For the second year in a row, Pacheco High's football team is 2-2 heading into Western Athletic Conference play.
But not all 2-2 records are created equal, as Pacheco coach David Snapp will tell you after a 47-26 loss to Division II McNair-Stockton last Friday.
"It was good to see. I think our kids learned a lot. But last year in a game like that, we would have been crushed 56-0 or 50-7," Snapp said. "You could see it after the game, our kids were pissed off -- they felt like they gave one away. Other than the big plays, we were the better team out there.
"It's night and day the difference between last year's team and this year's."
Pacheco and McNair carried a 20-20 tie into the fourth quarter before McNair took advantage of a series of mistakes to explode for 27 points. With McNair leading 34-26 and 2 minutes remaining, Pacheco threw an interception on McNair's 2-yard line.
"We held 'em and had 'em third-and-long, and they threw a 90-yard touchdown pass," Snapp said. "I think that deflated the guys a little more."
An interception return for a TD as time ran out sealed Pacheco's fate. But the Panthers can take some positives from the game -- notably holding McNair star running back Jonathan Stark to 24 yards on 13 carries, his first sub-100-yard game this season.
"I think our run defense is real good," Snapp said. "Knock on wood, but we run sideline to sideline and we're hard to block. We play people's run game real well."
On the other hand, McNair quarterback Cedrick Phillips completed 15 of 24 passes for 492 yards, accounting for more than half of his season total to date.
"They have some phenomenal athletes. We're not going to see athletes like that again," Snapp said. "We don't have anyone who can keep up with someone like that."
Still, Pacheco expects to see the ball in the air a lot tonight against Ceres (2-2), the Panthers' first game this season at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"We're expecting them, after watching the McNair film, to come out and throw it 40 times," Snapp said. "They throw more than they run anyway."
Ceres defeated Pacheco 39-6 a year ago, and a much-improved Pacheco team is looking at the game as the venue to announce its arrival to the Western Athletic Conference.
"We haven't won a league game yet, so we have to prove that we can win one," Snapp said. "I do think we're underlooked, and I want to keep it that way."
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at email@example.com