CALIFORNIA, Mo. — Not all season openers are created equal.
California certainly didn't have things easy to start the season. A three-and-a-half hour trip Saturday to Monett to face the state-ranked Cubs resulted in a 34-6 loss for the Pintos, the second time in as many years they've dropped their season opener.
For the fifth year in a row, California faces Mexico in Week 2. Last season, the Pintos fell to the Bulldogs 35-0. If they want to avoid starting 0-2 for the second straight season, the offensive line play has to improve.
"We missed a lot of assignments," head coach Marty Albertson said. "We had a hard time running the ball against (Monett) because they were just so big and we couldn't move them."
Against Monett's 6-foot-3, 325-pound defensive tackle Kurran Bartkoski, some California interior linemen were giving away close to 80 pounds on the line. The Pintos know they're up against another big, run-heavy team tonight against Mexico.
"I think we'll see a lot of the same offense we just faced," Albertson said. "(Mexico) runs a double-wing set and they like to run power football."
Down two defensive starters tonight, it'll be a slightly different Pintos defense against the Bulldogs — not just in terms of personnel, but in scheme as well.
"We're going to change some things up this week and show them some different looks," Albertson said.
While the pressure will be on California to try to slow down Mexico's running backs, the Pintos will have to get their own running game into gear. California mustered just 61 yards on the ground against Monett.
"You have to be able to run the football," Albertson said. "You can't be one-dimensional. We have to get better at that. We're going to try to simplify the offense this week and take about six or eight plays and hopefully get the blocking assignments right."
Mexico is coming off a loss in its opener as well, losing at home to Battle 35-13 last week. Though they're on the heels of a 10-2 season and currently ranked seventh in Class 3, it's a different Bulldogs team.
All-state running back/linebacker Karsten Ekern, quarterback Spencer Thomas and defensive standout Jaylen Lee have all graduated. The trio was dominant in Mexico's shutout win a year ago.
Coming off a Saturday night game, the Pintos will be one of the few teams in the state playing on a short week. Two California players who may feel that burden the most are quarterback Jacob Wolken and running back Cory Friedmeyer.
Wolken was sacked seven times and had 10 carries, while Friedmeyer had just four attempts, but was on the wrong end of some huge Monett hits. Both players were also busy on the defensive side of the ball, with Wolken making eight tackles and Friedmeyer totaling seven.
"We lose a day of recovery time and we have guys who are sore," Albertson said. "We worked out (Monday), took it easy and did no hitting. We did some running and stretching and tried to get that lactic acid out of there and get them moving again."
Fortunately for California, the team should get a boost being its home opener.
"I think we play better at home, like most teams," Albertson said. "We'll have our crowd here. There wasn't a huge crowd down in Monett because it was so far away. I think the kids will be more excited and I think that will help us a bit."
The Pintos have won three of the past four meetings against the Bulldogs.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Riley Field.
Listen to the game live online: pintosonline.com