Centaurus receiver Mendoza aiming to be state’s top target

Anyone can put together 12 minutes of highlights on Hudl. If you look at the lengthy clip work of Centaurus’s Andres Mendoza from his junior season, though, you’ll see both quantity and quality.

He’s a starting defensive back for the Warriors, accounting for some of the thread. But in catching 75 passes last year as a starting wide receiver for then-sophomore quarterback Nick Faraca, he added a wow factor that has led to a bit of interest from colleges.

“Some guys just have that ‘it’ factor, and he’s one of them,” said new head coach Andy Hampton, who has been a CHS assistant for several years including each of Mendoza’s two varsity seasons. “He makes plays sometimes that I just don’t understand, and he’s been a model of consistency out there who, if we need a play, will get you one. Smooth, fearless.”

With a steady stream of decent quarterbacks having walked the halls of CHS the past few years — Ryan Cotter and Shaq Ebadi started as seniors in 2015 and 2016, respectively, giving way to Faraca in 2017 — the Warriors have relied on the air attack a lot.

Mendoza in the past two seasons has given his gunslinging teammates plenty of reasons to target him, out past the numbers, in short yardage situations and especially over the middle. His 45 catches in 2016 were good for a healthy 681 yards and seven touchdowns, and his 75 catches last year tied for second in the entire state among 11-man teams.

“It’s just good coaching, to be honest,” Mendoza said. “Our coaches have done a great job with different drills to help us with our hands and our feet. Our feet is a lot of it … that’s how you get open and how you create separation. The whole catching thing, I feel like it comes a lot easier for me than the footwork.”

Mendoza could have even more than his 120 career catches, and he knows it. He missed the first two games of last season because of suspension, and although he would not disclose any further information as to why, he said he was remorseful and knew he was going to have to work his way back on the field while owning up to that mistake.

He did just that, and his coach and teammate attested to it.

“It was a mistake, and I wanted to prove to my teammates that I could be better,” said Mendoza, who is listed at 5-foot-9. “We all make mistakes, but if you come back harder from them it’s easier to forgive a lot of the time.”

“He did miss those two games, and he was still at every practice just working as hard as anybody else,” Faraca said. “He came out positive and became a real leader. Then he got his reps and made plays.”

This year may present some new challenges — as a team, most certainly the move up to 4A will feature deeper teams, as well as teams that might be more used to playing pass coverage.

Just as he is getting some next-level attention, Mendoza may get more attention from opposing coaches, too.

That’s perfectly fine with Mendoza, and he’s proven he’s got the hands to make some tough catches even in traffic.

“Everybody bleeds blood,” Mendoza said about his fearless attitude. “We’re going to do a lot of the same things, and we’re ready to get back into it. We’re up for the challenge and we’re going to keep working hard.”

The Warriors begin their season at home against Silver Creek on August 30.