For many, the Livingston football team’s 4-1 start is one of the area’s pleasant surprises to this point.
CJ Avila is one of the few who saw it coming.
Despite coming off of a 1-9 season and a coaching change, the Wolves are right where the senior quarterback believed they’d be heading into tonight’s Western Athletic Conference game against Ceres. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“Honestly, I’m not surprised at all,” said Avila, who has passed for 667 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 211 yards and another score. “We didn’t know what to expect in the offseason, but coach (Alex) Gonzalez came in and we liked the systems he was putting in.
“I was most impressed with the coaches and the game plans they put together for us every week. Once I saw all that, I knew we were going to do pretty well.”
Avila is clearly not the only one to have bought in.
The Wolves have outscored their opponents 159-41 in their four victories and are a 10-7 loss to Hilmar from a perfect record heading into tonight’s homecoming tilt. A victory over Ceres would put them one win shy of all but locking up a playoff spot with four weeks to play.
“The kids aren’t saying much about the shock value of our start,” Gonzalez said. “I was just getting back into coaching, so I didn’t know what to expect.
“We knew we had some skill guys. We knew we had some depth. But the kids have really worked hard and done everything we’ve asked of them. Now you can see we’re starting to understand a little more every time out.”
Livingston has gotten it done on both sides of the ball.
The offense has been balanced, racking up 325 yards per game, with 190 of that coming on the ground. The Wolves have averaged more than 33 points per game with nine different players scoring offensive touchdowns.
Jose Mejia (team-high 301 yards) leads the ground attack, while Eddie Avila has a team-high five rushing touchdowns.
“I feel like that’s the point of a spread offense, to get lots of guys involved,” Gonzalez said. “Teams can’t game plan against us by keying on just one or two guys. We’re a better team when everyone is getting touches.”
Good as the offense has been, the Livingston defense might be better.
Behind the stout play of nose guard Justin Louro and middle linebacker Jesus Sierra (team-high 48 tackles), Livingston is yielding slightly more than 10 points per game and holding opponents well under 100 rushing yards.
The pass rush hasn’t been too bad, either.
Defensive end Jorge Torres leads the squad with 71/2 sacks as the Wolves have averaged almost five per game. Throw in the nine turnovers Gonzalez’s squad has forced, and the formula for success is there.
“Our defense has been great,” Avila said. “They’ve made life way easier for the offense, getting us good field position.
“I think the biggest difference is having guys go just one way. Last year, we had five or six going both ways and I think we’d just tire out.
“We feel like we’re a complete team this season. We’re not just content to make the playoffs. We want to compete for a WAC title, and a win over Ceres puts us closer to that goal.”