He gave everyone else the weekend off to get their heads straight for the big game. The Mustangs (3-2, 0-0) host the Apaches (3-2, 0-0) in both teams’ league opener at 7 tonight. A week before first-year Muir High School football coach Ken Howard was to match wits with Arcadia High School’s Jon Dimalante in what could be the game that ultimately decides the Pacific League title, Howard decided he needed a vacation to relieve some of the stress. Instead of using the Mustangs’ bye week to scout Arcadia’s game at Glendora last Friday, Howard left to Yosemite with several players over the weekend, including star receivers Lance Mitchell and Tyler Roby. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “Not everyone (had the weekend off), we had coaches at the Arcadia game (a 42-25 loss to Glendora),” Howard said. “But the four-day vacation was great. We did some hiking, bonding, and just hung out. I think it was a great experience because we needed to take a step back, take a deep breath and clear our minds. “I think it helped, because we had a great week of practice, and we know the league championship goes through Arcadia. I have so much respect for coach Dimalante that I know we will have to be perfect to get this done.” The Mustangs defeated the Apaches 42-21 last year and wound up finishing in a three-way tie for the league title along with Crescenta Valley. These two schools appear to be the favorites heading into league again, with the Apaches’ only losses coming against upper division schools St. Francis (No. 2 in Div. III) and Glendora (Division II). The Mustangs, coming off a 58-14 whipping of Morningside two weeks ago, have lost to a Southern Section giant in Oaks Christian and to Jefferson 22-21 in a game they had a chance to win in the final seconds. “I know a lot of people would like a game like this to be at the end of the season, but I like having it now and getting it out of the way,” Howard said. “We’ve had a week off and there’s no excuses. We feel like everyone has healed from their bumps and bruises and that we’re as ready as we’re going to be.” It will certainly be a game of matchups. The Mustangs need to find a way to contain Apaches senior running back Audarrius Bailey, who rushed for 199 yards in this game as a sophomore and is the two-time league MVP coming off three straight performances of 100 yards or more. Bailey was fighting nagging injuries in last year’s contest, and only carried the ball five times for 47 yards. “Outside of that guy at Oaks Christian (Marc Tyler), we haven’t faced a running back of Bailey’s caliber,” Howard said. “But the other guy that worries me is that quarterback (Travis Gowan). If that quarterback starts getting off like he has in other games, then you have to start picking your poison, and you don’t want to have to do that.” If there is a chink in the Apaches’ armor, it’s in their secondary, which the Mustangs hope to exploit with athletic receivers in Roby, Mitchell and a third-year starting quarterback in Forrest Elder. “It’s a big concern for us,” Dimalante said of Muir’s receiving corps. “Because they’re so fast and athletic, it’s going to create some mismatches. And what also makes them dangerous is Forrest, because he has the ability to scramble out of trouble and make something out of nothing.” — Fred J. Robledo can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 4485, or by e-mail at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!