The Sobrato High defense was lights-out in a 29-8 win over SLV in a Week 2 game in 2019. Photo by Robert Eliason.
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It’s been a frustrating season for the Sobrato High football team—not in terms of its won-loss record—but in the fact that the Bulldogs have played only one game through the first three weeks of the season. Sobrato (1-0) hosts Mount Pleasant on Saturday at 3 p.m. after the teams’ original date on Sept. 14 was cancelled due to hot conditions and poor air quality. 

Sobrato also had its Week 1 contest against Monte Vista Christian cancelled due to a fluke lighting issue. 

“We were all pretty mad because it seems like opportunities have been taken away from us,” said Raymond Valles, a starting cornerback. “But there is nothing we can do about it now, so we’ll move on and get prepared like we always do.”

In the Bulldogs’ lone game—a 29-8 win over San Lorenzo Valley on Sept. 7—it was the Sobrato defense that stood tall, limiting SLV to a paltry 110 yards of total offense. The defense set the tone early, as Jona Turagavou returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game to give the Bulldogs an early lead they would never relinquish. 

“Jona really got us going with that pick 6,” Valles said. “That was the play of the game, and we came out busting on defense. Jona will do anything for this team, and he has a big heart to play the game and for this team.”

Sobrato’s defense had to be on point because the offense struggled, finishing with just 151 yards. Caleb Cueba had two sacks, while Joshua Balderas and Turagavou had one interception each. Cueba had a huge game, as he also recovered a fumble and produced nine tackles, including three for losses. That matched the team-best mark with Turagavou—who was spectacular on both sides of the ball—finishing with three tackles for losses and 10 tackles total. 

Orion Woods had nine tackles in another solid performance at linebacker. Cueba and Raul Perez led the way on the defensive line, while Woods and Turagavou had outstanding performances at linebacker. Jackson Gonzales and Valles played well at cornerback for the Bulldogs, who avenged a 40-0 loss to SLV last year. 

“It was sweet revenge,” Valles said. “The key for us on defense is we’re communicating and everyone is doing their assignments. We owe it all to our coaches because they’re making us better. Especially for me in they’ve made me from the ground up. They put me to work and I got better.”

Valles said he weighed only 110 pounds as a freshman, which didn’t help him see the field much that year on the junior varsity squad. But he had a breakout sophomore season, and now has bumped his weight up to 140 pounds. The muscle Valles has gained over the last couple of years has helped him on the field to be more physical. 

“I got into the gym my sophomore year and started to gain some weight,” he said. “I was always the smallest guy on the team, so I had to put the work in to get myself in a position where I could start on the varsity and make plays.”

Valles said SLV had the ball at the Sobrato 2-yard line on two separate occasions in the game, only to see the Sobrato defense stuff SLV in its tracks both times. 

“We were playing at a high intensity to stuff those drives,” he said. “We got the ball back to the offense and put them in position to score.”

Jordan Sheets and Jose Reyes accounted for touchdowns, and Seth Iven was 3 for 3 on field goal attempts. If Iven can continue converting field goals, he’ll be a huge weapon in close games. Reyes had one reception, but he made it count in the form of a 45-yard TD catch, and Sheets had a rushing TD. Valles said the team has trust in each other, so when the offense is struggling the defense will be there to pick things up and vice versa. Last spring, Valles teamed with Gonzales and Jesse Redmond to form 3/4ths of the 4×100 meter relay team during the track season. 

“I would say Jesse was the fastest out of us three,” said Valles, who also ran the 100- and 200-meter events. “We have that chemistry in track and football. Throughout the whole off-season everyone was in the weight room trying to get better for this season.”

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