The Cesar Chavez High School boys soccer program began the season with many questions.

How will leaders lost to graduation be replaced? How will the team follow up last year’s success? Which young players will emerge to lead the team? What would this season’s coaching staff look like?

The Titans’ response to these questions and the uncertainty they created: Hard work and faith.

The 2017-2018 season got off to a promising start with victories against city rivals Delano High School and Robert F. Kennedy, but the early success was tempered by loses to Redwood (Visalia) and South Gate (Los Angeles).

Our team bounced back, however, and went on an eight-game unbeaten streak against opponents that included Porterville, Simdt Tech (Los Angeles), Garces Memorial and Shafter.

Just when it looked like the Titans would soar and dominate the rest of their schedule, disaster. The perfect storm of injuries, fatigue and internal friction struck and led to a four-game skid. The Titans were once again searching for answers during the most trying period of the season.

For many, Chavez soccer was in a downward spiral and its chances of repeating as Division V champions were written off.

Throughout the valley, the Titans were counted out as teams prepared for the playoffs, but the heart of a champion should never be questioned.

The boys went quietly back to work, to the grind, and prepared to defend their Division V crown, despite the odds being against them. The Titans opened the first round of the Central Section Division V playoffs in dominating fashion, beating Caruthers, 5-1. The win was followed by another and then another.

The string of victories led the Titans back to the championship match, and after a hard-fought game against the Aztecs from Mendota, they were once again Division V valley champions.

The celebration, however, was short-lived. The boys needed to prepare to go up against Southern California’s best in the CIF Regional State Playoffs. Their hard work and dedication paid off as they made it all the way to the state semifinals held in Carpentaria where their journey ended in penalty shots.

Titans, your journey has been remarkable. Our school and community witnessed history, as you became the first team in Delano to win a state playoff game. In our darkest hour, you chose to “walk by faith and not by sight,” trusting that greatness was still within reach and that has made all the difference.

Tony Mendez was born and raised in Delano to farm-working parents Juan and Dolores Mendez. He graduated from Delano High School in 2001 and received a bachelor’s degree in history and teaching credential from CSUB. Tony began his teaching career at DHS in 2010, where he had already spent a year at the helm of the soccer program. After a few years rebuilding the program, DHS soccer made an appearance in the Central Section Division IV finals in 2012, where they finished runners-up. This would kick off a series of valley championship runs for coach Mendez. In 2013, Mendez and his Tigers claimed the first valley title in school history for the sport. After five years in the classroom and six years on the sideline at DHS, Tony made a transition to Cesar Chavez High School, where he would eventually take over the soccer program and guide the Titans to back-to-back valley titles in 2017 and 2018.This year’s Titan team went on to play in the state playoffs, making it all the way to the semifinals. Tony has done well to match his achievements on the soccer field with accomplishments in the classroom, being selected as most respected teacher at both Delano High School (2014) and Cesar Chavez High School (2018). He was also recognized as the Cesar Chavez Teacher of the Year in 2018. Tony credits God and his faith for the blessings in his life. He is quick to point out that nothing is possible without the Lord’s guiding hand. He proudly lives in Delano with his family.

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