FOOTBALL: Rams’ excitement builds as Week 1 approaches

Gavilan's Ed Bernard works to outrun a tackle during a team scrimmage Friday at Gilroy High School.

Omar Kharroub feels the difference. Tim Rodriguez notices it too. And both Gavilan College sophomore football players have a hunch that everyone else soon will as well.

“It’s a new team, a new season. We are here to play football,” said Rodriguez, the Gavilan’s starting middle linebacker, who also pointed out that the Rams will sport brand new uniforms. “We aren’t here to goof around. We can’t wait to get on the field.”

In the minds of all involved, last year’s tumultuous season, which saw Gavilan struggle to 0-10 amid a sea of off-the-field issues that divided the players, is long gone. Carried by a self-assigned responsibility to right a ship that has drifted off course in recent years, a refreshing sense of excitement has swept across the Gilroy community college.

“All of us are really motivated to win. I didn’t see that determination last year. We are playing this season to win. That’s our ultimate goal,” said Kharroub, who will start under center for Gavilan this season. “We want to prove to our city that we can do it.”

Forty-four players are collectively purpose driven, Kharroub added, which is a far cry from the forlorn fall of 2011.

“One big thing that changed this year, which I noticed right when spring started, the team has much more chemistry,” he said. “Last year the players had issues between each other. We didn’t click as friends and family. Now, we have a team dinner every week. After practice, it’s hard for us to go home. We are always in the parking lot after just hanging out and talking football.”

All the chatter right now is about Game 1, Saturday versus Yuba College.

“The guys are all chomping at the bit,” second-year head coach Spencer Gilford said.  “They are ready to get out on the field and hit somebody. Now, it’s a matter of putting it all together and making sure the fundamentals are sound.”

Consensus is that the Rams have made vast improvements on both sides of the ball by way of a strong class of incoming freshmen and the return of 15 sophomores, who are back for redemption.

“The talent we have coming in is great to see. It shows there is still some faith in Gavilan,” Rodriguez said. “We are looking at this season as a chance to put Gav back on the map and change peoples’ point of view. It’s a great school, a great education and great coaching staff.”

Kharroub knew he needed to make a personal change as well. He shed 25 pounds in the offseason, all the while adding muscle mass and immersing himself in all that is the Gavilan playbook.

“Now when I’m under center, I am understanding more of what I’m seeing in the opposing defenses,” he said.

It helps, too, that behind him will be returning All-Coast Conference and All-California Region III first-team running back Jakari Johnson (5-foot-11, 193 pounds), who is the center of a three-headed backfield – including sophomore Ed Bernard and freshman Donovan Weatherspoon – that Gilford tabs as the best trio in the conference.

Kharroub can also take solace in a revamped offensive line, featuring five freshmen – Alfredo Mireles (Gilroy High), Cristian Galvan (San Benito), Matt Meyer (San Benito), Joe Gularte (San Benito) and center Kevin Taylor (Sobrato). Their play during the offseason even has defensive players taking notice.

“That’s our biggest improvement to be honest,” Rodriguez said of the offensive line.

Freshman receiver Marcus Harrell figures to provide the spark he often lit at Christopher High last season. Contributions at wide out are also expected to come from Danny Maiello, Bobby Guyton and Christian Goldstein.

“I think we are stacked on both sides on the ball,” Rodriguez said. “We have a strong core. It comes down to how we bring it together on the field and how we execute.”

  9/1/12 Yuba 5 p.m. Gilroy  
  9/8/12 Shasta 1 p.m. Redding  
  9/15/12 Contra Costa 5 p.m. Gilroy  
  9/22/12 College of the Redwoods 1 p.m. Eureka  
  9/29/12 West Hills 7 p.m. Coalinga  
  10/13/12 Monterey Peninsula* 5 p.m. Gilroy  
  10/20/12 San Jose City*# 5 p.m. Gilroy  
  10/27/12 West* 6 p.m. Saratoga  
  11/03/12 Hartnell* 6 p.m. Salinas  
  11/10/12 Cabrillo* 1 p.m. Gilroy

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