By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Former Azusa High School football players have been hanging around lately. Aztecs coach Joe Scherf talks to them in church, has seen them around practice and recently got an email from former Aztecs coach Burch Drake, who coached at the school in the late 60’s and was part of the 1974 Aztecs team that reached the CIF-Southern Section Divisional quarterfinals when it was a 32-team playoff format. To continue, click thread
When the No. 3-seeded Aztecs (10-1) take on San Marino (9-2) on Friday at Citrus College in the Mid-Valley Division quarterfinals, the Aztecs will be playing for their first semifinal berth in school history.
Drake, now living in Idaho, emailed to congratulate Scherf and his players.
“Winning league last year and this year, and now going to the quarterfinals for the second straight year has changed the culture around here,” Scherf said. “It’s kind of neat to see the support from a lot of the old players, especially guys that go back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
“I read (Drake’s) letter to the kids to show them how much support they have out there. He was a legendary coach here. We know there are a lot of people rooting for us. We want to take the next step.”
That next step comes against one of the stingiest teams in the division, with an assistant coach on the sidelines named Mike Mooney, a former USC player who was successful earlier this decade coaching his alma mater at Temple City before moving on to San Marino to become assistant
Mooney took a year off of coaching, then returned to join coach D.R. Moreland’s staff and has done a tremendous job in helping him revive their program.
The Titans’ 42-20 first-round playoff win over Rosemead was the most points the Titans have allowed this season.
They almost knocked off No. 1 Monrovia in a 14-12 loss.
“They look a lot like us,” Scherf said. “They have a lot of tough kids, not really big or athletic but they play hard and play with a lot of discipline.”
The Aztecs reached the quarterfinals last year and were shut out 17-0, something Scherf has addressed with his players this week.
“We thought we were prepared last year and got shellacked,” Scherf said. “We came out flat and made a lot of mistakes we weren’t making during the season.
“A lot of our kids grew from that experience, and hopefully our coaching staff grew, too. We want to get to that level where we’re competing for semifinal and championship games every year. The more opportunities you have, the more experience you gain from it.”
Last year the Aztecs had third-year starting quarterback Adrian Gaeta to lead them. This year it’s senior John Chavez, who has thrown for 1,352 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Scherf platooned Chavez with others early in the season, but it has become clear Chavez is the guy.
“The thing is, the kids love playing for (Chavez),” Scherf said. “For some reason, when we had another kid in there (quarterback), the kids got upset with me. I said, `OK, we’ll put him (Chavez) back in there,’ and they play harder for him. He doesn’t get in their face, but his passion and desire make his teammates want to play harder and block for him. It’s a special bond he has with those guys, they trust him.”