Mustangs look to ride team speed to TCAL crown
*The schedule was incorrectly printed in Tuesday’s Dispatch. Corrected times can be found below
Expectations swirling around the Gilroy High School football team soared prior to the 2009-10 season.
After two straight Tri-County Athletic League championships and deep runs into the Central Coast Section playoffs, it came as no surprise.
But after an unexpected 1-3 start, and a lack of team cohesion, the expectations morphed into the reality that the season wasn’t going to blossom with the fruits of a third league title.
That chapter has ended and the book closed on the saga that was 2009.
This offseason has been gut-check time for the boys in blue. Head coach Greg Garcia has stressed the ingredients to a turnaround season – a message of dedication, work ethic unlike season’s past, and a desire and want to perform at a level unadulterated by distractions.
“It’s a whole new idea of creating and owning an identity,” Garcia said. “It starts with the coaching staff and it goes down to the kids. The kids have to start believing in what we are doing, why we are doing it and the reasoning.”
The new attitude has swept over the 2010-11 Mustangs. Their demeanor and posture – shoulders back, chest out, bursting with energy – is evident.
“Don’t ask me why, but it’s paying off,” Garcia said. “We started doing the weights, the running, the training. Once you start putting in that work and effort, it’s hard to stop. The kids are getting along great. There is a brotherhood. We preach that this is your family away from home and they have that identity and know what we are talking about when we say that.”
The Mustangs’ goals, aside from the typical expectations of a return to the top of the TCAL standings and Central Coast Section success, are shaped differently.
“We looked back at last year and were motivated to not be that way again. We have a set of leaders this year. The seniors are getting the underclassmen ready,” said senior linebacker and fullback Ben Torricer. “We want to show that we can hit and play with the top dogs.”
The Mustangs were able to showcase their new-found passion at a four-team (Independence, San Benito and Live Oak) scrimmage last Friday at Live Oak.
Junior Niko Fortino will step in at the quarterback position, the third different starting quarterback for GHS in as many years.
Fortino possess the arm strength and quick release necessary to perform in the Mustangs’ no-huddle, quick-strike offense.
After a shaky start against Independence in the first scrimmage of the evening Friday, Fortino found his groove and displayed his poise in the pocket.
“I’m starting to get a feel for the offense,” said Fortino, who was the starting signal caller last season for the junior varsity squad. “I’ve had to work on my reads and knowing defenses. I have quick receivers, so that helps a lot.”
Fortino is surrounded by a wealth of speed on the offensive side of the ball.
Beginning with Christian Salazar and Romeo Travis out of the backfield, who each broke off big runs of 20-plus yards Friday, and Julius Travis and Jourdan Soares on the outside, among others, the Mustangs will no doubt utilize their quickness to execute the spread offense.
Jarrod York, one of just two sophomores on the roster and one of a number of new faces, including Ryan Alba and Jordan Boyd, who will make immediate impacts. York will add another wrinkle to the Mustangs’ offense. On the roster as the back-up quarterback and defensive back, York took a few snaps at the scrimmage and fired up his teammates with a 40-yard scamper down the left sideline, leaving the defenders in his wake.
In all. the Mustangs have 22 seniors on a depth chart of 37 players. It’s the right mix of experience and youth.
With the implementation of the 3-5-3 defense for the first time since the 2007 season, the Mustangs again will emphasize team speed, as well as aggressive ball pursuit to shore up an area where they struggled a year ago – stopping the run.
“We are blitzing a lot and closing up the middle,” Torricer said. “We have a good set of guys who are fast enough to contain the outside if anything breaks loose. I think it will work out pretty well.”
Gilroy begins the 2010 trek on the road against a familiar opponent in Live Oak in Morgan Hill. The Mustangs defeated the Acorns 36-13 in the 2009 season opener.
The Mustangs will stay on the road for a Week 2 matchup with Saratoga before making their home debut against Leland on Sept. 17, the final non-league affair before opening TCAL play against North Salinas on Oct. 2.
