Sports

Shawn Jansen: Messina, Golden Valley have to earn their chops

Shawn Jansen
Shawn Jansen

Jake Messina couldn't sit through it.

It was worse than watching a bad movie. It was like watching a bad movie where you already know the ending.

Still, the Golden Valley football coach pulled out the DVD of last year's game against Pitman and watched.

It wasn't exactly family movie night at the Messina house. No popcorn. No soda. No Jujubes.

Messina watched as Pitman shredded Golden Valley, scoring every time it touched the ball en route to a 76-45 win.

"I watched that film once," Messina said. "I couldn't watch it anymore. I absolutely have not shown it to our guys. It's a waste of time. I don't want to show that film. I don't want to show them any film from last year.

"I felt that game against Pitman last year was rock bottom in the 15 years of the program."

Friday night is an opportunity to see just how far Golden Valley has come under Messina.

The numbers suggest so far, so good.

Golden Valley is 4-1 heading into its Central California Conference opener against Pitman (4-1).

However, nobody really knows what to expect from Golden Valley in the CCC.

To be honest, neither does Messina.

Has the program rebounded this quickly?

It's hard to gauge how good Messina's boys are by just looking at GV's record. The four wins have come against teams with a combined 5-12 record.

The biggest win was the 43-38 thriller over Freedom (3-2). However, not many football fans around here have ever heard of the Oakley school.

Does Messina think GV should be mentioned as CCC favorites along with teams like Buhach Colony, Turlock and Merced?

"Absolutely not," he said. "Not until we prove it against local competition. Maybe from a Bay Area or Northern California point of view, who can speak on the quality of Freedom. They would have some perspective on how we stepped up and beat those guys.

"I've been around here a while and I know how things are. Until we have success against teams in our area, I don't think anybody owes us respect or rankings or anything like that."

We'll learn a lot more about GV on Friday.

A win over Pitman definitely would be the type of victory that will make you say, "Hmmm."

Pitman hasn't exactly slayed any dragons during its nonconference schedule. Its four wins have come against teams that are a combined 1-18, but Pitman has been a CCC power since the school opened.

Golden Valley has been looking forward to this game ever since that embarrassing night last November.

"It's a chance for our guys to stand toe-to-toe with those guys and say, 'Hey, we're not the same team anymore,' " Messina said. "That first series on Friday is going to be huge. It's a chance for our guys to finally realize they're not going to pop one every time they have the ball."

One of the biggest reasons for Golden Valley's early season success was one of Messina's boldest moves when he took over the program.

Moving Tyler Arnsberg to running back and inserting Jerry Martinez at quarterback has given the offense some versatility.

Martinez has thrown 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Arnsberg has racked up 639 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

"The big difference is Tyler Arnsberg playing defense at a high level which brings a whole new dynamic to the team," Messina said. "The other is Jerry Martinez playing quarterback at a high level, orchestrating the offense.

"Those two things are getting us over the hump."

So where does Messina see Golden Valley fitting in the CCC ladder?

"You've got the big three," he said. "Buhach Colony has been building toward this for a long time. They do a great job of managing their talent.

"I got a chance to see Turlock over the summer, so I knew what they had.

"And anyone that lines up against Merced, with all the tradition and history, they better bring a lunch pail.

"The trump card is what are we capable of? I'm the head coach and I don't know."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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