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2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO

FOOTBALL PREVIEW Presented by

GAVILAN

GILROY

CHRISTOPHER

ANZAR

SAN BENITO

LIVE OAK

SOBRATO

Game On


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2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Robert Eliason

OUT OF MY WAY Defensive tackle Richard Justo (left) and offensive lineman Devin Pacheco are two of the key returners for a Gavilan team that looks to rebound from a disappointing 2018 season. Under coach John Lango, the Rams have superior talent and depth compared to a year ago.

GAVILAN COLLEGE

Bounce back year RAMS PREPARE TO MAKE SOME NOISE AFTER GOING 0-10 LAST SEASON

SCHEDULE 9/6 vs. Los Medanos, 6p.m. 9/14 at Redwoods-Eureka, 1 p.m. 9/21 vs. De Anza, 1 p.m. 9/28 at Monterey Peninsula, 6 p.m. 10/5 vs Hartnell, 1 p.m. 10/12 at Foothill, 1 p.m. 10/19 at Reedley, 1 p.m. 10/26 vs. Cabrillo, 1 p.m. 11/9 at San Jose City, 1 p.m. 11/16 vs. Merced, 1 p.m.

EMANUEL LEE

Note: All home games played at Gilroy High

Robert Eliason

Gavilan College football coach John Lango affectionately refers to community college athletics as second chance U, a play off of the wildly popular Netflix series Last Chance U. At the community college level, student-athletes earn second and sometimes third or fourth chances in pursuit of their dream to play at the fouryear level and beyond and prepare themselves academically for a future career off the field. Gavilan has its fair share of players who are in their second stint with the program, including sophomore safety Matt Wittanen, who played for the Rams in 2017 before going on an odyssey that included stops at Idaho and De Anza College before finally landing back at Gavilan. “Some times I feel like calling him the prodigal son, because he’s been at Gavilan so many different times,” Lango said. “It’s been interesting, but we always welcome him back with open arms.” Wiitanen isn’t the only impact player who is back in their second stint with Gavilan. Sophomore linebacker Anthony Navarro also played for the Rams in 2017 before siting out last season. Even after a 0-10 season in 2018, Lango knew better days were ahead. Armed with a full recruiting cycle, the Rams have added numbers and talent, giving them optimism entering this season. “Last year I don’t think we ran any 11 on 11 until we went against Foothill (a week before the season started in a scrimmage),” he said. “We were almost 15 practices in before we could do what a normal team could do (practice-wise). But this year we have a great mixture of experience and new guys. The experienced guys know what to expect, and for us it’s getting the new

2ND CHANCE U Gavilan linebacker Anthony Navarro is back with the team after initially playing in the 2017 season. Lango expects Navarro to make a tremendous impact and help lead the team to a turnaround season. guys to understand the work ethic, how to practice and the whole thing in what it takes to be successful. It’s been good.” Expect several Rams to make an impact this season, starting with defensive tackle Richard Justo, who Lango expects to be downright dominant at times. Justo will command plenty of double teams, which should free other players on defense to make plays. “He’s just a load to handle,” Lango said. “He’s going to cause a lot of trouble for some people.” Bobby Reese, Alec Calderon and Nathan Aguayo are three of the key players in a strong secondary, while Kyree Harbin and Deven Day should make a lot of plays at linebacker. Ivan Dominguez and Josh Takahara, who redshirted last year while at Azusa Pacific, have looked strong on the defensive line, while

Carlos Lopez and Zach Maxey are returning players on defense who have also looked solid. John Bell and Raul Garnica have battled for the starting quarterback role, and the Rams will be in good hands whoever is under center. Both players are solid, with Bell being the starter last year and Garnica back in his second goaround with Gavilan after redshirting at MPC last year. The Rams have plenty of depth at running back, with Rich Denton and Harbin getting the most reps at the top of the depth chart. Sophomore Javier Molano and freshman Stephen Reyes have also looked strong in practice. “None of those guys are big, but they’ve got good feet and get behind that O line well,” Lango said. “With our scheme, they’ve been real good with it.”

