First-year Gilroy High football head coach Brian Boyd saw last Monday’s opening of spring practices as the ideal time to raise the stakes for the roughly 40 athletes who gathered around him.
“I asked them ‘who is going to step up?’” Boyd said Wednesday, recalling one of the first encounters the newly hired coach had with a batch of his players for next season.
It’s early – the second-to-last day of practice in the allotted two-week period this time of year – to form conclusions. However, as far as Boyd is concerned, players have accepted his challenge.
“The boys came out here to work. I couldn’t ask for a better two weeks – phenomenal practices,” Boyd said. “We even put in 25 new plays.”
The Mustangs finished 4-6 in 2011, missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Boyd, who has spent the past two seasons on the GHS coaching staff, was hired as head coach 12 days before the start of spring ball and has assembled an entirely new coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Bobby Griffith up from the junior varsity level, defensive coordinator Darius Alexander-Jones, Chad Oberlander (special teams) and Billy Holler (wide receivers/defensive backs).
That word “new” tends to precede much of what surrounds the program at GHS from the new Monterey Bay League (as has been explained, the Tri-County Athletic League is now defunct and a 14-team Monterey Bay League split into an ‘A’ and ‘B’ division is now in place) to a shipment of new helmets still making its way to town. These two late-May weeks is an opportunity to lay the groundwork for summer workouts and a sneak peek at what is and can be come opening night Aug. 31 at Live Oak.
“It’s non-stop preaching at this point about respect and commitment to the program,” Boyd said. “We are really excited.”
Boyd said he is pleased with the number of players who turned out for spring football, some of whom haven’t played since freshman year but decided now marks the right time to return to the turf. He also noted a large incoming herd of 58 freshmen who signed up for the sport at orientation.
Boyd speculated his varsity squad will consist of about 45 players come fall. In that group, Boyd hopes to find his quarterback and have that signal-calling conundrum ironed out sooner than later. It’s perhaps the biggest, and most noticeable, hole to fill with the departure of two-year starter and all-leaguer Niko Fortino. The frontrunner, some 15 weeks or so before opening night, is soon-to-be senior David Carillo.
“He throws the ball really well. Our biggest concern right now is how he moves out of the pocket in coordination with our zone-read offense,” Boyd said.
Rumored on the fence about returning for his senior year, wide receiver Brenden Holler, the heir-apparent to last year’s Tri-County Athletic League Most Valuable Player Jourdan Soares, was out catching passes from Carillo on Wednesday.
Other pivotal returners for the Mustangs out dipping their toes into various drills Wednesday – returning co-Sophomore of the Year at running back Brandon Boyd, offensive linemen Izack Lugo, Jonathan Aguilar, Darius Alexander-Jones Jr. and Gianfranco Fortino, and linebacker Ian Morlang, who Boyd said will also see time at tight end.
Twenty seniors will graduate from Christopher High’s 10-2, Monterey Bay League championship 2011 football team.
The Cougars must replace seven starters from a defense that grew into one of the stingiest in the area – 11.7 points allowed per game, 193.7 yards allowed per game, three players – Patrick Mank, Mikey Pirnik and Dillon Babb – with 100-plus tackles, and so on.
The 2012 season won’t exactly be like starting over from scratch, but it’s close – and it only gets fourth-year head coach Tim Pierleoni’s competitive juices going.
“There are kids who may have not had as much playing time over the last year or so who now have a chance to step in and be big for us,” Pierleoni said at the end of practice Wednesday – the second-to-last day of spring ball for the Cougars. “That’s exciting.”
About 60 players participated in the two-week period know as spring practice, all anxious to make a name for themselves as they follow in the footsteps of their departed peers.
Familiar faces on the field Wednesday – defensive end/tight end Takoda Bowers, cornerback Brandon Kleder, running back/cornerback Rayshon Mills, lineman Tyler DeCarlo (returning second-team all-leaguer) and middle linebacker Jacob Moen, who, as a freshman, was called up late last season and registered 32 tackles, one fumble recovery, one interception and 1.5 sacks in four games.
At 6-foot-5, and seemingly not stopping there, Bowers will be a force at defensive end for Pierleoni’s rugged defense, which is now run by coach Larry Murphy.
“Our defense is what really made us good last season. I don’t think people really realized how good we were on defense,” Pierleoni said. “I think it’s important that we stay focused on that side of the ball and make sure our success contuinues there.”
Moving away from the D, similar to its crosstown rival Gilroy High, CHS will also be starting a brand- new quarterback on opening night. Gone is three-year starter Brandon Pickens. So Joel Jimenez and Anthony Sammut switched off running the Cougars spread offense Wednesday. Also expected to be in competition for the job is Sterling Montgomery, who quarterbacked the junior varsity team last season.
“Joel has the most experience, he knows the plays,” Pierleoni said. “It’s a matter of us finding the best fit for what we want to do.”
Mills, who started at running back last season as a sophomore before having his year come to an end following a suspension for violating team rules, will be key in maintaining the Cougars’ up-tempo offense.
“We are going to add a few things to what we already have in place,” Pierleoni hinted. “We are going to throw the ball quite a bit this summer.”