For the local athletes selected to play in the 36th annual Central Coast All-Star Football Game at Rabobank Stadium on Jan. 14 at 7pm, the contest represents one last chance to put on their pads and compete with and against their friends in their high school careers.
“I was just excited to keep my season going,” said Dylan Chirco, who was one of three Gilroy High players selected in addition to Jadon Perkins and Marcques Anthony. “It’s also a good opportunity being able to play and practice with different guys from other schools.”
Other area players who were selected for the game include Christopher High’s Spencer Gorgulho, Rossi Oteri and Mason Pena, and San Benito High’s Mateo Reyes, A.J. Flores, Khader Yasin, Derek Sandoval and Abraham Solorio.
Athletes who attend a school in San Benito County, Santa Cruz County, Monterey County and south Santa Clara County make up the rosters of two teams, coached by Steven Zank of Salinas High and Juan Cuevas of North Monterey County High.
Zenk will coach Tatum’s Treehouse and Cuevas the Children’s Shopping Tour. Each year the coaches of the game choose to represent a local charity which is their team name. Donation bins will be set up around the stadium to support these causes.
The money raised from the game will be donated to each charity and the winning team will be awarded a bonus donation for their cause. And make no mistake: unlike the NFL Pro Bowl, the players in high school football all star games won’t think twice about laying a good thump on their opponents.
“Oh yeah, I’m always excited and ready to hit people,” said Chirco, who excelled at guard and defensive tackle last season for a Mustangs team that finished 5-4, their best mark since their 2017 CCS championship-winning season.
Gorgulho, who had a terrific senior season helping lead Christopher to the CCS Division III championship game, echoed similar sentiments.
“I look forward to the physical contact and hits,” he said. “It’s fun to me so I don’t really mind that part. Any chance to play football I would, and that’s pretty much why I chose to play in the game. I love the game so much and there was really no reason not to.”
Reyes, who had a spectacular senior season playing wide receiver and linebacker for the Haybalers, couldn’t pass up the chance to play with and against teammates along with players he knows from other schools such as Alvarez, Palma and Salinas.
“I wanted to play one last time at Rabobank with a bunch of friendly rivals,” he said. “I played with some of the guys from other schools growing up so it’s going to be fun.”
Reyes, who displayed tremendous playmaking ability on offense and defense, isn’t playing a winter sport and looks forward to participating in the remaining practices ahead of the game.
“I’m sure I’ll be a little rusty, but we’re all excited to play and we’ll be fine,” he said.
The five San Benito players selected for the game represent the school’s largest by far in recent memory. Reyes, Chirco and Gorgulho were all instrumental in helping their respective teams to strong seasons. Chirco was an exceptional two-way lineman and helped revitalize a once moribund GHS program that had experienced turmoil in recent years.
For Chirco, nothing beats the anticipation of playing one last time with his childhood friend Perkins. With the exception of one season, the two have played together every year since they were 5 or 6 starting in the Gilroy Pop Warner program.
Chirco, Gorgulho and Oteri all spent parts of their youth careers playing for the Gilroy Browns. Even though CHS and GHS didn’t play against each other this past season, both squads accomplished a lot.
“This was probably my best year because I understood the position better and the coaching (staff of Tim Pierleoni) definitely made a big difference in how the plays were run and everything,” he said.
Gorgulho said he was talking with Oteri recently and said they felt like they were a part of changing the culture of CHS football.
“Our (senior) class did it because when we came in, there wasn’t a lot of leadership and discipline in the weight room, the locker room, warm-ups,” Gorgulho said. “I think the whole culture changed a little for the better and that’s what we’re most proud of. Coach Darren (Yafai) did a really good job for us and I was really happy he stepped up and took that job (last off-season) because without him we definitely wouldn’t have had the season we had. He did a lot to change the culture as well.”
NOTE: Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for students with ID and those 65 and over, and $5 for all youth football players and cheerleaders wearing their jersey or cheer jacket. Parking is $5.