The offensive line packs plenty of potential, with Devin Pacheco, Ethan Rogers and Ben Calderon leading the way. Corbin Muckel, a halfback/tight end/defensive end, and the wide receiving core is one of the most experienced units on the team, with Desmond Hatten, Devin Diaz and Arnold Martinez possessing playmaking ability. Wiitanen listed a dozen or so players who will have a tremendous impact, including Calderon and Aguayo, who are fast, physical and create contact to throw offensive players off-balance. “They make my job real easy because they’re buying time for me to get down so I can run the read, stay inside or get over the top,” he said. At 6-foot and 185 pounds, Wiitanen plays fast and reads the play well. Through hard work, Wiitanen has developed

tremendous speed, which wasn’t a strong aspect of his game up until now. Wiitanen is the classic case of being in a secondchance situation. After playing at Gavilan in 2017, Wiitanen said he took a scholarship offer to play at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, a NAIA program. Wiitanen said he took part in the spring game there, but left the school shortly after that. “I talked to Idaho in January 2018 and once they offered, I jumped ship really fast,” he said. “I was so focused on getting out that I took a visit, signed the papers and then realized it was the wrong fit.” Wiitanen returned to the Bay Area and since then flirted with De Anza and Gavilan, changing his mind several times before deciding to go with Gavilan. He planned on playing last season but wasn’t eligible due to grades. What looked like a bleak situation turned into something greater. “Having to take that gray shirt (last year) was probably the best thing, a blessing in disguise,” he said. “I was battling some injuries, school wasn’t going so well and taking a step back allowed me to think things through. In doing so, I made friendships for life and my grades improved immensely.” Wiitanen credited his friend Jake Rhine for giving him a gentle nudge to return to Gavilan. “He told me to come back, and I’ve started to find my love for the school and football again,” Wiitanen said.


2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

THANK YOU SCHOLARSHIP DONORS! Much gratitude to the following donors:

AAUW - Morgan Hill AAUW - John Jenkins American Legion Gilroy Post #217 Denise Apuzzo, Family & Friends Associated Students of Gavilan College Bernard Osher Foundation Jacquelyn Richburg Randy Brown Kathleen Campbell Besson Family Vineyards Gavilan College Educational Foundation Jillian Wilson Laurel Starr Daughters of the American Revolution, Gabilan Chapter Rohnert Family Dolores I Walding Estate EOPS Club EOPS Region IV Consortium Anna Brannen & Dee Sigismond Chavez Family for Esther Costales Forman

Fulton J. "Bumpy" Picetti, Jr. Estate Rocio De Reza Gavilan CommClub Gavilan CSEA Chapter #270 Members of Gavilan Leadership Council Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Gilroy Elks Lodge #1567 Gilroy Foundation Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, Inc. Gilroy Legion Hall Association Rotary Club of Gilroy Hazel Hawkins Hospital Foundation Lai Family De Reza Family UC Santa Cruz - Karl S. Pister Joseph Belli Pacific Dining Diane Stone Roy & Sue Guist Saint Louise Regional Hospital

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2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Robert Eliason

FANTASTIC 4 Caleb Ojeda, Connor Hennings, Nick Lomanto and Logan Wiemann are some of the top returners on a talented Live Oak squad. The Acorns have big goals for 2019 as they return several familiar faces off a 2018 team that went 8-3 overall and 5-2 in BVAL Mount Hamilton Division play.

LIVE OAK HIGH

On mission to succeed ACORNS HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO HAVE ANOTHER MEMORABLE SEASON

SCHEDULE 8/30 at Burlingame, 7:30 p.m. 9/6 vs. Christopher, 7 p.m. 9/13 at Gilroy, 7 p.m. 9/27 at Oak Grove, 7 p.m. 10/4 vs. Pioneer, 7 p.m. 10/11 at Independence, 7 p.m. 10/18 vs. Piedmont Hills, 7 p.m. 10/25 at Leland, 7 p.m. 11/1 vs. Lincoln, 7 p.m. 11/8 vs. Santa Teresa, 7 p.m.

