Wilcox Head Coach Paul Rosa knew his team was likely to get a tough draw in their first round of CCS. Finishing second in the De Anza division with a 5-1 record meant the Chargers, (ranked 207th in the state) would likely end up being a major underdog. That’s exactly how it turned out with Wilcox taking on a powerful St. Francis Lancers squad (ranked 70th in California) out of the always brutal WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League).
“They’re monsters,” joked coach Rosa after the 51-27 loss. “I know some of them since my son is close in age with them and plays tournament baseball with some of them. They are just monsters. That’s what you’re gonna get when you play these schools, they have a lot guys, a lot of talent.”
Despite the season not ending the way they had hoped, the Chargers never stopped fighting. Down 17-0, junior running back Gabe Herrera took a fourth-and-two handoff 72-yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 10 points. Trailing 31-7 at halftime, the Chargers came out fired up. They forced a fumble on defense and then punched in a touchdown two plays after an amazing deep catch by Ryan Cooper Jr.
“I probably don’t get him the ball enough,” admitted coach Rosa on his go-to receiver. “Usually our running game is so good, it’s usually only a small chance that we’re throwing deep. We have to take more chances with him for sure next year because he’s going to be even that much better.”
With the game all but wrapped up, the Lancers could have scored yet another touchdown as they were just a few yards away from scoring, but the Wilcox defense came up with a goal line stand.
“That’s all we talked about at halftime, let’s just go out with a bang and play as hard as we can and I thought we did that,” remarked coach Rosa. “I’d rather play in these games. You get to really see where you are. We only really played in one close game all year, it was usually a blowout one way or the other. We have to figure out a way to up our level a bit when we’re overmatched. But that is hard to do, particularly in football.”
While juniors Herrera and Cooper Jr. were the standouts for Wilcox, key seniors in quarterback David Hernandez, two-way player Michael Dinwiddie and offensive linemen Manny Sandoval and Miguel Maes saw their high school careers come to an end.
“All our seniors are great teammates,” praised Herrera. “David is a great athlete, he can go to college and play anywhere. Manny is a great leader, he pushes you everyday at practice. Same with Dinwiddie, they took practices like they were games. They prepared us for games like this.”
“We created a bond bigger than anything ever. Playing for Wilcox was an absolute joy,” chimed Hernandez. “I’m so glad I didn’t go anywhere else. The little things are what I’m going to remember, just going out to eat with the guys. Not even like the big wins, the little things like inside jokes, or things we talk about during breaks, halftime.”
Hernandez and the rest of the Chargers’ seniors were sophomores when coach Rosa first took over as head coach three years ago.
“I feel a close bond with them because we kind of grew together,” added coach Rosa. “Dinwiddie, Miguel, Manny and David, they were our captains tonight. They’ve gone through the grind, they did everything we asked, could not have asked more from them.”