From a numbers standpoint, Covid was not kind to the Gavilan College football team. Rams coach John Lango said the team lost several players from March 2020 to now, putting Gavilan’s roster number at 44 through the end of July. However, Lango expects the roster size to increase before the team’s season-opener on Sept. 4 at Feather River.
“Depth-wise, it’s not great, but we’re trying to solidify and we’ll have more quality players coming in here,” he said.
What the Rams lack in numbers, they will have to make up for by being superior to their opponents in coaching and some of the intangibles: effort, fundamentals and resiliency. Lango, who is in his third season of his second coaching stint at Gavilan—he first roamed the Gavilan sideline from 2000 to 2010—likes the makeup and character of this year’s team.
“During our six-week summer session, the guys were awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder in how they handled themselves and the way their work ethic was. The young men in the program have been super resilient and been loyal. Everything is positive right now.”
Of course, Lango will find out more about the team once full-contact practices start on Aug. 9 followed by scrimmages later this month. The team faces another added challenge in that it has to be tested twice a week for Covid per school policy.
“It’s what the school wants and we’re going to abide by it,” Lango said.
In addition to having a ton of player turnover, the coaching staff endured attrition as Lango needed to find a new offensive coordinator, receivers coach and offensive line coach. Lango knows frequent turnover is the name of the game in community college sports, and has come to embrace the challenge of the current situation.
He’s focusing on what he can control, and looks to the receiving core as the strength of the team. Isaac Nfon (Live Oak) and Jason Scirigione (Christopher) are two players who prepped locally and should make an impact. Benny Knowles is projected to play defensive end, while Domanick De Leon (Gilroy) looks to be a valuable contributor in the secondary.
Kyle Venegas never played in high school but has the potential to develop into a solid player at defensive end, Lango said. Austin Bonner, Andy Padilla, Justin Munday and Tanner Compani are battling on the depth chart at quarterback. Scirigione is a name locals are familiar with, as he had a standout career at Christopher.
After high school, the 6-2, 190-pounder enrolled at powerhouse City College of San Francisco. Even though Scirigione felt like he had performed well leading up to summer practice, he was blindsided when he said the CCSF coaching staff wanted to grayshirt him and gain 50 pounds.
“It was a shock,” he said. “I moved up there and was paying $800 a month in a two bedroom apartment with five of us crammed in there. The hard part was I couldn’t gain 50 pounds and didn’t have the money to buy all the food I would need to eat to gain that weight, even if I wanted to do that. I told myself, ‘OK, this is part of the journey,’ but basically I was paying to live up there but not playing. So I made the decision to go home.”
Scirigione skipped a school year and enrolled at Gavilan earlier this year, and he could hardly contain his excitement when talking about the upcoming season. The 20-year-old Scirigione said even though things didn’t go as planned at CCSF, he wouldn’t change a thing, reasoning the adversity made him realize he needed to mature on and off the field to realize his potential.
“The time period of not playing gave me another year to improve,” he said. “I can noticeably see the difference and even my mom tells me she can see the difference. It’s the little things like getting off the line first, catching the ball and sprinting after the catch, doing pushups after every catch. All the little things I knew I was supposed to be doing before but not actually doing.”
Scirigione plans on doing at Gavilan what he did at Christopher: be a playmaking receiver who got open, gained a lot of yards after the catch and an emotional beacon for his teammates to latch onto. Scirigione said he’s a different person now, shaped by his experience of living in San Francisco and being humbled—for the better—while at CCSF.
“Living in San Francisco was definitely a learning experience,” he said. “Because in Gilroy and Morgan Hill there is only so much crazy that happens. When you get to San Francisco, you see diversity and the different struggles people go through and you realize I can’t even complain because I’ve got it good.”
Even though the Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2004 when they finished 6-4—a drought of 17 years—Scirigione and Lango are optimistic and hope to erase that dubious distinction.
“It’s going to be a very special year for the Gavilan Rams,” Scirigione said. “An exciting time for sure.”
Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]