EMANUEL LEE

Note: Live Oak in BVAL Mount Hamilton

Robert Eliason

A little over three weeks before the season opener, Live Oak coach Mike Gemo pulled Caleb Ojeda aside and told him, ‘You’re a fulltime QB now.’ The 5-foot-10, 167-pound junior was stunned with the news, having practiced as a receiver at different football camps earlier in the summer. “I was a little shocked at first because I trained all summer to be a receiver,” he said. “But my reaction was if this is what the team needs, I’ll do it.” Based on the availability or non-availability of players, teams must make adjustments on the fly. For the Acorns, this qualified as a big one, as Ojeda has been in competition with sophomore Trent Cousens to take over the position that was vacated by the superb Jonathan Singleton, who was an absolute tour de force under center. Although no one is expecting Ojeda to put up the numbers Singleton did—Ojeda last played QB as a freshman on the junior varsity team two years ago—Ojeda is expected to protect the ball and make plays. After all, Ojeda possesses plenty of athleticism, having shown playmaking ability last year when he led the team in receiving. Ojeda knows ball security is key, and a big part of that is recognizing various looks defenses throw his way. “What I need to work on is reading defenses because before as a wideout I only needed to see what the cornerbacks and linebackers were doing,” he said. “Now I have to read coverages and be more protective with the ball and know that if I do something wrong, it may mess up our whole offensive drive. … My arm is coming along. I

GAME TIME Nick Lomanto, a senior running back and defensive back, had a breakout junior season in 2018

when he had five games of 100-plus yards rushing or more. Lomanto will once again be key for the team’s offense. don’t have a real strong arm, but I could definitely put the ball where it needs to be. It’s just a matter of staying calm, not trying to overpower the ball and making sure my form is correct.” Live Oak is coming off another solid season, finishing 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division. The Acorns were a couple of plays away from beating Lincoln, which would’ve earned them the league championship. The Acorns have plenty of reasons for optimism, as they return several starters, including Logan Wiemann, who earned BVAL Mount Hamilton Division Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2018. Wiemann anchors a line that includes center Nathan Zavaleta and standout Julian Mendoza.

“We’ll have new guys at the tackle and guard spots, but the line is jelling right now and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do. … Logan has such a great motor, and he gets madder when we make him have a breather. He loves to play the game, is strong and understands football. He’s just an outstanding athlete on both sides of the football.” If the line stays healthy, the Acorns will be able to do some major damage on the ground. That’s because in Nick Lomanto and Mosiah Saulala, the team has a potent combo. Lomanto is as dynamic a running back as they come, able to shift and change directions on a moment’s notice and make cuts that fool opposing defenders. Saulala, on the other hand, often runs

straight through defenders, churning out yardage. “The offense will run through Nick and Mosiah right now, and that could be a pretty tough combo to stop with Caleb playing quarterback,” Gemo said. “I like the idea of Caleb having the ball on every snap because you never know what is going to happen with the ball in his hands.” Indeed, with Ojeda at the control of running a triple option offense, teams will have to worry about multiple Live Oak running threats. Whenever A.J. Gustaveson is cleared to play, he’ll add another dimension to the team’s run game. The Acorns are also loaded at wide receiver, with returning standouts Elijah Fernandez, Matty Blocker and Connor Hennings leading the way. Sophomore

Brandon Hooks has also done well in practice and could be an impact player at wideout. Wiemann, Mendoza and defensive end Brandon Castillo anchor the defensive line, while Jared Martinez converted from linebacker to nose guard and will be a major factor. “Jared did a great job in the off-season with his speed so he can really be a threat from the nose guard position,” Gemo said. If Ojeda shows up well at quarterback, that will only boost his chances of getting recruited to play at the four-year level because it will show his versatility and willingness to take challenges that come his way. Hennings and Saulala return at linebacker, and both players earned all-league honors at that position a year ago. “Mosiah has gotten bigger and more nasty this off-season,” Gemo said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what he does along with the rest of the defense.” Hooks and Anthony Gracia are a pair of sophomores who could start in the secondary. With a fairly talented roster, the coaches and players know the team’s success will come down to one thing: chemistry. “I think if they decide to come together as one group and play for each other, they’ll have a pretty successful season,” Gemo said. “I really love the talent on this team.”


