It’s not often that a successful program has to go through a coaching change.
For Ian Bobak, and the other seniors at Bishop Gorman, they’re on their third coach in four years. But Bobak said he thinks the school has found the right man in first-year coach Tony Sanchez.
Sanchez was hired to replace Bob Altshuler, whose contract was not renewed even though he went 26-2 in two seasons and won a state title.
“Coach Sanchez is definitely a diamond in the rough,” Bobak said. “We didn’t know what to expect from him, but since he’s come in, he’s definitely turned around the Gorman program (as far as us being) students and teammates.
“Coach Sanchez, he’s old school. He’s about respect. We play for the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back. He’s teaching us not to take things for granted. He’s teaching us life lessons that were neglected with previous coaches.”
Sanchez posted a 35-21 record in five seasons at California High in San Ramon, Calif. California was 2-8 the year before he took over. He won’t have that kind of rebuilding to do at Gorman, which features four players who already have committed to Division I programs.
The highlight of the team will be the defensive front. Defensive end Alex Turner has committed to Stanford, and junior defensive end Jalen Grimble already has offers from powers such as Louisiana State and Southern California.
Bobak, a natural defensive end, will play mostly tackle. He, too, has garnered Division I offers despite not starting last year. And defensive tackle Tim Wilkinson was an All-Southwest League pick a year ago.
Linebacker Evan Palelei also has committed to Stanford, giving the Gaels yet another Division I player in the front seven.
“That front seven is incredible,” Sanchez said. “Our front seven on defense and our offensive line are definitely the strengths of this football team. And we’re going to make sure that we utilize those guys to help generate some success.”
Turner said the reputation the defensive line has is fine. But he’s anxious to make good on that potential.
“We’re very fortunate, very blessed to have some talented players on the front,” Turner said. “I think we’ve got to produce. We can’t take for granted that we’re a real talented front. I’m just looking forward to producing.”
The defense will have to help make things easier on an inexperienced offense. The Gaels lost most of their offensive production from last season, including all three quarterbacks and leading rusher Kawika Antolin.
Sanchez is excited about the potential of running backs Victor Belen, a senior, and Shaquille Powell, a sophomore, despite the two combining for only 24 carries last season,
“Victor Belen, he’s an outstanding running back, and I think he’s going to turn a lot of heads this year,” Sanchez said. “And Shaquille Powell, he’s the future.”
The Gaels will be especially young at quarterback. There are six quarterbacks in the program, but the oldest is a sophomore.
Sophomore Mark Philippi and freshman Anu Solomon figure to see time under center this fall.
They’ll be helped by a solid offensive line, led by Geoffrey Gibson, who has committed to California.
“We have a veteran offensive line, so that’s definitely going to give the young people a longer time to do their stuff,” Bobak said.
And the young QBs will have talented targets in tight end Xavier Grimble, who has committed to USC, and receiver Taylor Spencer, who also has Division I offers.
“When you’ve got a tight end that can run and catch, and a wide receiver like that that’s a deep threat, you’re always going to have a chance with the way we run the football,” Sanchez said.
The Gaels also will again be the favorites in the Southwest League.
“If there was a bulls-eye on our back, I’m excited that these other teams will be up to play us,” Turner said.