After going undefeated and winning its first-ever Central Coast Section championship, what can Gilroy High possibly do for an encore? What we do know is that the Mustangs have a new head coach, Jake Newman, a promotion into a tougher division, the Pacific Coast Gabilan Division, and a whole new set of expectations after going 13-0 in 2017. So it goes, but Newman, 24, looks and acts the part of an old sideline pro. Having an elite running back in Joseph Barnes helps, too.
“My goal is 200 yards and two touchdowns every game,” said Barnes, who rushed for 1,807 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.
It’s an ambitious goal, but after the numbers Barnes put up last year, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound fullback will look to match or exceed the production that earned him the Monterey Bay League Pacific Division Offensive Player of the Year award in 2017.
“He’s a stud, a great football player, and a great wrestler, and he has great character,” Newman said. “He improves everyone around him; he makes sure guys are in the right spots. He’s quick and powerful with good open space speed. He runs low, and he makes the cuts.”
Gilroy’s Wing T-offense is an offense based on deception. It uses multiple backs, and a quick offensive line to seal off defenders to get the ball downfield. Typically, it’s a four, or (ideally) five yards-at-a-time offense, with a periodic splash play when the time is right. Precision is critical, to sell options, fakes and pulling guards must be quick.
“We’ll generate a lot of our offense on the ground,” Newman said. “Traditional Wing T’s usually don’t pass much, but we want to use the weapons we have given the situation.”
The starting quarterback job will come down to Brandon Weiler, a 5-11,185 pound senior or Brendan Doyle, a 6-1 185 pound sophomore. Weiler, who was also an All Monterey Bay League Pacific Division linebacker, took over the starting quarterback job midway through last year and passed for 445 yards and six touchdowns. He has the athleticism and experience, while Doyle has the stronger arm.
“We have some leaders out there who are trying to get things going,” Newman said. “We don’t have that guy right now who’s going to keep everyone on edge. We have a milder team. They do their part, and they don’t say a lot. They lead by example.”
Gilroy’s offensive line is anchored by seniors Jordan Amos, a 6-foott, 285-pound tackle, and 5-10, 220-pound guard Salvador Zendejas. Starting center is between Seniors Zach LaFon (5-7, 180) and Anthony Ramos (5-5, 220) will vie for the starting center position.
“Nothing is written in stone,” Newman said. “You can gain a job, and you can lose a job, (and) nobody is untouchable on the depth chart.”
The head job at Gilroy is Newman’s first job as a head coach, and it comes on the heels of a CCS title run.
“They need to do their fakes at 100 mph, every time, not sometimes,” Newman said. “We want more team camaraderie. A lot of teams lack that at all four levels, freshmen through seniors. What we’re trying to do is build a program, not a team.”
Being in a new, tougher, division will demand their attention. Last year the Mustangs were 6-0 against their former division rivals, averaging more than 40 points a game against Alisal, Watsonville, Monterey, North Monterey County, and Pajaro Valley.
“They were in the B League—they should have been higher,” Newman said of Gilroy’s new league. “It’s a big step, but we’re excited about it. You want to play your best, but you may not go 13-0. Losing games is part of growing, and you learn about yourself and your team. We’re excited about being in the A-league.”
On defense, where Newman made his bones as a defensive lineman, the Mustangs will run a multi-front scheme, either a 5-2, 4-3, or 4-4 alignment based on the situation.
“The D-line is close to my heart,” Newman said. “We want eight guys we can tap into. Raymond Hernandez, Salvador Zendejas, Zach LaFon, Heber Saucedo, and Anthony Ramon might play on the D-line. You don’t need to be huge to play on the defensive line. You need to have a motor, and not take plays off.”
Newman, also a physical education teacher at Gilroy High, went to El Diamante High School in Visalia. He played one-and-a-half years of community college ball at the College of the Sequoias. From there he caught the eye of fellow Visalian Ron Roberts, then the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana University where Newman starred as a defensive end.
The era of two-a-days, or Hell Week, are over. If a coach decides to hold a two-a-day practice, they aren’t allowed to practice the day after. Even at 24-years old, Newman thinks that attention spans for high school students have shrunk.
“We keep it to two-and-a-half hours, longer than that, they don’t really retain information,” Newman said. “With me being a first-year coach, you don’t want to go too long. Otherwise, you just yell. I think there’s a natural balance. They respect you, and you respect them for what they do for you. You need to be there for your kids. My door is always open, and they often call me at 10 or 11 p.m.”
For the 2018 Gilroy High team, last year is history, and 2017 will endure as one of the brightest times in program history. But in the season-opener on Saturday at Liberty High School, Newman’s new-look Mustangs will see what their present is.
“We’re trying to build at all four levels, freshmen through seniors,” Newman said. “A lot of teams don’t do that. We’re trying to do is build a program, not just a team.”
8/25 at Liberty Union-Brentwood, 4 p.m.
8/31 vs. Soledad, 7:30 p.m.
9/7 vs. Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
9/21 at Alvarez, 7:30 p.m.
9/28 vs. Palma, 7:30 p.m.
10/5 vs. Hollister at Rabobank, 7:30 p.m.
10/12 at Aptos, 7:30 p.m.
10/19 vs. Salinas, 7:30 p.m.
10/26 at Seaside, 7:30 p.m.
11/2 vs. Christopher, 7:30 p.m.