Gilroy High football coach Tim Pierleoni liked what he saw after his team scrimmaged Seaside on Aug. 20.
“I’m very happy with the way the kids played,” said Pierleoni, who returned to his alma mater in the off-season after spending 11 seasons on the sideline as the Christopher High coach. “The kids played hard and they ran their assignments, so it was a good night. It gave us a good feeling of where we are and what we need to work on.”
The Mustangs open the season on Friday against Live Oak in what used to be the South Valley’s premier rivalry when the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill had only one public high school apiece. Live Oak has dominated the series the last several years, often winning in blowout fashion.
Pierleoni is hoping to turn things around and fast. He said the team’s strengths revolve around its defense and quarterback. Senior signal-caller Jadon Perkins has displayed incredible feats of athleticism in the last couple of years, whether it was throwing the ball 60 yards or scrambling out of the pocket and juking defenders in the open field.
However, for Perkins to take the next step in his development, his decision-making process needed improvement. In the past, Perkins often tried to make a throw when nothing was there instead of throwing the ball away. Working with Pierleoni, who is also the team’s offensive coordinator, Perkins has an entirely different mindset this season.
“I’ve been coached up a lot this year to live to play another down,” he said. “The moral is always to live to play another down, so I’ve worked a lot when the pocket collapses and there is nowhere to run or throw to, to throw the ball out of bounds or throw it away. I’ve matured a lot in that regard.”
Pierleoni said Perkins has been an exemplary leader, especially when it comes to displaying an indefatigable work ethic.
“Jadon is an extremely hard worker,” he said. “That’s a special kid right there who wants to do things to make himself and the team better.”
Pierleoni said Marcques Anthony is a “special athlete” at receiver and the team’s strong safety/rover position. He’ll be a threat both ways and looks to make game-changing plays throughout the season.
“I’m expecting big things out of Marcques,” Perkins said. “He’s one of my main receivers and on defense he’s really aggressive.”
Tyler Hodges, a sophomore inside linebacker, made several tackles against Seaside and has a nose for the ball. Estevan Cortez, a linebacker/tight end, is a premier two-way player as is Caleb Reynolds, a sophomore center and defensive lineman.
Newcomer Tyrone Quarles has been running the ball well and has the potential to have a breakout season. Chimezie Elias and sophomore Elijah Williams look to be impact players at the receiver position. Justin Laroche plays offensive tackle and the flex position on defense at linebacker and on the line.
Gilroy has a pair of stalwart returners on the offensive and defensive line, including Dylan Chirco and Mateo Rodriguez, who play defensive end and guard.
“Our linemen are a little undersized, but they’re quick and fast,” Pierleoni said. “Seaside was huge, with a couple of 300 pounders on both lines. But our guys were very aggressive and held their own.”
Gilroy has struggled mightily since winning its first Central Coast Section championship in 2017. Since then, the Mustangs have won just two games—a 15-13 victory over Soledad in week two of the 2018 season and a 21-20 win over Sobrato on April 2.
However, with a new coaching staff, increased talent and depth and a quarterback who can beat opponents with his passing and running, Gilroy looks to surprise the rest of the Mission Division by contending for the championship.
“I’m pretty confident with the new coaches we’ve got and the team we have, we can take it all the way,” Perkins said.
Sports Editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]