Last season, the Wilcox Chargers varsity football team came up just short in a 21-17 playoff loss to the Bells of Bellarmine Prep. Despite the loss, it was another strong campaign for the Wilcox football squad, a team that continues to shine with an incredible foundation and continuity under Head Coach Paul Rosa.
The 2023 football season will mark Rosa’s eighth as Head Coach and the majority of his staff has remained intact. Wilcox will feature a new starting quarterback this season with senior Tyson Bonilla taking over for the now graduated Armand Johnson. However, a strong defense of returners featuring all-league linebacker Jeramiah Lewis, and a group of veteran receivers on offense should help Bonilla settle in without much adjustment.
While Wilcox is known for an excellent running game, Bonilla will be able to rely on his veteran receivers not only to catch but to block downfield. The Voice spoke with Chargers Wide Receivers Coach Conor Dunn to get an outlook on the season and what makes Wilcox football such a formidable force year in and year out.
“The continuity [among the coaches] has been hugely important to why we have been able to sustain a certain level of success over the last few years,” said Dunn. “It’s a testament to the culture [Rosa] has built, it’s a testament to how invested the staff is in the program. A lot of these coaches were my coaches 10-plus years ago. So, I think it’s a huge benefit with our program not having to hit the reset button every year.”
“He’s a winner,” responded Wilcox Defensive Ends Coach Emmit Palacios when asked about what Rosa means to the program. “He coaches hard and he definitely changed the culture when he took over seven years ago. Of course, we’ve gone to state two times and won it once. And once you get that taste in your mouth, you wanna do it again. He’s a good coach; he’s a leader.”
Rosa is leading a team this year that will have some veteran blockers on the outside. One might think a receiving group would never be a strength of a Wilcox team that runs the ball far more than they throw it, but receivers still have to block well in order to open up holes for running backs, particularly on outside runs.
“It’s established pretty early in our program that if you can’t block, you can’t play receiver,” added Dunn, with a slight chuckle but a serious tone. “It makes it a bit easier teaching-wise now though when I can show them guys who have done it before and they know who it is. [Former Wilcox receiver] Ryan Cooper, who is becoming a stud at Oregon State, I have clips of him selling out to make a block, taking pride in every aspect of the game, not just when he was getting the ball and making highlight plays.”
Wilcox will certainly need to make their fair share of highlight reel plays though to get a top seed in the CCS playoffs this year. The Chargers will play this season in a new, tougher division that features opponents like Menlo-Atherton, Burlingame and Sacred Heart Prep.