VACAVILLE — The Will C. Wood High football team has been around long enough to say “These aren’t your father’s Wildcats.”
Unlike Wildcats of a generation ago – or most of their 24 years of football – this season’s team is winning.
Heading into Friday’s homecoming game at Rodriguez, Wood (6-1) has won six straight, tying a school record for consecutive victories.
The Wildcats have done it with offense, both on the ground and through the air, with defense that’s made the big play when needed, and special teams that have been the difference in three nail-biting victories.
Carlos Meraz, who’s in his fourth year as coach, attribute’s the team’s success to “just hard work. We had a great offseason. The kids came together under the program and are buying into the program. They’re doing a good job of playing for each other. That’s a real key to our program.”
It began with a 38-22 season-opening loss to American Canyon. Despite giving up a stunning 513 yards rushing, the Wildcats returned an interception for a touchdown and scored on two long pass plays, one in the fourth quarter.
From that defeat sprang the spunk that allowed Wood to pull out back-to-back one-point victories over Vanden and Benicia and last week’s 31-28 edging of Napa.
“That’s one of the strengths of our team, our heart,” Meraz said. “Even our first game, American Canyon, turned out to be a loss, but we had some very good lessons. They took it to us a little bit, but we never quit, we kept fighting to the end. They take (that attitude) to practice, they never quit, and it shows in games.”
Another key is ignoring the past, which rarely has been pleasant for Wood.
After an 0-10 inaugural campaign in 1990 in which they were outscored 498-26, it took the Wildcats five seasons to win six games, their current winning streak.
Their “glory years” were a three-season stretch (1995-1997) under Tim Galli during which they went 24-9 and had two of their three playoff appearances and half their six all-time winning seasons.
Their only winning season since 2000 was their 6-5 campaign in 2010, when they last made the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
“The other big thing in our program that’s different from the past is they believe they can win now,” Meraz said. “That’s the thing now. Week to week, it’s gotten to the point where they’re not focusing on teams ahead or teams behind. They take care of one week at a time.”
Should Wood get by Rodriguez and Vintage on Nov. 1, the Monticello Empire League title, something the Wildcats have never won, will likely be on the line when they battle Vacaville at Zunino Stadium on Nov. 8.
Regardless of the game, the Wildcats figure to be ready.
“Game to game, different kids are stepping up every game,” Meraz said. “That’s the whole key to this year. They believe in the system, they’re playing team football on both sides of the ball. They’re not looking to make big plays. Make plays when they come to you.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.