Generals gear up for title defense
August 15, 2019 | View PDF
The Shafter High Generals will be opening this season with a big target on their backs after running through the SSL last year on their way to a runner-up finish in the Central Section Division V championships.
Coach Jerald Pierruci and company will be attempting to repeat as SSL champions after the graduation of over 50% of their starters. Pierruci said that the Generals have 28 players on the squad currently with a few key returners from last year's team, including speedster wide receiver and returner Jackson Sanchez, who was named as one of Cal Max Preps Top 100 players to watch in 2019.
Unfortunately for Shafter, Sanchez broke his foot during the summer and will not be returning until midway through the regular season. Sanchez said that the rehabilitation is going well and is excited to get back on the field. "The doctors say that I will be able to start practicing in a couple of weeks and will be able to play by week 4 of the season," said Sanchez.
The Generals are not a very big team, but they are going to be one of the quickest in the area with receivers Sanchez, Felix Chacon, Joey Sanchez and Leo Fernandez. Fernandez will be on the field for the majority of the game, as he is a key part of one of the quickest secondary corps in the valley. In addition to Fernandez, Shafter has Chacon and sophomore Elijha Lucero, who transferred back to Shafter from Golden Valley High School. As a team, the defense could be something special this year, with the speed of the secondary and the strength of the defensive line. Returning standout Colby Miller will lead a line that includes junior Jesus Vargas, senior Cesar Lopez and Olaniyan Tatum, who is a monster in the weight room, where had benched 330 lbs. and squatted 605lbs. The linebackers include middle linebacker Jensen Boyt and senior Chris Lindsey.
Just as impressive as the returning talent on this year's team is the unity and belief in the system that is in place thanks to Pierruci and his staff. The players believe in the system and the staff, as well as each other.
As with the rest of the SSL, Pierruci said that the team to watch this year is their rivals, the Wasco Tigers. "They have two very fast running backs, which is the main part of their double wing offense," said Pierucci. "Chavez will also be a lot better this year. Kennedy graduated a lot of seniors off of their team, but still have a speedster for a quarterback."
The Generals will be led on offense by sophomore quarterback Tyson Dozhier, having big shoes to fill with the departure of record-setting quarterback Alex Aguilar. Dozhier is only a sophomore, but according to Pierruci, he has valuable experience already, leading the junior varsity to a great season last year as a freshman. "Tyson has the potential to be one of the greats at quarterback," said Pierucci. "He might not break Alex's rushing records, but I really think that Tyson might end up breaking all of our passing records. I could see him throwing for 5,000 yards or more," added Pierucci.
Shafter has stayed in Division V in the valley playoff structure, with Kennedy being moved up to Division IV. The Generals open the season at Mira Monte on Friday August 23. This will be the last season that Shafter will be playing a full season at the current stadium. According to Pierruci, construction will begin on the new multimillion-dollar stadium midway through the 2020-2021 season. Completion is scheduled for December 2021. "We should be playing in our new stadium by the 2022 season," said Pierucci. "We don't know for sure where we are going to be playing our home games during the construction yet. They are still working out those details."