There are two streaks that the Costa Mesa High football team would like to end this season, one at the beginning and one at the end.
The Mustangs have lost their last 11 straight season openers. They can change that Friday, when they travel to Western.
The second streak is longer, and ultimately far more important. The program also has not won a playoff game since 1997.
It's safe to say that Costa Mesa, which finished 4-6 a year ago and failed to make the playoffs, would like to end both streaks.
"I think we can do some big things this year," said senior tight end/defensive end Joseph Quiroz. "We're not just faster, but stronger. We're going to change a lot of things this year."
Costa Mesa has returning athletes with big-play ability, like senior tailback/middle linebacker Oronde Crenshaw and senior receiver/outside linebacker Quinton Bell.
Crenshaw rushed for 1,371 yards and an area-best 17 touchdowns last year. The numbers were impressive, considering his carries were limited at the start of the season. In the last three league games alone, Crenshaw ran for a combined 841 yards and 11 touchdowns. And at linebacker, he earned Newport-Mesa Defensive Player of the Year honors.
For Bell, who stands 6-foot-4, it took just one catch in last week's scrimmage against Duarte to make his abilities evident. He took the first pass from senior quarterback Oliver Ferris for a 65-yard touchdown.
"We should be going really far this year," Bell said. "We have a really good team, really good players. A lot of athletes, and a bigger and better line. I think everything all-around is better than it was last year."
Coach Wally Grant has stressed that the offensive line needs to make plays and stay healthy, to give those players a chance to make plays. Senior Marco Zalpa, a right guard who was a Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection last year, is a returning leader on the line.
Zalpa said he has confidence in the team as well. Many of the components are there from three years ago, when the Mustangs beat Estancia in the freshman bell game.
"We've kind of proven a point since our freshman year, that we're a good team," Zalpa said. "We're pretty much still intact."
Grant has said that he considers Crenshaw, Bell, Zalpa and Quiroz as Division 1 talent at the next level. But first, they would like to end those streaks. Another losing streak against the Mustangs is that they haven't beaten their crosstown rivals at Estancia since 2009.
The game is hard to miss, as it begins the Orange Coast League schedule for both teams. It's scheduled for Oct. 11 at Jim Scott Stadium, and it's a home game for the Mustangs. But Grant downplayed it in the bigger picture.
"Until the CIF gives me a bye in the first round or a seeded position in the first round for the Estancia game, that's no more important than the Godinez, Saddleback, Laguna Beach or Calvary Chapel games," Grant said. "It's just another league game. If we win it, does it guarantee we go to the playoffs? No. If we lose it, does it guarantee we don't make the playoffs? No. It makes no difference to me.
"As I've told the kids, I would [rather] go 9-1 every year and lose to Estancia than go 1-9 and beat them. I know that at 9-1, we're going to the playoffs, and that's the goal, to get to the playoffs. If we can win a league championship, that's another goal. If we can beat Estancia, that's down the pecking order. That isn't at the top of our goal board."
His players seem to have listened. Sure, Bell would love to ring the bell, but he doesn't say too much when the rivalry game is brought up.
"Just beating Estancia is not going to get us where we need to be," Bell said.
It's just another streak that the Mustangs would love to end.
Costa Mesa Mustangs
League: Orange Coast
CIF Division: Southern
Coach: Wally Grant (third year, 12-9)
Staff: Kent Paul (assistant head coach, quarterbacks, receivers, secondary), Brian McHugh (offensive and defensive lines), Daniel Castro (offensive and defensive lines), Tony Krikorian (receivers), Manny Bonilla (running backs, secondary), Gary Gonzales (linebackers, receivers), Bill Lux (quarterbacks), Danny Ruiz (tight ends, defensive ends).
2012 season: 4-6, 2-3 in Orange Coast League (fourth place), failed to make CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs
Returning starters: six offense, five defense
Returning with honors: RB/LB Oronde Crenshaw, RG/DT Marco Zalpa.
30 – at Western
7 – vs. Santiago at Garden Grove
14 – Katella
20 – vs. Los Amigos at Bolsa Grande
27 – vs. Savanna at Glover Stadium
11 – Estancia*
18 – Godinez*
26 – vs. Saddleback* at Segerstrom, 1 p.m.
1 – Calvary Chapel*
8 – at Laguna Beach*
*denotes league game
All games at 7 p.m. unless noted