FAIRFIELD — David Fishleigh stepped away after three highly successful seasons as Rodriguez High football coach.
Jason Ott was told he needed to turn in his keys to get his final paycheck despite leading the Mustangs to the playoffs in his only season on the job.
Both make their return to Coach Ed Hopkins Memorial Stadium with the Fairfield High football team when Rodriguez hosts the Falcons, Friday.
Fishleigh, in his first year as Falcons head coach, said he has “a lot of good memories” of his time at Rodriguez, which included three playoff appearances, two Solano County Athletic Conference titles and the first section championship by a Fairfield-Suisun School District team in 71 years.
“At same time, it’s been four years,” Fishleigh added. “It’s not like going back after I resigned a few months ago. A lot of time has passed. It stirs up good memories, but lot of time has passed. For Rodriguez, a lot of coaches as well.”
Five in the last five seasons, to be exact.
Following Fishleigh’s departure after the 2008 season, the Mustangs have been coached by Fred Kelley, John Bent, Ott, Sarj Singh and now Berwyn Hutcherson.
Ott’s firing was especially curious in that he wasn’t hired until July of 2011, just weeks before the start of practice and got the Mustangs into the playoffs.
Rodriguez is 3-9 since his departure with only one win against a team outside the city.
Ott, Fairfield’s defensive coordinator, holds no grudges and is happy where he’s at, doing what he’s doing.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to get back over there (at Rodriguez) on the field where I had my first (varsity) head coaching job,” Ott said. “All our coaches made an emphasis to focus on this game. It does mean more to us, but that comes secondary to getting these kids ready to play.”
Fairfield assistants Larry Napata, Jerome Carelock, Scott Tannahill and James Macariola are also former coaches at Rodriguez.
Many coached with Hutcherson, who also knows it’s no ordinary game.
“I would probably say it’s one of our biggest games,” Hutcherson said. “I’m playing against a former coach of mine, who was kind of like a mentor, who is over there, Coach Ott. Coach Tannahill and coach Mack are good friends of mine, and coach Fishleigh, who won a championship over here.
“It’s a crosstown rivalry. A lot of kids know each other. There’s talk on the streets that both teams want to walk away with a ‘W.’ ”
Indeed, Fishleigh said this year’s players are focused on this year – especially this week – not on what happened in the past.
“Personally, I don’t think (our return) adds anything,” Fishleigh said. “Personally, I’m focused on my team now, trying to get them to buy in to what we’re doing, to have a winning record. It’s been a long time (2009) since Fairfield had a football team with a winning record.”
Neither squad has played especially well this season, though the Falcons (1-1) earned a 20-14 victory in overtime over Pioneer last week.
Fairfield moved the ball well but suffered five turnovers and several head-scratching penalties.
Rodriguez (0-2) had trouble moving the ball despite quarterback Jacob Hurt completing 21 of 40 passes, both school records. Arron Short scored both Mustangs’ touchdowns, one on a 95-yard kickoff return.
“We’ve got to stop turning the ball over, that’s key No. 1,” Fishleigh said. “Key No. 2 is stopping Arron Short. He’s dynamic as a receiver and on special teams.”
For Hutcherson, the key is simply “execution, man. We have to execute our offense. On defense, we have to tackle, we have to contain their offense. Our offense needs to score points. If we execute, we win the game, straight out the gate.
“There are a lot of good coaches over there (for Fairfield), they’re looking at us as an inexperienced crew. But it comes down to which players execute on Friday night.”
“For me, to be honest, it’s about the kids,” he said. “We’re focused on the kids, our players. They haven’t beaten Rod in the four years they’ve been there. I could tell, I had a talk with them. It’s a rivalry. . . . It’s something special you build up to, you focus on all week.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.