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2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Robert Eliason

GAME FACE Sobrato linebacker Orion Woods will once again play an integral part of the defense as the Bulldogs compete in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division. Sobrato was promoted to the Santa Teresa after enjoying success in the West Valley the last couple of years. SOBRATO HIGH

Sobrato moves up BULLDOGS WILL HAVE TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER TO SUCCEED IN NEW DIVISION

SCHEDULE 8/30 at Monte Vista Christian, 7:30 p.m. 9/7 vs. San Lorenzo Valley, 2 p.m. 9/14 vs. Mount Pleasant, 2 p.m. 9/27 at Branham, 7 p.m. 10/5 vs. Leigh, 3 p.m. 10/11 vs Overfelt, 7 p.m. 10/18 at Del Mar, 7 p.m. 10/26 vs. Willow Glen, 3 p.m. 11/1 vs. Silver Creek, 7 p.m. 11/8 at Westmont, 7 p.m.

EMANUEL LEE

Note: Sobrato in BVAL Santa Teresa

Robert Eliason

Sobrato High has one mission for the 2019 season: to prove it belongs in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division. The Bulldogs got bumped up from the lower West Valley Division after a couple of strong seasons in the BVAL’s lowest division, including winning the West Valley Division championship two years ago. They now go from a C league to a B league. “Last year we had a bunch of sophomores and juniors who are now seniors. If any team at Sobrato is going to do well (in the Santa Teresa), it’s this one,” Bulldogs cornerback/linebacker Jackson Gonzales said. “We’ve got the players to show we belong in the higher division.” Gonzales and Ray Valles are two standout cornerbacks who impressed coach Billy Vuniwa by working diligently in the off-season. “Both of them are seniors and put in an amazing amount of work,” Vuniwa said. “They’ve gotten faster, they’re exceptional and they’re ready to go. … We’ve got an experienced group that is ready to produce an amazing season.” Sobrato’s first-year head coach—Vuniwa was an assistant the year before—said 90 percent of the players on this year’s team have varsity experience, some extensive. Although the Bulldogs are light on numbers—they only have around 25 players on the roster—they are banking on the players’ talent to shine. Sobrato returns plenty

GETTING OPEN The Bulldogs were no stranger to competing in 7 on 7 tournaments, including this one earlier in the summer against Gilroy High. Sobrato players said they hope the summer success translates to the real season. of key players, starting under center with Jordan Sheets. Even though Sobrato will employ a lot of spread offense looks, its strength no doubt lies in its running game with tailbacks Jesse Redmond and Brian Zarate, who proved to be quite a 1-2 combo in 2018. Both players have the ability to bust off a big gain on any given carry, and opponents will most likely try to take away Sobrato’s ground game as priority No. 1 of their game plan. Sheets has some potentially game-breaking players to throw the ball to in Jona Turagavou, a 6-foot-4 receiver/ tight end who also makes an impact on defense at outside linebacker; and Seth Iven, a

6-3, 220-pound junior wide out. Jose Reyes and Joshua Balderas also have the potential to make some plays at receiver. “Josh has got really good hands and is very good at attacking in space, and he has a real knack for getting open,” Vuniwa said. “It should be a very good year for our quarterback and all of our receivers.” Line play should be another strength for Sobrato, and it features two-way linemen Raul Perez and Jacob Burkholder and another stalwart in Caleb Cueba. Middle linebacker Orion Woods made plays all over the field a season ago, and this year should be no different. Gonzales said Woods provides strong, focused leadership.

