teams in our league, which are Napa and Vacaville.”
Rodriguez, 2-8 in 2013, goes slightly smaller but not much easier in Week 2, playing at Hercules, which went 9-2 in 2013 and played in the NCS Division III playoffs, on Sept. 12.
The Mustangs then look to avenge last year’s 12-10 loss to Fairfield when they play the Falcons at Schaefer Stadium on Sept. 19. They then close against former SCAC rivals Vallejo on Sept. 26 and Bethel of Vallejo on Oct. 3, both at Coach Ed Hopkins Memorial Stadium.
“Overall, I feel pretty good about (the schedule),” Hutcherson said, “I think this year is about competing for four quarters. Last year, with me coming in so late, they had to switch to another coach. They’d had it. It’s not that they didn’t like me. They’d had it with the politics, it burnt them out.”
Turnout in the weight room has been good, which is crucial for what he calls “a young team.”
“There are not a lot of seniors,” Hutcherson said. “They’re little smarter, a little faster, a little more physical than the group we had. I’m look forward to when they have pads on and are competing, win or lose.”
Fishleigh enters his second season as coach of the Falcons with a slightly altered schedule, trading 3-7 Del Campo for 3-7 Woodland to open the season at home on Sept. 5.
They then play the other Woodland high school, Pioneer, in Yolo County on Sept., 12.
“One’s at our place and one’s at their place,” said Fishleigh, whose team was 2-8 in 2013. “That’s just the way the schedule worked out.”
Two of Fairfield’s next three games are crosstown rivals as it hosts Rodriguez on Sept. 19 and plays at Armijo on Oct. 3.
In between is a home game with Stagg, which crushed the Falcons 67-0 in Stockton in 2013.
Though Stagg isn’t a rival like the Mustangs or Indians, Fishleigh said his players won’t have any trouble getting up for the Delta Kings.
“Stagg absolutely destroyed us last year,” the coach said. “We want to show we’re a respectable football team. We may not beat them, but we want to show we’re better than a 67-0 football team. Rodriguez and Armijo are games always high on our list of teams to beat because we want to be the best team in Fairfield.
Indians coach Karl Finley couldn’t be reach for comment, but some major schedule changes have been made. And considering Armijo’s recent past – a 5-45 record over the last five seasons and 1-9 in 2013– they appear to be good ones.
Off the schedule are American Canyon (10-2 in 2013), Davis (5-5) and Antelope (7-4), replaced by a road game at San Rafael (1-9) on Aug. 29, a home game with Kennedy of Richmond (4-6) on Sept. 5 and a road game at Alhambra of Martinez (2-8) on Sept. 12.
Retained are home games with Benicia (7-4) on Sept. 19 and Fairfield on Oct. 3.
The Indians are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 1937, but have to be more concerned about playing teams they can beat instead of how many other games its opponents win – at least for now.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.