Soledad football

Soledad (10-3, 6-1)
 What do you do for an encore when you have captured a Central Coast Section Division IV title, established a school record for wins, and set numerous offensive and defensive school records.
 Repeat the feet.
 This wasn't an accident. People forget that Soledad has put together six straight winning seasons, having made the postseason four times, improving in the win column four straight years.
 "Nothing changes,'' Soledad coach Frankie Berlanga said. "The mindset is the same. It's no secret to our success. We just work our butts off.''
 Yet, one significant difference this season is the Aztecs aren't chasing their own shadow in terms of expectations and exceeding them. Having been to the top last fall, they like the view.
 "I don't want to dismiss what we did last season,'' Berlanga said. "The future doesn't define what we did in the past.''
 Depends on who you talk to.
 "Pressure is part of it,'' center Geronimo Serrano said. "Of course, there are expectations. The goals haven't changed. But this is a new group of players. The second title is always the hardest.''
 While graduation did strip the Aztecs of 300 plus tackles and 30 plus sacks on defense, the cupboard is far from bare on the offensive end.
 Emmanuel Ortega and his school record 1,785 yards and 17 touchdowns are back for Soledad. The senior has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two years.
 Teams that focus on shutting down Ortega will have to deal with quarterback Gabriel Flores, who has sparkled in practice with a strong and accurate arm.
 The junior has a trio of targets, including Aaron Rodriguez and Angel Olivas, who combined for 48 catches for nearly 800 yards last season.
 In addition, Robbie Santa Ana, who was 6-0 as a starting quarterback last year, will move to the slot to give the Aztecs a potentially dangerous aerial assault.
 "Our experience is the strength of this team,'' Berlanga said. "No doubt, we have some holes to fill on defense. We're no different than any other team.''
 Accept, no team in the Mission Trail Athletic League is replacing seven starters, or 80 percent of the teams tackles and sacks from last season. Graduation gutted the front seven of Soledad's defense.
 During its six-game winning streak to close last season, Soledad gave up just 14 points in the third quarter.
 The back end of the defense, though, will be as good as any in the league with Rodriguez -- an all-leaguer -- and Olivas both back, each having intercepted five passes last season.
 While a young defense matures with repetitions, the offense is capable of chewing time off the clock with Ortega, who will look to run behind linemen David Cruz and Serrano.
 "This group has worked hard in the off-season,'' said Serrano, who will also spend time on defense as a defensive tackle. "We're stronger mentally and physically.''
 Soledad opened last season 0-2, before closing the year 10-1. It didn't soften its non-league schedule this fall with Seaside and Antioch to open the season.
 Antioch finished 8-5 last year, falling 28-21 to De La Salle. The year before it was 11-1, with its only loss being a 55-54 setback in the North Coast Section playoffs.
 "We needed a game,'' Berlanga said. "We're not going to schedule a team if we don't think we can compete.''

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