“Orion steps up as a leader and sets us straight,” he said. “Simple things like if we’re doing stretches he wants us to be in tune and clap at the same time, to be more of a team and do things together. We have a lot of captains like J.T, who are dedicated and always working out. That’s why I’m confident in this group.” Gonzales has been playing football with Valles and Zarate since they were in the sixth grade for the Morgan Hill Raiders. He’s known Valles since elementary school, and their friendship is a microcosm of the team in that most of the players have grown up either playing together or competing against one another

since middle school. He praised Valles’ work ethic and determination. “Raymond hasn’t missed one day of practice,” Gonzales said. “That is a lot of dedication and something you can appreciate about him.” Gonzales earned a spot on the varsity team his sophomore year, the same season in which he returned an interception for a touchdown against Prospect, the individual highlight-reel moment of his young career. “Nothing felt more exciting from a single play, and it really boosted my confidence,” he said. Gonzales relishes the challenge of playing both linebacker and cornerback well, and he gained 10 pounds of muscle in the off-season to enter summer practice stronger and faster than ever. Gonzales trained hard knowing he would be playing against tougher competition this season. The team has looked solid in the 7 on 7 passing tournaments. “The last one we played, I think we won every single game,” he said. “That helps us a lot, memorizing the offense and on defense learning coverages. I think it’s more technical, and that helps us a lot, too.”


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2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Robert Eliason

BIG JOE Joe Fleming, a two-way lineman, has the ability to disrupt the opposition whether he’s blocking or playing on the defensive line. Physical, agile and big, the Christopher High senior should see plenty of double teams coming his way as teams look to prevent him from causing havoc.

CHRISTOPHER HIGH

Cougars on the move CHRISTOPHER LOOKS TO TAKE NEXT STEP VS. TEAMS IN THE GABILAN

SCHEDULE 8/30 vs. King’s Academy, 7:30 p.m. 9/6 at Live Oak, 7 p.m. 9/13 vs. Seaside, 7:30 p.m. 9/27 vs. Carmel, 7:30 p.m. 10/4 at San Benito, 7:30 p.m. 10/11 at Salinas, 7:30 p.m. 10/18 vs. Palma, 7:30 p.m. 10/25 at Aptos, 7:30 p.m. 10/31 at Alvarez, 7:30 p.m. 11/8 vs. Gilroy, 7:30 p.m.

EMANUEL LEE

Note: Christopher in PCL Gabilan

Robert Eliason

Coming off a strong 2018 season in which it had its best season ever competing in the A division, Christopher High will once again be up against strong competition. Yet this year’s team seemingly has the potential to make some serious noise in the Pacific Coast League’s Gabilan Division. “We’re a stronger team,” said Billy Norman, a senior inside linebacker. “We’ve been working out really hard in the off-season, and I feel like it’s going to pay off.” Longtime Cougars coach Tim Pierleoni said it best—Christopher is in tough as it will face the likes of Aptos, Hollister, Palma and Salinas in league action. The Cougars went a respectable 3-4 in the Gabilan Division last season, and if they could improve by one game in 2019, it would be monumental because it would mean they would have beaten one of the aforementioned four league stalwarts. “Those four teams will be really tough to beat, but it’s a good challenge and I’m excited about it because we’ve had the best offseason we’ve ever had in the 11 years of the program,” Pierleoni said. “We hired a strength and conditioning guy who is dealing with the weight room, and they (the players) don’t have to hear my voice all the time. The attitude of the kids have been tremendous, and we’ve had 100 percent participation all summer long.” To summarize the state of the team, Christopher has more experience and possibly talent on the offensive and defensive line, but it is

GROUND GAME Wyatt Franklin, a senior running back, figures to play a prominent role in the Christopher offense. Franklin possesses speed, strength and reads the defense well, and has the potential to bust off big gains. younger at the skill positions. If the linemen play solid as expected and the skill position players blossom, watch out. The Cougars return twoway lineman Joe Fleming, a 6-foot3, 280-pound senior who has shined in various camps. Pierleoni and Norman were effusive in their praise for Fleming. “He is the real deal,” Pierleoni said. “He’s a dominant defensive lineman and everyone is recruiting him. He could start at tight end if we really needed him to because he’s that athletic.” The Cougars have had some dynamic quarterbacks in their program, and junior signal-caller James Goodrich could be the next one to make an impact. Pierleoni likes Goodrich’s work ethic and Norman expressed confidence that Goodrich will emerge as a quality quarterback.

