Gonzales football

Gonzales (1-9, 1-6)
 Turning around the fortunes of a program that hasn't sniffed the playoffs in 15 years overnight would seem like a stretch, a pipe dream. Particularly one coming off a 1-9 season.
 Don't tell that to first year Gonzales coach Art Berlanga, who told his players in his first meeting that the goal was to reach the postseason.
 Berlanga has experience in turning programs around, having been a big part of Soledad's resurgence when he spent time as an assistant with his twin brother Frankie six years ago.
 "It's familiarity for me,'' Berlanga said. "I've done this before. I've been around some good programs. I have more credibility and experience. The sell wasn't as hard this time.''
 Meaning the Spartans have a group of players hungry to get a once proud program back on its feet.
 "Coach has brought the spirit back,'' lineman Pablo Villasenor said. "No one is walking around the campus saying 'we suck' anymore.''
 A lot went into the Spartans struggles last season. Injuries crippled them out the gates, losing both of their quarterbacks three weeks into the season.
 Yet, perhaps the biggest reason Gonzales believes it can be a playoff contender is the changes that came in the Mission Trail Athletic League this fall.
 With the merger of five teams from the old Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League, two divisions have been implemented this fall in the MTAL.
 The Spartans are in a division that includes Greenfield, Marina, Harbor, Santa Cruz, Soquel and St. Francis of Watsonville. All of these programs are in a rebuilding stage.
 "A lot of our kids have grown up together, have experienced the hard times,'' Berlanga said. "Yet, there is no quit in this group. They're still here. That tells me something about their character.''
 You can make the argument that Gonzales could be the favorite in its division. It has parts to work with, starting with the 6-foot-5, 260 pound Villasenor.
 A three-sport standout last season as a sophomore, Villasenor is a menace on the defensive side of the ball and a punishing offensive lineman.
 "We're out here to leave a mark on this program,'' Villasenor said. "We're out here because we have  passion. I consider this my second home.''
 The Spartans have speed on the outside with MTAL 100 meter runner-up Damian Acosta lining up on the outside opposite Payton Flores, who caught 25 passes for nearly 500 yards last fall.
 It won't hurt having a healthy quarterback this fall. Raul Morales is expected to get the nod when the team competes next Friday in the South County Jamboree.
 Among his receivers will include Giovanny Garcia, who Berlanga called the best athlete on the roster.
 "He's a sleeper,'' Berlanga said.
 Seth Mays showed flashes of his potential at tailback last year, as it took more than one defender to bring him down.
 "We'll look a little different this year,'' Berlanga said. "We're going to run a multi-set offense and force teams to line up and respect our formations. That includes the running game.''
 Health will again be the key for Gonzales, as its roster will likely hover around 25 players, meaning several players will likely be ticketed to start on both sides of the ball.
 "Sure I'm concerned about our depth,'' Berlanga said. "A lot of kids will be playing both ways. But our quality in the players we have extends high.''
 Having spent the last four years as an assistant coach at Hartnell, Berlanga feels prepared to resurrect the Spartans. He has at least got the student body talking about football on campus.
 "This group has been waiting for someone to follow,'' Berlanga said. "I have been ready to be a head coach for a while. I'm going to maximize their abilities.''

1 comment:

BigGalum99 said...

Hearing a lot of great things about Coach Art Berlanga and all of the hard work his players are doing. No question in the alums minds that the Spartans will be back to their old form in no time. #BigLittleGame #MegaPhone #BigG