When John Rodriguez took over the football program at Tempe High before the start of the 2006 season, he thought it would take about five years to rebuild the one-time powerhouse into a consistent playoff contender.
If the Buffaloes can put together another surprising season like they had last year, they may return to their glory days sooner than expected.
After going 1-9 in Rodriguez’s first season, Tempe finished 4-6 in year No. 2 and came within one victory of a playoff spot. The Buffaloes could have been 6-4 as two of their losses, one coming in overtime, were by a combined 10 points.
“We were a little ahead of schedule last year,” Rodriguez said. “We had a great group of seniors. They did an outstanding job. They really bought in and worked hard.”
If the Buffaloes are to continue their upward swing, two all-important things must occur.
First, this year’s seniors must show the same type of leadership that last year’s group exhibited, something that hasn’t happened so far.
“Our seniors haven’t really taken the bull by the horns and said, 'This is our program. This is our year.’ I’m not sure what the problem is,” Rodriguez said.
“They’re a different group. They’re confident and they’re athletic, but we’re really looking for strong leadership out of them, and right now they’re learning that role.”
The other key will be winning on the road, a feat Tempe hasn’t accomplished since 2005.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Rodriguez, who is 0-9 away from home. “The bad thing is we’ve got six road games. That’s what’s going to be tough.
“Our focus this summer has been finding a way to win on the road. … If we can do that, hopefully we can sneak into the playoffs this year.”