“James is a real tough kid with a good arm and good touch,” Pierleoni said. “He’s put in a lot of work and he won’t quit.” Senior running back Wyatt Franklin has big-time playmaking potential, possessing speed and strength. At 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds, Franklin could become the team’s workhorse running the ball. “He’s probably the strongest kid on the team,” Pierleoni said. “We’re looking forward to seeing him have a breakout year. He sat behind Tyler Davis last year, so he’s hungry.” Sophomore wide receiver Cody Ahola has shown plenty of promise, displaying tremendous speed and focus in catching passes. As a freshman last year, Ahola was a varsity athlete in three sports: baseball, basketball and football. Ahola led the team in receiving yards and

catches in the playoff loss to powerhouse Valley Christian last season. “He’s probably the fastest kid on the team, plays with an attitude on defense and catches every ball thrown to him,” Pierleoni said. Adam Andrade, a junior receiver/safety, also has the capability to make plays with his speed and instincts. Norman has earned Pierleoni’s respect and amazement after the linebacker dislocated his shoulder twice in 2018, an injury that ended Pierleoni’s playing career. “Billy dislocated his shoulder in a game against Seaside and came back two weeks later,” Pierleoni said. “That shows me a lot of heart right there. I had a dislocated shoulder and I wanted nothing to do with football after that. For him to jump back in two weeks later shows a lot of guts.”

Returning to the field while not being close to 100 percent almost cost Norman, as the second time he dislocated his shoulder he also tore additional tendons and ligaments and chipped a bone. “Looking back on it, I don’t regret it (coming back early), but at the same time I’ll be a little more cautious if something like this happens again,” Norman said. Norman underwent surgery last November and approached physical therapy in the same way he approaches football—with a purpose and attitude. As a result, Norman was cleared for physical activities in April, a month before the original date. From there, Norman rebuilt his body, which had gotten out of shape since he couldn’t train or lift weights post surgery. “But now I’m back to where I wanted to be and more,” he said. Norman prides himself on being consistent in every aspect of the game. He likes to watch video and scout his opponents so once the game starts, he’s the most prepared player on the field. “When I go into the game, I usually know what the other team is running and what plays they like to run in certain formations,” he said. “I feel quick around linemen, I have a nose for the ball and I can shed blocks.”


2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

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2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Robert Eliason

TIME TO PLAY Gilroy High QB Tanner Eastus will be at the control of the team’s new spread offense that has been implemented by new Mustangs coach Simeon Nash. Nash came over after serving as an assistant coach at Pinole Valley High. The Mustangs seek to better last year’s 1-9 record.

GILROY HIGH

Utilizing the spread MUSTANGS HOPE NEW FORMATION REVS UP OFFENSE

SCHEDULE 8/30 at Santa Cruz, 7:30 p.m. 9/6 at Soledad, 7:30 p.m. 9/13 vs. Live Oak, 7:30 p.m. 9/27 vs. Alvarez, 7:30 p.m. 10/4 vs. Palma at Rabobank, 7:30 p.m. 10/11 vs Hollister, 7:30 p.m. 10/18 vs. Aptos, 7:30 p.m. 10/25 at Salinas, 7:30 p.m. 11/1 vs. Carmel, 7:30 p.m. 11/8 at Christopher, 7:30 p.m.

EMANUEL LEE

Note: Gilroy in PCL Gabilan

Robert Eliason

In two short years, Gilroy High went from the penthouse to the outhouse. In 2017, the Mustangs won their first-ever Central Coast Section championship, a glorious moment for the proud program. However, Gilroy fell on hard times last season, finishing 1-9 overall and 0-7 in Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division play. One of the team’s top returners, Richard Delapaz, is optimistic a turnaround is imminent. “We look good,” the senior running back and cornerback said. “This off-season we’ve really connected as a team and bonded. I’m really excited about the season.” As is Simeon Nash, the firstyear Gilroy High coach who has installed a spread offense that has the players pumped and ready to go. “The spread hasn’t been used here in a long time, but there is a whole new level of excitement among the players,” Delapaz said. “We went from the Wing T—which I really liked because I get the ball thrown to me a little more—to the spread, which is going to be great for the team. The goal for our offense is to be explosive and quick.” Nash likes what he has in quarterbacks Tanner Eastus and Jadon Perkins, two players who have the potential to put up some big numbers in the spread offense. “Tanner is still the guy, but

TOUGH, DETERMINED Richard Delapaz, a senior running back and cornerback, will be one of the players

expected to lead by example. Delapaz said the players are excited to get into game action with a new offense.