“Everybody is really proud this year,” Fortino said. “We are starting to catch up with teams and get a lot better. We are in a lot better condition. I think we are going to to really well as long as we keep practicing and going hard.”
Ins, outs and who to watch
2009-10 record: 4-6-1 overall, 3-2-1 in TCAL. Lost to Milpitas in CCS playoffs, 58-3.
Important victories from 2009:
n Nov. 6 vs. North Salinas, 53-27. On homecoming, it was the highest offensive output of the season and kept the door open for a playoff berth.
n Nov. 13 vs. San Benito, 35-30. A thrilling back-and-forth affair that saw the Mustangs come from behind to win their third straight VFW Memorial Trophy.
Key Departures: Jordan Holler, Nico Sandoval, Nick Marra, Jordan Mitchell, Adrian Melendez, Mark Salazar, Tommy Silvas.
Notable Returners: WR/DB – Romeo Travis, WR/DB – Julius Travis, LB/RB – Eric Vegas, TE – Thomas Harrington, DB – Jourdan Soares, LB/RB – Ben Torricer.
Keep an eye out: Christian Salazar – The senior looked good in last Friday’s scrimmages, seeing time at both running back and linebacker. Salazar, came up with two huge hits against San Benito in the teams’ final scrimmage of the evening. His addition, as a versatile player, bodes well for the Mustangs.
n Jarrod York – Coaches are high on this sophomore QB, and why not? York’s open field speed is scary and he will assuredly be used to shake up the offensive scheme from time to time.
n Eric Vegas – Injured for much of last season, Vegas returns in great shape, and along with Ben Torricer, will be a key figure in the Mustangs linebacking core. He will also be hard to stop down near the goal line.
Mark your calendars: Two monster home games.
Nov. 5 vs. San Benito. Nov. 12 vs CHS.
9/3 7:00 p.m. @ Live Oak
9/10 7:30 p.m. @ Saratoga
9/17 7:30 p.m. Leland
10/2 7:30 p.m. @ N. Salinas*
10/8 7:30 p.m. @ Alvarez*
10/15 7:30 p.m. Alisal*
10/22 7:30 p.m. Salinas*
10/29 7:30 p.m. @ Palma*
11/5 7:30 p.m. San Benito*
11/12 7:30 p.m. Christopher
Number Year Position
1 Mario Gomez 11 PK
2 Nicholas Olivares 12 RB/LB
3 Thomas Harrington 12 TE/LB
4 Jourdan Soares 11 WR/DB
5 Tim Roberts 11 WR/DB
6 Jordan Boyd 12 RB/DB
7 Ryan Alba 11 TE/DB
8 Niko Fortino 11 QB/LB
9 Jordan Headley 11 TE/DB
10 Ben Torricer 12 LB/RB
11 Felix Gonzalez 12 DB/WR
12 Brent Newton 11 RB/DB
17 Justin Nelson 11 TE/DB
19 Jarrod York 10 QB/DB
21 Romeo Travis 12 WR/DB
22 Eric Martinez 12 DB/WR
24 Julius Travis 12 WR/DB
26 Colin Humber 11 TE/LB
27 Chris Hernandez 12 DB/WR
34 Christian Salazar 12 RB/LB
38 Joaquin Trejo 12 LB/TE
44 Eric Vegas 12 LB/RB
45 Brett Newton 12 LB/RB
50 Andrew Santiago 12 LB/TE
52 Josh Lucero 12 DL/TE
53 Ricky Alvarado 10 DL/OL
54 Jesus Elias 12 DL/TE
56 Eddy Canseco 11 DL/OL
58 Cordero Gonzales 12 OL/DL
60 Steven Marquez 11 OL/DL
68 Alfredo Mireles 11 OL/DL
69 Devon Castaneda 12 OL/DL
70 Reese Anderson 12 DL/OL
72 Julian Marquez 11 DL/OL
77 Caeser Garcia 12 DL/OL
78 Rigo Garcia 12 OL/DL