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September 27, 2022

Joel Rueda returns to lead Sobrato High football

It’s difficult for a high school football program to have sustained success if the coaching staff turns over every couple of years. 

Sobrato High has had its fair share of football coaching changes recently which makes the hiring of Joel Rueda a vital one. In May, Rueda became Sobrato’s third coach in the last four years. The 2010 Sobrato High graduate succeeds Jubenal Rodriguez, who stepped down after two seasons. 

It was a symbolic passing of the torch as Rueda counts Rodriguez as one of his mentors, having assisted under Rodriguez at Gilroy High and Monte Vista Christian. Last year, Rueda was one of MVC’s assistant football coaches and the head track and field coach.

But the 30-year-old Hollister resident found a teaching position that opened up at Sobrato for the 2022-2023 school year, which allowed him the opportunity to become the next Sobrato football coach. 

“Coming home is extra special,” he said. “I step on campus everyday and feel like it’s exactly where I need to be. My first coaching job at Gilroy High was special as well because all of my family are from Gilroy even though I went to Sobrato. So the family connection was there. MVC was unique, too, because it was my first time coaching at a private school. But this is absolutely the place where I want to be.”

Rueda was a freshman on the 2006 Sobrato team, the same year Rodriguez was a senior. 

“He kind of took me under his wing, and we developed a good relationship,” Rueda said. “Coach Rodriguez is a phenomenal coach and his track record speaks for itself. Having been able to coach underneath him, I know how he approached things and there is no doubt he left pretty big shoes to fill. But everyone has different coaching styles, and I’m finding my niche as I’m going.”

One of Rodriguez’s and Rueda’s close friends, the late Adrian Alcantara, was the main connection point for this coaching transition to take place. 

“When he (Rodriguez) resigned, coach Alcantara put it in my ear that I had to come back home,” Rueda said. “That this was the spot for me. That is what got the ball rolling.”

Even though Rueda got hired late in the process, he said the players’ attitudes and mindsets have made the transition smoother. 

“Because of the timing I got hired late, but the kids have made it easier with how much they love the game and embrace the grind,” Rueda said. “I haven’t heard one complaint since I’ve been hired. They’ve done everything I’ve asked of them and that goes to show you how driven these kids are. 

“The young JV guys who are coming up to the varsity, they didn’t win a game last year and you can tell they’re hungry because everyday they mean business. And the returning varsity guys know how close they were to having a possible playoff berth last year, and they don’t want that to happen again. They’re driven and want to get to the dance.”

Rueda said the line play will clearly be the strength of the team this season. They have a strong core group of returning linemen, led by senior nose guard/offensive tackle Ryan McGlashan, and juniors Lucas Laisure and Jorge Mendoza, who play offensive guard and defensive end. 

Sophomore center Talyn Castellanos has also been strong in the summer in complementing the returning trio, Rueda said. Another sophomore, offensive tackle/nose guard Gustavo Ureta, has tremendous potential. 

“If he does what he is supposed to do in the classroom and in the off-season, he can be a very, very special player for us in one to two years,” Rueda said. “He’s 6-3, 320 pounds, so he’s definitely got the size.”

Sobrato took a big hit in the off-season as senior quarterback Seth Hernstedt opted not to play to focus on baseball and junior running back/linebacker Remy Hernandez transferred to Valley Christian. For Rueda, that means other players have the opportunity to step up and develop into impact players in a hurry. 

Rueda hopes the team has success utilizing Ben Castellanos in a Deebo Samuel type role at receiver and running back. 

“Ben has been awesome and he can make plays anywhere,” Rueda said. 

Seniors Daniel Gutierrez and Aidan Butler play safety and receiver, and Rueda hopes Butler’s speed will translate into some big plays for the team on both sides of the ball. 

“Aidan runs the 100 (meter dash) in slightly above 11 seconds,” Rueda said. “We can use that speed.”

Junior Noah Taylor has been taking reps at quarterback and outside linebacker, making a big impression at the latter position. 

“During the summer, Noah was a monster on defense flying around the field and making plays,” Rueda said. “He was the guy the other coaches would have to tell to relax (during non-tackle passing leagues or drills). He’s a really special athlete and should be a standout two-way player.”

Sobrato opens the season Aug. 27 at home against Alisal High. Kickoff is set for 2:30pm. 

“The guys are chomping at the bit to get going,” Rueda said. “They’re ready to rock and roll.”

Junior two-way lineman Lucas Laisure is a returning starter for the Bulldogs. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Junior two-way lineman Jorge Mendoza returns to help bolster Sobrato’s play up front. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Sports Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. PR of 3:13.40 at the 2019 CIM. Hebrews 12:1.

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