Jadon is making him work for it,” Nash said 10 days before the season-opener. “It’s a healthy competition for the starting spot.” Senior Uriel Luna has come on strong and cemented his place as one of the team’s starting wide receivers. At 5-foot-7 and 143 pounds, Luna and Delapaz—who is 5-7 and 160— are a microcosm of the Gilroy roster in that both are undersized athletes whose determination and toughness help them compete against players much bigger than they are. “I respect everyone, but when you’re out there going

up against guys 20 pounds, 40 pounds heavier, you can’t fear anyone,” Delapaz said. “You can’t let anyone get the better of you, and you just have to compete.” Luna and Delapaz have earned the respect of Nash by working hard and doing everything asked of them through summer workouts and practices. “Performance-wise they were consistent in a lot of things we asked them to do,” Nash said. “Uriel is very coachable, and not to say other players aren’t, but he came on strong and was consistent with his play. Then

his athleticism started to pick up. With Richie, he’s one of those players you have to get on the field. He’s well conditioned, in excellent shape and able to handle everything that comes his way.” Nash elected to mention only a handful of players for this article, noting players will earn their recognition in due time. He did say the team had a good group of linemen, especially on defense. “For anyone on the team, they’ll earn their recognition by their play,” he said. Delapaz was a sophomore

two years ago when he saw the Mustangs win their first CCS title. That gave him extra incentive to work hard even when things got tough. Even though the team had a rough 2018 season, a couple of seniors made an impression on him. “They helped me become a better leader,” he said. “Last season toughened me up and helped me mature. I learned a lot of things that I’m taking into this year. I’m really excited to play these tough teams again.” Delapaz had a couple of injuries last season, so he made it a point in the off-season to work on his agility, speed and durability. When Delapaz gets the ball, he reads the field well and tries to get in the open space. When he’s on defense, Delapaz relishes the challenge of shutting down the opposing receiver. “I really enjoy the physicality of going up against a receiver,” he said. “Pressing up 1 on 1, competing for jump balls. I do a lot of extra sprints to get some running and conditioning in to prepare myself to be able to play the entire game strong.”


2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

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2019 SOUTH VALLEY/SAN BENITO FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Robert Eliason

GRINDERS Blake Sicley, Joe Dickerson, Isaac Gonzalez, Michael McShane, Marcus Aranda and Juan De Leon are primed and ready to lead Hollister

football to another strong season. The Haybalers seek to win their first league championship in eignt years when it won the now defunct Tri County League.

HOLLISTER FOOTBALL

Sweet home Hollister HAYBALERS HAVE A NEW STADIUM TO CALL HOME, AND IT’S A BEAUTY

SCHEDULE 8/30 vs. Santa Teresa, 7:30 p.m. 9/6 vs. Wilcox at Levi’s Stadium, 5 p.m. 9/13 at Los Gatos, 7:30 p.m. 9/27 vs. Aptos, 7:30 p.m. 10/4 vs. Christopher, 7:30 p.m. 10/11 at Gilroy, 7:30 p.m. 10/18 vs. Alvarez, 7:30 p.m. 10/26 at Carmel, 2 p.m. 11/1 vs. Salinas, 7:30 p.m. 11/8 vs. Palma at Rabobank Stadium, 7:30 p.m. Note: Hollister in PCL Gabilan Division

