The current school year has produced more than its fair share of challenges for any coach, much less a first-year head coach looking to make their mark on a program. That was the reality for new Cabrillo football head coach Shane Gonzales, who has been mired by unfortunate timing since taking over for the Jags.
By the time he was cleared to work with his team in August, he had to introduce himself to his team via Zoom. The Jags were then able to begin conditioning workouts, but the turnout was low in the program. After starting conditioning with around 16 players, Gonzales was able to reach out to more of his athletes and bring the numbers up close to 30. However, a two-week campus shutdown over winter break derailed his efforts, and once the stage was finally set for a condensed 2020-21 season, the Jags simply don’t have enough players to compete.
“We’re still out there practicing, but a lot of kids are going into other sports,” Gonzales said. “A lot of them are broken. They’ve been holding out for so long. We had a core of about 12 kids showing up every day busting their butt, and they’re devastated.”
In addition to the numbers concerns, Gonzales was unable to run any spring or summer workouts with his team, leaving his players with plenty of work to do to be physically prepared for the demands of a football season.
“We haven’t been in the weight room since I got here, and we still can’t use the weight room; that’s the toughest thing,” explained Gonzales. “A lot of guys are joining track or lacrosse, and I’ve encouraged them to be competitive in something else right now. We’re just building for next year. This is the group, and we’re going to set our sights on the fall season. As soon as we get the weight room available to us we’re going to hit the weights hard, then go into spring ball and summer ball with whatever we’re allowed to do.
“They’re bummed, but they still know there’s light at the end of the tunnel and there’s hope for next season.”
Gonzales specifically applauded a group of his seniors who had been dedicated to the program, consistently working hard while encouraging more classmates to join them on the practice field. Linebacker Marcel Johnson was expected to be a standout for the Jags this season, and Gonzales says he believes Johnson could play at the next level given the right opportunity.
“He definitely has the talent to play on and continue. I’m bummed I didn’t get the chance to coach him,” Gonzales said.
Another player he puts into that category is outside linebacker Cedric Belzunce. Returning running back Angel Castro and linebacker Julian Gaton have also impressed the new coach with their efforts in practice.
After spending six seasons as an assistant coach at nearby Mayfair High, Gonzales is looking forward to the fall, when he can get the chance to coach his first game with the Jags. Though this school year has been a setback, he’s optimistic about the future and what he will work to build on the West Side.
“We’ve got great facilities, a great stadium, and a great weight room,” said Gonzales. “We’re getting new uniforms, we’ve got some good things to offer, it’s just hard right now. But we’re hoping to turn it around and build around the kids we have. If we’re putting a good product out on the field, the community will know that we’re doing good things, word will get around and we’ll start getting some players.”