Gilroy seeks turnaround

Tanner Eastus should play a key role as the Gilroy High offense looks for superior production compared to a year ago. Photo by Robert Eliason.

In two short years, Gilroy High went from the penthouse to the outhouse. In 2017, the Mustangs won their first-ever Central Coast Section championship, a glorious moment for the proud program. However, Gilroy fell on hard times last season, finishing 1-9 overall and 0-7 in Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division play. One of the team’s top returners, Richard Delapaz, is optimistic a turnaround is imminent.

“We look good,” the senior running back/cornerback said. “This off-season we’ve really connected as a team and bonded. I’m really excited about the season.”

As is Simeon Nash, the first-year Gilroy High coach who has installed a spread offense that has the players pumped and ready to go.

“The spread hasn’t been used here in a long time, but there is a whole new level of excitement among the players,” Delapaz said. “We went from the Wing T—which I really liked because I get the ball thrown to me a little more—to the spread, which is going to be great for the team. The goal for our offense is to be explosive and quick.”

Nash likes what he has in quarterbacks Tanner Eastus and Jadon Perkins, two players who have the potential to put up some big numbers in the spread offense.

“Tanner is still the guy, but Jadon is making him work for it,” Nash said 10 days before the season-opener. “It’s a healthy competition for the starting spot.”

Senior Uriel Luna has come on strong and cemented his place as one of the team’s starting wide receivers. At 5-foot-7 and 143 pounds, Luna and Delapaz—who is 5-7 and 160—are a microcosm of the Gilroy roster in that both are undersized athletes whose determination and toughness help them compete against players much bigger than they are.

“I respect everyone, but when you’re out there going up against guys 20 pounds, 40 pounds heavier, you can’t fear anyone,” Delapaz said. “You can’t let anyone get the better of you, and you just have to compete.”

Luna and Delapaz have earned the respect of Nash by working hard and doing everything asked of them through summer workouts and practices.

“Performance-wise they were consistent in a lot of things we asked them to do,” Nash said. “Uriel is very coachable, and not to say other players aren’t, but he came on strong and was consistent with his play. Then his athleticism started to pick up. With Richie, he’s one of those players you have to get on the field. He’s well conditioned, in excellent shape and able to handle everything that comes his way.”

Nash elected to mention only a handful of players for this article, noting players will earn their recognition in due time. He did say the team had a good group of linemen, especially on defense.

“For anyone on the team, they’ll earn their recognition by their play,” he said.

Delapaz was a sophomore two years ago when he saw the Mustangs win their first CCS title. That gave him extra incentive to work hard even when things got tough. Even though the team had a rough 2018 season, a couple of seniors made an impression on him.

“They helped me become a better leader,” he said. “Last season toughened me up and helped me mature. I learned a lot of things that I’m taking into this year. I’m really excited to play these tough teams again.”

Delapaz had a couple of injuries last season, so he made it a point in the off-season to work on his agility, speed and durability. When Delapaz gets the ball, he reads the field well and tries to get in the open space. When he’s on defense, Delapaz relishes the challenge of shutting down the opposing receiver.

“I really enjoy the physicality of going up against a receiver,” he said. “Pressing up 1 on 1, competing for jump balls. I do a lot of extra sprints to get some running and conditioning in to prepare myself to be able to play the entire game strong.”

SCHEDULE

8/30 at Santa Cruz, 7:30 p.m.

9/6 at Soledad, 7:30 p.m.

9/13 vs. Live Oak, 7:30 p.m.

9/27 vs. Alvarez, 7:30 p.m.

10/4 vs. Palma at Rabobank, 7:30 p.m.

10/11 vs. Hollister, 7:30 p.m.

10/18 vs. Aptos, 7:30 p.m.

10/25 at Salinas, 7:30 p.m.

11/1 vs. Carmel, 7:30 p.m.

11/8 at Christopher, 7:30 p.m.

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