By Tom Price Jr.
If you don't believe the Exeter Monarchs alumni team wants to win this year's grudge match against Woodlake just ask Johnny Contreras who is playing in his eighth game at 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 at Monarch Stadium.
The game is an annual battle between former Woodlake and Exeter football players five years removed from graduation.
"It means a lot to beat Woodlake," the 39-year-old lineman said. "We especially want to win at home and in our new stadium."
The visiting team in this annual rivalry game between former Exeter and Woodlake football players has won the last three and the Monarchs hope to buck that trend. This year's Exeter squad is a tight group of players consisting of three pairs of brothers and a set of cousins.
Exeter players Contreras and Charlie Gamboa are the two elder statesman of the Monarch squad. The two graduated together in 1983 and teamed up together again for the first time last year when Contreras talked Gamboa into joining. "I talked him into it and he said that was going to be his last year," Contreras said. "But look at him, he is out here again, this game gets inside you."
The members of the Exeter team hope this game brings a lot of people inside Monarchs Stadium so they can witness the first home victory for many of these players against Woodlake.
Quarterback Brian Phillips like Gamboa and Contreras has had little success at home against Woodlake. For Phillips this will be his last football game win or lose. For Gamboa and Contreras who are approaching 40-years-of-age they are running out of opportunities.
"You know this game has always been a big rivalry," Gamboa said. "It was always the big thing in high school and unfortunately the two years I played varsity we didn't do to well. The redemption I guess is the rivalry game."
Redemption gets harder and harder for some players who have began to feel the effects of age. The players have normal jobs and normal lives and just put the uniform on once a year to hopefully get that taste of victory one more time.
"The older you get the more it hurts," Gamboa said. "It is kind of nice though, to know that I can still do it."