The football program with the most question marks is on the West Side, where Cabrillo is preparing to get the Shane Gonzales era started. The Jags were unable to field a team due to the impacts of the pandemic last school year, meaning that when the lights come on for Cabrillo’s season opener on Aug. 20, Cabrillo will be playing its first football game in 658 days.
With that as the backdrop, Gonzales has a clear and simple goal for his team going into his first official season as head coach.
“Right now our number one goal for these kids is to have a season first, and to make it through all 10 games,” said Gonzales, who was hired prior to last season but never got the chance to coach a game. “We don’t have numbers, we don’t have a lot of depth, so we’re trying to get their bodies right so they can make it through the season. And we’re going to set goals that we can achieve. We’re gonna make sure that we play hard every play, every rep, and every practice we give it what we’ve got, 100 percent.”
The Jaguars’ core is young and inexperienced, but Gonzales has been inspired by some of the leaders on his team who have persevered, and are working to prove that the program can bounce back after missing last season. There are just four seniors in the program, but they’ve shown determination in getting the team ready for a return to the field.
One of those seniors is offensive lineman Dylan Nugent-Sugamele, who will anchor one of the stronger position groups for the Jags. He’s the only player on the roster with a taste of varsity experience, and has embraced a leadership role amongst his teammates.
“I feel like the biggest thing that we need is to trust each other, believe that we can do what we need to do, and work as a team,” Nugent-Sugamele said. “We can’t have everyone working as individuals, it has to be a team effort.”
Cabrillo’s lineman group isn’t particularly deep, but they’ve got good size and can hopefully help the Jags control the ball and create a balanced offense. Nugent-Sugamele will be joined up front by the likes of Jose Gonzalez, Jaden Otero, Anthony Fientes, Daniel Nivia, Angel Ramirez Garcia, and others.
Sophomore Luis Haro will quarterback the offense, and will look to learn on the job as he hones his developing arm strength. After not getting the chance to play his freshman season, Haro is excited for the opportunity to take the field with his teammates for the first time this fall.
“I’m pretty excited,” Haro said. “It’s my first season to see if I have it in me to win some games. I’ll just go with it and give my best for this team. I’ve been waiting so long for this opportunity, and it’s so close.”
Gabe Garcia will be his main target on the perimeter, with senior Kerrey Johnson also expected to catch some passes and play cornerback. Devin Edwards should fill a similar role on both sides of the ball, and Te’Jion Jackson is slated to be the starter at running back.
Conditioning will be key for the Jags, who have limited depth and will need several players to contribute on both sides of the ball. Cabrillo’s season opens with a road game at Hawkins on Aug. 20 with the home opener set for the following Friday night against Jefferson.
The challenges are clear for the Jags, but Gonzales has confidence in his players as they look to revive the football program this fall.
“The group of kids that we have here are solid, they’re just as solid as any group that I’ve been around at all the other schools,” Gonzales said. “We don’t have the size in numbers, but the group that we do have is a solid core group that I’d be willing to go to bat with any day of the week. They’re one of the hardest working groups I’ve been around. They really bust their tail and work hard, so I think the future is bright.”
2021 Cabrillo Football Schedule:
8/20 at Hawkins
8/27 vs. Jefferson
9/3 at Glenn
9/10 vs. Lynwood
9/17 at Lakewood (Vet’s)
9/24 at Wilson
10/8 vs. Poly
10/15 vs. Jordan
10/22 at Millikan
10/29 vs. Compton