LOHS grad, Roberts, could start at several positions
GILROY — A revamped Gavilan College football team, including 48 newcomers, has head coach John Lango and his coaching staff bursting at the seams to begin the 2010-11 season.
“This is the best group of men we’ve assembled at Gavilan,” assessed Lango, who enters his 11th go-around with the Rams, of his squad.
“They work hard, they are coachable. Their work ethic is just a lot better. That transfers over to the weight room and on to the field.”
The combination of coachable players and at least 15 experienced sophomores leads Lango to believe that, despite the tough schedule, the team can compete effectively every Saturday for 10 weeks.
The Rams face “one of the tougher nonconference schedules,” Lango said, before the team embarks on a five-game Coast Conference challenge.
Lango is eager to start the season Sept. 11 against 2009 champion De Anza at 1 p.m. in Cupertino.
The Coast Conference is designated as a ‘C’ conference. Gavilan plays two ‘B’ conference teams, De Anza and Merced, to open the year, followed by two games against ‘A’ conference squads, College of Sequoias and Modesto. Gavilan earns a break in its final preconference game, visiting ‘C’ conference member Contra Costa.
The Gavilan athletic department has opted to play as many afternoon games as possible. The Rams’ four home games will have 1 p.m. starts at Garcia-Elder Sports Complex. Only a Coast Conference showdown with San Jose City College at 7 p.m. Oct. 16.
Based upon the large number of freshmen, Lango emphasized the importance of being as well-rounded as possible.
“We need to be excellent on defense and special teams,” he said. “We are so young that we must be sound on offense.”
The defense, featuring most of the experience, is anchored by a trio of sophomores at linebacker.
Dustin Leffew, a starter last year, is one of four team captains. Chris Archuletta, who sat out last year because of a baseball injury, is set at middle linebacker. James Stanfield, who saw significant playing time a year ago, completes the linebacker starters.
“We have 10 linebackers and nine defensive linemen,” Lango added about this year’s depth. “We are bigger and more physical than in the past at linebacker. On the defensive line, we have alot of guys who could start. We’ll teach many of the linemen to learn several positions.
“I’d be comfortable with any of seven or eight potential linemen.” added Lango.
Richard Perez, the line’s lone sophomore, “will play everywhere,” Lango said.
Likely to get plenty of action on the field are Taylor Cousttete (at either end spot), Luis Padilla, Anthony Solima, Richard Perez and Javier Licea.
Armond Henderson, at 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, “plugs up the middle and will take on double teams,” Lango said of the freshman from Los Banos.
Ryan Costa, a sophomore team captain who ran back an interception 74 yards against West Valley in 2009, is entrenched at one corner spot. Three freshmen, including Mikey Benavides out of North Salinas High, will compete for the other corner position.
“We are a better team than last year because of our strong work ethic, from the weight room to the classroom for meetings and on the field,” Costa said. “We had 19 interceptions as a team last year and I see no reason why we can’t pick off another 20 this year.”
Bryan Gutierrez, a freshman out of Hollister, is primed to play strong safety.
“Bryan can cover and play the run, just what we need from our strong safety,” Lango said.
Jeff Roberts, the top overall athlete on the roster and a team captain, will spend some time at free safety. The versatile Live Oak graduate will spend his sophomore campaign in many roles, befitting the ‘Slash’ nickname earned from the coaching staff. Adam Santa Ana is also set to play the free safety position.
“I’m ready to play any position,” Roberts said.
His versatility has led to practice time at quarterback, running back, wide-out, linebacker and safety.
“I haven’t played defense since junior varsity in high school, but I am willing to help out anywhere,” Roberts added. “This is a fresh start for the team. Since offseason workouts, this team has shown the desire to get better every day.”
Lango is pleased he has four potential quarterbacks to lead the Rams.
“We’ve finally settled our quarterback situation after several years,” said the coach. “We have four players trying to play quarterback and it’s been quite a battle.”
Roberts, who quarterbacked the Acorns two years ago, played the position occasionally last fall. Sean Berglund, out of Portland, “has a rocket of an arm.” Cameron Hernandez, out of Milpitas High, “has a confident presence in the huddle.” John Criswell, a left-hander, is “the most physical of the four. If he’s not the starter he’ll be on the field in some way,” Lango said of the four signal callers aiming for the starting role.
The “running game by committee” plan for this season evolves from Lango’s belief that the team has several ball-carriers of equal ability. Two sophomores expected to handle the halfback spot are James Gaynor and Doug Stewart. Gaynor ran back a kick-off 84 yards for a touchdown against Monterey Peninsula College and added a 54-yard punt return against Contra Costa. A potential starter at fullback is 30-year-old sophomore Johnny Escobar, who played on defense in 2009. Other candidates are Marcus Patrick out of Sobrato and Josh Herrera from James Lick.
“We’re extremely young at receiver,” explained Lango. The lone sophomore is Excaliber Holder, a defensive player for Gavilan in 2008. Two Berkeley High products, Matt McGill and Tajh Shelby, may find starting spots. Chad West, a 5-foot-6 wide-out from Tracy, will also see playing time.
Lango calls returning center David Tapia-Padron, a 6-foot-1, 310-pounder, “the runt of the line.”
Likely starting guards are Tim Duran (6-foot-3, 310) and Isaac Ramos-Cornejo (6-foot-2, 310). Charles Gallagher (6-foot-5, 290) is a potential Division I player at tackle, according to Lango. Nick Hill and James Neu, both 6-foot-5, should see extensive time at tackle.
Lango was pleased to get the squad through a 60-play scrimmage Saturday. The Rams will have one more full scrimmage next Saturday before beginning preparation for the opener opposite De Anza.