A dark cloud moved in over the Mustangs of Trabuco Hills High School when the school administration felt it necessary to relieve head coach Johnny Rodriguez of his duties at the start of the current school year. The decision stunned Mustang player and parents, who were looking forward to continuing the momentum that Rodriguez built in 2014 when he led a young Mustangs squad to a late season surge and the playoffs. In a flash, all of the high hopes for a league championship and a CIF playoff run were seemingly just that, a hope and not much of a reality as the program found itself without any leadership.
Given the shortage of qualified coaches in Orange County, it is not surprising that an extensive search to replace Rodriguez in the highly competitive South Orange county lacrosse community has not proven successful. The program’s steering committee in charge of the search have been able to convince some highly qualified candidates to explore the opportunity but so far there have been no takers.
Never one to quit, and not wanting to see the program that he helped build flounder, Coach Rodriguez came to the school administrations with an offer to remain on as a volunteer assistant coach in order to keep the program alive. After extensive consideration, THHS has allowed Coach Rodriguez to be a part of the program as a volunteer who will assist interim head Mark Stern. Stern is a teacher and the head soccer coach at THHS. This leaves one of the County’s premier head coaches working as an assistant coach without any compensation. When asked about why he would give so much of himself and coach for free, Rodriguez said “I can’t let these kids down, we have worked so hard and have become a family. We have made commitments to each other and we have set goals, I am going to see this through. We have a league championship to win.”
The Mustangs who had a break out season last year under the leadership of Coach Rodriguez had very high hopes for an even more successful season this year with a young team becoming more seasoned and experienced. Trabuco is looking forward to bigger and better things from last year’s standouts on offense senior attackman Jake Marthens and junior middie Harrison Evans. The Mustang defense will also improve with addition of junior transfer from J Serra Catholic High School Scotty Barger, who is verbally committed to play at Towson University.
The Mustang family of players and parents alike have rallied behind their beloved coach and have pitched in and helped wherever they can to keep the program alive. Steering committee member and parent volunteer coach Mike Zanio had this to say. “It is truly inspirational to see how Coach Johnny puts the kids before himself, I am out here just trying to help anyway I can.” One committee member put it this way, “It is just too bad that the school doesn’t care as much about their students as coach Johnny does. This man is showing so much class and character, and that will become a far more valuable lesson to these boys than anything taught on the field.”
No matter what kind of season that Trabuco Hills puts together this year the boys’ lacrosse family has grown closer and stronger as a result of this hardship. The parents have shown their kids to stand up and fight for what you believe in. Coach Johnny Rodriguez has shown his players the meaning of commitment and to never give up. The true measure of success this season will not be reflected in wins and losses on the field of play, it is in the simple fact that the future is still bright for the Trabuco Hills Boys Lacrosse program.
Contributed by Trabuco Hills Boys’ Lacrosse