On a rainy afternoon that turned into evening, the Columbus Explorers (5-0) displayed dominance over the Coral Gables Cavaliers (2-2), capturing a 57-0 victory.
Junior quarterback Fernando Mendoza had the highlight of the night with a throwout sack to senior tight end Gus McGee to put the Explorers up 37-0.
Mendoza finished the game with two touchdowns, no interceptions and was not sacked. The Columbus defense was strong throughout the game and gave the Explorer offense excellent field position on each drive. The offensive-line displayed perfect pass protection throughout the entire game with Mendoza having a clean pocket on almost all his throws.
I spoke to Columbus’ signal-caller on a number of topics, including last weeks win:
Q: I hear you’re quite the scholar. What are your academic interests?
Mendoza: I am really entwined with math and science. I still love english and history. I like researching finance, economics, and the stock market. I also have an interest in engineering.
Q: Which colleges are you considering?
Mendoza: Academics are important. I am currently open to all colleges. I would love to have an opportunity to play at the next level.
Q: Do you have a role model athlete? If so, who is it?
Mendoza: Tom Brady. I was born in Boston. I have always been a Boston sports fan. We have the same type of game: pocket passer with a high football IQ.
Q: Did you play any other sports growing up?
Mendoza: My mom played tennis so I played tennis competitively until 9th grade. I stopped playing competitively once I got invited to spring football varsity workouts. I still play tennis casually now.
All my focus is on football now.
Q: What is one part of your game that you like to highlight?
Mendoza: I love to highlight my throw on the run and throw out of pressure. I was developed in a Wind T system where all I could do is throw on the run. I can make accurate and high velocity throws on the run. While people think of me as a pocket passer I can deliver strong throws outside the pocket. I can deliver with pressure in my face or behind me. The pressure is rare because of our strong O-line.
Q: What is one part of your game you aim to improve?
Mendoza: I look to improve my athleticism. I’m a good-sized kid. I have started to expand my scramble. This means defensive backs can’t just drop into coverage automatically. Improving my scramble game will add another layer that defenses need to prepare for. Maybe there might be some designed runs for the future. We have very good running backs and wide receivers. Denim Edwards, Vershod Quinn and Mikayl Solis are some of our great running backs. We have excellent slot receivers in Jahvar McSween and Denim Dossiers. I won’t be getting many carries unless it’s wide open.
Q: What was going through your head for the throw out of sack play?
Mendoza: We had a really nice punt before this play which pinned Coral Gables close to their endzone. I thought we had a safety a couple of times. They ended up punting it and pinning us at the 40 yard line with 20 seconds left. I looked for the mismatch 1 on 1 and looked at Jahvar McSween. I felt pressure and escaped. I was grabbed on to but I kept my eyes downfield and saw Gus McGee in the soft spot of the Cover 3. This play would cap off a 44 point first half which was a combined effort of the offense and defense.
Q: What is your motivation to play football?
Mendoza: I am a competitor. Ever since I started playing flag and tackle football I have thought football is the most competitive sport. My dad played football. It’s a sport that brings about great teamwork. The locker room atmosphere is unmatched. I also really like the work, preparation, and payoff.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Jupiter team you are going to face in the first round of the playoffs?
Mendoza: No exchange of film yet. Don’t want to underestimate anyone. We are ranked high in the bracket. It’s win or go home, we need to play our best. We have a bye week and many of our best players are banged up. We want to have them rested and ready for the December 5 playoff game against Jupiter.
Q: How has the recruiting process been so far?
It’s been fun. Talking to coaches and being able to play at the next level. Playing at the next level is a dream of mine. It really shows your hard work pays off. The recruiting process started off slow. Many top 2022 quarterbacks were able to play their entire sophomore season. However, we had a great quarterback in Brandon McDuffy. He led us to a state championship win so I have no regrets about the season. This year as I got more film, coaches started to become more interested. I had played well my sophomore season, however, it was a small sample size. I appreciate all the coaches that have taken the time to talk to me. I have not had my first official offer yet. I am hopefully looking forward to that in the future.
Q: How is this recruiting dead period affecting you?
Mendoza: I’m not the NCAA. I understand what the NCAA is trying to do. The health and safety of the players should come first but I find this to disadvantage those who do not get much recruiting attention the most. Seniors may need to pay for flights and other expenses if they are able to even visit campuses. This puts a large burden on recruits and may price out some recruits.