When Sobrato High football coach Jubenal Rodriguez was officially hired last August, he immediately talked about building a culture that put an emphasis on winning and losing with class. The latter was tested Thursday night when the Bulldogs were run over by host Leigh, 41-8, in the season-opener for both teams. Yet, as Sobrato senior standout Seth Iven said, “We never gave up and went to the final whistle.”
Even though Sobrato didn’t win on the scoreboard, Rodriguez and his coaching staff felt the players purported themselves well, played hard until the end and kept a positive attitude in defeat. Considering the Bulldogs only had 19 players suited up to to play—approximately 14 who were seeing their first varsity action—Rodriguez saw the game as a building block for the future.
“Absolutely, there are a lot of positives we can take from this game,” he said. “The guys are buying in, I’m happy with the group and I was really excited for the sideline culture for Game 1. It was extremely motivating because we’re all on the same page. We’re just happy we’re playing.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sobrato was playing for the first time since November 2019, a span of 16 months. The Bulldogs are extremely inexperienced—they only have a handful of seniors on the squad—which is why Rodriguez knows this is a building year for the future.
A member of Sobrato’s first graduating class of 2007, Rodriguez likes the talent and makeup of his players. Iven, a burly 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior defensive lineman and receiver, helped account for the game’s largest play from scrimmage and the team’s only touchdown when he connected with Nathan Ortiz for a 67-yard score with 7:36 left in the second quarter.
The play was a double handoff first going from quarterback Seth Herdenstet to Remy Hernandez to Iven, who threw a perfect pass to a wide-open Ortiz down the middle of the field. The TD cut Sobrato’s deficit to 14-8, but it would get no closer as three turnovers led to 14 Leigh points and key breakdowns offensively and defensively contributed to the blowout defeat. Just a sophomore seeing his first varsity action under center, Herdenstet had his ups and downs, which Rodriguez expected given he was competing at a higher level with a new offense and new coach.
“I liked some of the things I saw out of Seth tonight, and he will continue to get better and better,” Rodriguez said.
Hernandez, a freshman running back, has a ton of potential, Rodriguez said, and is expected to be an impact player for the next four seasons. Rudy Quiroz, an inside linebacker, provides a consistent, playmaking presence on the field and is one of the team’s few seniors on the roster. Junior running back Trey Bringuel impressed as well, rushing for a team-high 103 yards on 19 carries.
“Trey was definitely a highlight tonight,” Rodriguez said.
Leigh totaled 348 yards of offense to Sobrato’s 200. The Longhorns did most of their damage on the ground, where it finished with 287 yards. Despite the subdued looks on the Sobrato players’ faces afterward, Iven was plenty motivated to keep improving. As a senior standout, Iven expressed a desire to build up the younger players on the squad.
“What kept me motivated (in a long off-season) was being here for the team, teaching the young kids and improving myself,” said Iven, who also made a nifty catch in between two defenders in the back corner of the end zone but was ruled out of bounds late in the third quarter. “I really want to help the program grow and be a good Sobrato alumni in the future. I know tonight’s score wasn’t what we wanted, but just playing football and bringing back a normal lifestyle is great.”
Sobrato, which is again competing in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Santa Teresa Division this season, next plays on March 27 against Independence.