By John Philip Wyllie
At 5-3 and on the verge of reaching the CIF playoffs, the Otay Ranch Mustangs have relied on their stifling defense this season to keep them in every game. At the heart of that defense is 5’11” 220 pound senior middle linebacker Mike Azhocar.
“Mike is our team leader in tackles and a senior captain. He has really raised his level of play from last year. He was good last year, but he is playing really great this year,” according to Mustangs coach Brad Burton. Azhocar is one of the team’s most experienced players.
“I began playing Pop Warner when I was seven years old for the Chula Vista Aztecs,” Azhocar recalled. Although he has also played basketball for many years, football has always been his favorite sport. With a lot of dedication and drive he has put his heart and soul into strengthening his game. He now ranks as one of the Mesa League’s top middle linebackers.
“Some people call the middle linebacker the quarterback of the defense, but I just try to do my part to get everybody involved in making plays. I think I do a pretty good job of reading offenses. I can usually tell what the other team is going to do. The one thing I need to work on is my speed in moving from sideline to sideline.”
Azohcar’s primary function is to clog up the running lanes in the middle of the defense, but he also sometimes drops back into coverage. His team lead in tackling attests to the job he is doing as a run stuffer. Azhocar has enjoyed every minute of this, his final season of Mustang football.
“A lot of us have been playing together for a while. Some of us have been playing together since Pop Warner. We know what each guy is going to do on the field and we have become good friends.”
While is focus at the moment is to help his team grab a CIF berth, Azhocar has looked ahead to next year.
“I definitely plan to continue on in college. I want to both play football and further my education. A few schools have expressed interest. I’ve heard from UC Davis and the University of Nevada, but I am not set on any one school yet. I’ll probably go wherever I get the best offer. Education is very important in my household. School comes first and then football. I have about a 3.6 G.P.A. at this point.”
Azhocar credits his parents for much of his success.
“My parents are always behind me. They support me in everything that I do. They take me wherever I need to go whether it is to a game or practice. They are always there for me.”
Assuming they reach the playoffs, Azhocar thinks his Mustangs might surprise some people.
“I think we are a much better team than our record shows. We just need to find that consistency and play together every week. Our game (tonight) against Sweetwater is a big game for us. A win should put us in the playoffs and hopefully we can go from there.”