The Cabrillo football team hadn’t won a game in 694 days, and hadn’t won a game in their home stadium in 1,072 days. The Jaguars took care of all of that Friday night, winning on an emotional evening against Lynwood. The 26-12 victory was the first of second-year Jags coach Shane Gonzales’ career with the team.
“It’s just amazing to see how excited these kids were for that,” said Gonzales. “You would have thought they won the Super Bowl. It’s great.”
The Jaguars celebrated the win in style, with a rolling party around their side of the stadium. They danced together and with other students, posed for pictures, and mobbed Gonzales.
“We believe in each other,” said Jags senior Dylan Nugent-Sugamele, a rare senior on the team. “It’s a family thing. This is the tightest team I’ve been a part of here.”
Their journey together has been remarkable. Cabrillo didn’t field a team in the Spring because of low numbers, and their varsity this year is mostly made up of freshmen and sophomores, many of whom Gonzales spent the summer teaching the very basics of football to. After an 0-3 start and with the Moore League gauntlet looming starting next week, Friday’s game against the Knights felt like do or die time for getting the Jags some success.
“It’s been a year and a half of not much going in their favor, you know,” said Gonzales. “This means a lot. They worked so hard for it, but the ball has been bouncing away from us. Today the ball bounced our way–they earned it. They stepped up to the challenge.”
Things were still challenging, right from the beginning. Lynwood scored first as Larry Manago Jr. scooped up a bad snap and sprinted it 60 yards for a score, putting the Knights up 6-0 early. The Jaguars answered back with their defense, as Isaiah Miranda intercepted a ball in the end zone and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown.
“I knew I was going all the way as soon as I caught it,” said the sophomore.
With quarterback `Marco Garcia scoring the two-point conversion, Cabrillo took an 8-6 lead. Lynwood snatched it right back with a 45-yard touchdown catch by Manago Jr. that made it 12-8, but the Jaguars took over after that. Kenjin Mababa scored on a short run and then on the last play of the first half Luis Haro returned an interception for a touchdown to make it 20-12 Jaguars at halftime.
The second half was stressful, with both teams losing players to injury and struggling to get back into an offensive rhythm. The Jags’ defense stepped up as Nugent-Sugamele had four sacks, and they shut out the Knights in the second half. Garcia scored on a one-yard QB keeper to make it 26-12.
After kneeling the ball to run the clock out, the Jaguars’ celebration began, with players screaming and jumping on the field around Gonzales.
“I was telling them all week how great it would feel if they won,” said Gonzales. “I don’t think they knew because a lot of them have never experienced a win in sports. You know this is some of our players’ first actual time playing organized sports, so to actually taste it–it’s special.”
It was a special night on the Westside to be sure, one the players and fans will remember for a long time. Next up for Cabrillo (1-3) is the start of Moore League play, as they’ll travel to face Lakewood at Veterans Memorial Stadium next week.