The Gavilan College football program is in a much different place than it was a year ago. The Rams, who finished 0-10 last season and had just 31 players available in their final game of the season, enter padded practices next week with a roster in the mid-50s. in addition to having increased bodies, the culture of the program has taken shape under coach John Lango, who is in his second stint with the program.
“Whatever happens (from a won-loss standpoint), I love these group of guys,” Lango said. “The depth is different, the camaraderie has been excellent and we have great leadership, which helps a ton. We weren’t very good last year, so we brought in some additional talent. So far I’ve been really happy with what I’ve been seeing from these guys. What does that mean? I don’t know. We were 0-10 last year, so the only way to go is up.”
The Rams, who open the season with a home game against Los Medanos College at Gilroy High on Sept. 6, are using their added numbers to good use. Competition remains fierce at nearly every position, starting at quarterback where returning signal-caller John Bell is in competition for the starting job. There are four QBs on the roster, and given the physical nature of community college football, even the players third or fourth on the depth chart could hear their number called at some point in the season.
“Last year we had to move guys around and make do (especially on the offensive line),” Lango said. “This year we have some players who can do multiple things on the field.”
That list includes a trio of freshmen in Corbin Muckel, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound tight end/defensive end out of Shasta High; Bryant Camp, a 6-3, 185-pound wide receiver/safety out of Los Banos High; and Bobby Ruiz, a cornerback/receiver/returner out of Gunderson High.
“Corbin works hard, is very coachable and is an intelligent football player we can see doing lot of different stuff for us,” Lango said. “We have a lot of guys who can play both sides of the ball, and we’re very happy about that.”
The Rams return Richard Justo, a 6-3, 320-pound defensive tackle who stuffs the opposing team’s run game and commands double teams. Nicknamed The Chief, Justo leads by example and combines brute strength with athleticism.
“Richard is a nice all-around player and is going to be a force on the inside,” Lango said. “He’s probably one of our two Division I sophomore prospects.”
Safety Alec Calderon, like Justo, leads by example and lets his play do all the talking. Calderon had four interceptions last season, anticipates the play and has tremendous closing speed, whether it’s to the ball or the opposing receiver. Calderon returned an interception for a touchdown against Reedley last year, showcasing his playmaking ability.
“Alec was an all-conference honorable mention player last year and is a 3.9 GPA student,” Lango said. “We run two high safeties and he can play both positions.”
Freshman Devin Pacheco, a 6-3, 285-pound lineman, highlights the improved talent and depth on the line this season. At this time in 2018, Gavilan had three legitimate offensive linemen. When fall camp opens next week, the Rams have six to seven offensive linemen and six defensive linemen who are ready to go and make an impact.
“The work ethic from our guys has been good, and we’ll put a better product on the field for sure,” Lango said. “We’ve already started recruiting for 2020 and talked to incoming high school seniors already, and we didn’t have that last year. Last year, I got the job in mid-February and by the time I got my staff together, we were starting spring ball. Credit the young men last year—they played hard and worked hard, and that will make us a better team this year.”
Gavilan had six weeks of summer practices, which consisted of mandatory non-padded, non-contact sessions. In the final three weeks of the summer session, the Rams went heavy on the nuts and bolts of football, building a cohesive unit in the process.
“We have 22 sophomores coming back, and that makes a big difference from a leadership standpoint,” Lango said. “I’ve got a great coaching staff, players who are developing bonds and that has brought us closer together. The more closer and intertwined they are, the better the team will be. That’s been our goal and that is where we’re headed.”