This past Friday evening, the Thunderbirds of Kennedy High School traveled a few miles east to scrimmage Delano High School. It was the first time we have had the opportunity to make contact with a team other than ourselves.

The players, as you can imagine, were very excited and looking forward to not only hitting someone other than themselves, but to have it be a team within our town that they had not met up with in almost 10 years.

This was evident as the scrimmage grew closer and the time to kickoff that was triggered by the referee’s whistle was almost drowned out by the hoopla. It was good to see our boys that excited to play the game that we as coaches all grew up loving and hoped they would love as much as we did and still do to this day.

For those not familiar with the format of a scrimmage, it may have been foreign to see drives end abruptly or huge mistakes in personnel changes, but it being a controlled format based on time and play count, this, for us, was to be expected. The Thunderbirds were on defense first in a 12-minute running quarter. During this time, our defense played very well and showed overall speed and tenacity.

We were able to prevent Delano from getting a first down on a three-and-out series. After receiving the punt, our offense fumbled the first snap and the ball went right back to Delano. In Delano’s second possession our free safety, Cristian Maldonado, stepped in front of a play-action pass and took it back 70-plus yards for a touchdown. After the successful extra point by Yoncanni Sandoval, we kicked the ball back to Delano. We managed to hold Delano out of the end zone once again as they ended the quarter on a failed fade to our sideline.

I was very pleased with the way our defense played in that first period, but, unfortunately, with Delano getting the ball on the first possession, us getting a pick-six and fumbling our first snap, our offense did not get any repetitions. That didn’t allow for us to get a gauge on our offense in a live setting. This was very unfortunate and unexpected.

We then transitioned to a 10-play format where our first-team offense stayed in the game to get their much-needed reps. We struggled here and managed to move the ball in spurts but not enough to score in 10 plays.

On Delano’s 10-possession series, we went with our backup players so that we could evaluate how they would fare against a team with some of the athletes that Delano has. Although they were in the battle with Delano, they did give up two scores — one on the ground and one in the air. The second round was an opportunity for us to get in some of our backups for the offense and they also competed but struggled to move the ball consistently against a good Delano defense.

Overall, I was very happy with our defensive effort and attitude of our players. We rallied and worked hard to work in our rules of engagement. Although our offense did not operate as well as I know we can, I know that we will be on a much better rhythm this week as we prepare for Foothill High School. Our offense brings back seven starters, so I am sure this Friday, under normal settings, we will find a rhythm and move the ball on a consistent basis.

Friday night allowed for some standout play by some of our kids. Great games came from Cristian Maldonado, Tahj Kelly, Juvenal Herrera, Ever Molina, Eddie Hernandez, Tito Enciso, Ivan Garza, Luis Perez and Franciso Medina.

I want to thank Mario Abundez and his great staff for their hospitality, along with Delano High School admin and support team. They made us feel welcome and provided for a fun night of football. We appreciate the opportunity to play up a division or two whenever we have the opportunity as it tests our skills, strength and coaching ability.

Overall, we all got better Friday night!

Mario Millan is the head football coach for Robert F. Kennedy High School.

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