Credit geography, in addition to Daniel Trejo’s considerable physical ability, for the lasting mark the Mendota High senior has made on Central Section and California Interscholastic Federation boys soccer.
That’s because, at least according to one knowledgeable area coach, Trejo never would have been around to play prep soccer, let alone balance basketball in the same season, had he grown up in a city such as Clovis rather than Mendota.
“He shouldn’t be playing high school soccer. He’s above it,” said Buchanan’s John Spurgeon, who once coached a player, Nathan Smith, who went on to become part of the Bradenton, Fla.-based, full-time U.S. Under-17 Residency Program for the nation’s top soccer youth. “He should have been in our under-17 residency camp …He’s a huge talent. He’s got all the tools.”
While Trejo, The Bee’s Outstanding Offensive Performer last season, has flown under the national radar playing in the small west side farming community located 35 miles from Fresno, he’s smashed the section’s career goals record and is closing in on the state’s all-time mark.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound speedster has scored 186 goals in his four varsity seasons, passing as a junior the section’s career record of 122 set by Porterville’s Rudy Rodriguez (1982-84), according to historian Bob Barnett.
He shouldn’t be playing high school soccer. He’s above it. He should have been in our under 17 residency camp. Had he been identified, or had someone seen him, I think he would have been in the residency program. He’s a huge talent. He’s got all the tools.
Buchanan High boys soccer coach on Mendota standout Daniel Trejo.
And heading into the section playoffs, where Mendota (19-4-2) is top-seeded and scheduled to open at home against No. 8 Minarets during the Division VI quarterfinals on Friday, Trejo is six goals away from tying the state record of 192 set by Diamond Bar’s Craig Turley between 1984-87.
Trejo would reach the state mark if he continues to score at his two-goals-per-game average (he has 51 goals in 24 games this season) and leads the defending D-VI champion Aztecs back into the final. Last season, Mendota captured the D-VI title and advanced to the CIF Southern California Regional semifinals in D-V.
“It’s a good feeling that I'm close to it,” Trejo said. “It’s going to be very hard, but it’s possible. I’ve just got to work hard.”
Trejo has scored 100 goals and contributed 26 assists the past two years while also playing – in the same season – on Mendota’s varsity boys basketball team, where coach Mario Plascencia described his part-time point guard as a City/County All-Star-caliber player if he focused on the sport.
Because of conflicts with soccer, Trejo only plays about half of Mendota’s basketball games. Trejo saw most of his action during the West Sierra League season, when he would play 80 minutes or more of soccer, then sprint to the locker room, make a quick change and join the basketball team at halftime.
As skilled at dribbling a basketball as he is a soccer ball, Trejo can break down a defense by himself and often is assigned to guard the opponent’s best player while rarely leaving the floor, Plascencia said. And, his teammates hold no animosity at his playing time despite the fact Trejo misses some practices for soccer.
“It’s amazing considering how, as a coach, you’ve got to have accountability, everyone be at practice or at every workout,” Plascencia said. “But his teammates respect that he’s a two-sport athlete. He may miss a practice or whatever, but he comes back and commands respect.”
Trejo also runs track in the spring, and Mendota football coach Beto Mejia said Trejo would have been a 30-touchdown, 1,000-yard rushing, 1,000-yard receiving dual-threat athlete had he played football.
“The kid can do it all,” Plascencia said.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother Javier Trejo, who scored a section single-season record 56 goals for the Aztecs in 2009-10, Daniel Trejo made an immediate impact at Mendota, scoring 47 goals and making 16 assists as a freshman. He added 39 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore.
The best players are the ones who make everyone else better. And that’s what he does. Coming into this year, no one thought we were going to be good. We had eight or nine players coming up from the junior varsity. But there is something special about Daniel where he can make everyone better than they were.
Mendota coach Juan Magana on Aztecs’ standout Daniel Trejo.
Trejo has led the Aztecs to a 77-21-8 overall record, four WSL title, two trips to the section finals and a CIF SoCal Regional berth so far.
“The best players are the ones who make everyone else better,” Mendota boys soccer coach Juan Magana said. “And that’s what he does. Coming into this year, no one thought we were going to be good. We had eight or nine players coming up from the junior varsity. But there is something special about Daniel where he can make everyone better than they were.”
Spurgeon said Trejo is on par with the most dynamic strikers the area has produced in recent memory: former Clovis North and Edison standout Villyan Bijev and ex-Bullard star Paul Islas, who both went on to play professionally.
Trejo is going on a recruiting trip this weekend to Cal State Fullerton. Santa Clara, Sacramento State and Fresno Pacific have also expressed interest.
“I work hard at the game,” Trejo said. “I try my best. I can’t cheat the game. I have to earn it. That’s what I’ve been doing, and I’m just trying to keep it up.”