SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — The San Juan Hills football team is coming off a dominant win against El Toro.
The Stallions won 48-14.
But, walking into the Badlands for practice this week, the atmosphere didn’t feel like it.
“You are 0-0 every week,” San Juan Hills receiver Braden Pagan said. “You have to go out there and make the best of it.”
Even before reaping the success of last season, coach Rob Frith installed a mindset in his players of continuing to move forward.
“It doesn’t matter who you had before and it doesn’t matter who you have in the future,” Frith said. “It’s all about the team you are playing this week. We haven’t done anything to deserve respect from anybody.”
That doesn’t mean the Stallions cannot build off their season-opening victory.
One surprise was the emergence of senior running back Brayden Burnes.
“What people don’t know is that Brayden Burnes did not play football his junior year,” Frith said. “He took a year off and didn’t play sports at all. He came back late and worked his tail off.”
Before leaving the program on good terms, Burnes was playing some defense and wide receiver, but his coach quickly converted him to a running back after a drill where the running back had to run through linebackers.
“Brayden goes toe-to-toe with our middle linebacker Elijah Ponce. They both lower their heads, and Brayden holds his own against him,” Frith said.
Burnes was 55 pounds lighter than Ponce and the coaches were amazed.
“Boy, he was a tough son of a gun,” Frith said, reminiscing. “We had to get the ball in his hands.”
Burnes started to line up at running back and, after getting some tips from coaches on how to protect the ball, he was off.
In his first game, he carried the ball 17 times for 110 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.
Now, he looks to improve on his debut performance when the Stallions march into Capo Valley.
“I think we are prepared. We have been waiting for months for this,” Burnes said.
The Cougars are coming off a loss to San Clemente last week and are battling some injuries but coach Sean Curtis said his team has stayed together as a unit.
“We have been fighting so much adversity this season, but we showed how resilient we can be,” Curtis said.
Capo Valley features senior quarterback Dartanyon Moussiaux, who quickly found a home after transferring from JSerra.
“(Dartanyon) is a good quarterback and the players have experience,” Frith said. “We expect them to give us all they got on Friday night.”