EMANUEL LEE

Robert Eliason

Before the 2019 season kicks off, a significant event will have already made a positive impact for the Hollister football program. With the completion of the new stadium, the Haybalers have a facility they can be proud of and one that rivals any in the Central Coast Section. The coaches and players are fired up—perhaps even more than usual—as they set to christen the new facility on Friday in the season-opener against Santa Teresa High. “We’ll try to give the fans what they want to see—a win,” said Juan De Leon, a senior running back who is one of the team’s top returnees. Year in and year out, the Hollister football team has a work ethic second to none. The Haybalers’ end result from a wonloss standpoint usually comes down to the talent on their roster. To that end, coach Bryan Smith enters the season with optimism. “The talent I believe is improved from last year,” he said. The Balers finished 6-5 overall and 5-2 in the Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division. “We’ve got some pretty special guys I’d like to think.” Tops on that list is senior running back Juan De Leon, who rushed for over 900 yards last season and came on strong after a couple of players in front of him got injured. De Leon had a productive off-season, getting stronger on all of his lifts and packing muscle on his 5-foot-11 frame. Senior fullback Eric Green joins De Leon in the backfield, and they have the potential to form one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. At 5-10 and 225 pounds, Green is quite the load. Green, who is coming off off-season ankle surgery, has never played a full season of games due to injuries,

TIME TO RUN Hollister running back Juan De Leon rushed for over 900 yards last season after starting the

season as a backup. De Leon has a knack for running downhill and finding open spots in the defense.

Smith said. As a result, the priority will be to have Green healthy at the end of the season because he’s such an impact player. “We need to keep him away from the injury bug,” Smith said. “Obviously, we’re going to use him, but it’s nice that we do have a plethora of backs we’re going to use as well.” That includes juniors Primo Reyes and Chris Soto, two players who have come on strong in summer and fall practice. Another junior, Alejandro Cosio, could see carries as the backup fullback. Whereas Green comes ready to smash any defender that’s in his way, Cosio utilizes quickness and provides the team with another option. Junior Michael McShane returns at quarterback after starting some games last season.

McShane comported himself well as a first-year varsity signal-caller, and he’s grown both physically and mentally over the off-season. “Michael McShane has grown up a lot,” Smith said. “He got stronger in the weight room, is an above average leader and throwing the ball really well right now.” Hollister will continue to be a ground and pound team and will use play action to expose the defense. Smith said the Balers’ running backs will be utilized more in the passing game than in years past. Of course, line play is paramount, and the guys up front hold plenty of promise. Center Isaac Gonzalez, a 6-1, 260-pounder who also plays defensive tackle, and Alex Jeffery, who packed on quite a bit of muscle in the off-season, are athletic and capable of winning the

battles against the guy in front of them. Tackles Anthony Sandoval and Bryan Camarillo possess good size and can get to the second and third levels. “So in that regard we’d like to think we’re a little more talented on the offensive line than last year,” Smith said. “I’d like to think we’re bigger than the last three years, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to better talent because we don’t have the experience. But they have the ability to be better than last year’s group.” Several players have done an outstanding job in training and practice since the 2018 season ended, including senior Adam Rostran, who has moved from running back to outside linebacker this season. Possessing explosiveness and physicality,

Rostran has been the leader of the defense so far, Smith said. Junior Johnny Vigilante is another explosive talent who will play at cornerback. “He’s had a good fall in terms of QBs not really throwing his way because he’s been doing a great job of covering guys,” Smith said. “Johnny Vigilante is an extremely talented guy who played JV basketball last year. He’s a two-step, hop and go above and slam dunk the basketball. He’s very explosive.” Ricky Navarro and Joe Dickerson return to anchor the defensive line, and both have looked solid in the lead-up to the season opener. Smith said the team has a couple of question marks at inside linebacker and free safety, though backers Marcus Aranda and Blake Sicley and safeties Anthony Mercurio and Rigo Morin have the ability to turn those positions into a source of strength. Smith praised the turnaround of De Leon, who has become a 3.0 GPA student after struggling in academics in previous years. “He is part of our student congress on campus now and has done some great things personally and for our team as well,” Smith said. De Leon was motivated by a desire to be a part of the football team, knowing the facility would be in place and that “I could be a part of something special.” A hard, tough runner, De Leon has earned rave reviews from Smith.


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Football Preview 2019  

August 30, 2019

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August 30, 2019