By Aram Tolegian, SGVN
Whatever type of hangover the Gladstone High School football team may be feeling from Friday’s four-overtime 68-66 win over El Monte had better go away quickly.
As thrilling as the win was, it won’t matter if the Gladiators (3-0) follow it with a loss at
La Puente (2-1) in Friday night’s Montview League opener for both teams.
“It’s a 10-game tournament and we’ve never been 3-0 in the history of our school,” longtime Gladstone head coach Albert Sanchez said. “It doesn’t get easier, it just gets bigger each time. That’s what we’ve been talking to our guys about this week.
“It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. Throw everything out the door. It just got us prepared for our (league) season).”
Given Azusa’s league dominance the past four years, it’s hard to paint any other team as the favorite. But Gladstone is just that in the eyes of many by posting nonleague wins over Valle Vista League teams Covina and Northview. Then the Gladiators edged an El Monte team many consider to be the favorite in the Mission Valley League.
The winner of Friday’s game certainly will put itself on the inside track to a playoff berth and possibly the league title.
The loser? Well, it still will have to play Azusa and a host of other improved teams.
“There’s no cakewalks, there really isn’t,” Sanchez said. “I don’t have guys who are built to be looking down the road. We’re enjoying our success right now, but not getting big-headed.
“It’s La Puente. They have a lot at stake just like we do. We haven’t beaten them in four years. It’s like anything else around here, we’re trying to get them in the right direction and keep them even keel and level headed. These guys know what’s at stake.”
For Gladstone to even be in a situation where it’s undefeated and entertaining thoughts of a league title is shocking. Sanchez had several players walk out on him late in the summer, which left the coaching staff in a bit of a lurch. It was just another blow for a program in a league that often sees its best talent play elsewhere. But there’s no comparison in morale now as opposed to August.
“It’s incredibly different,” Sanchez said. “Even my outlook has gone 180 degrees the other way after being down and disappointed at some other guys. But that’s gone with the wind. Kids are regretting what they did, of course. Everybody loves a winner. We run a tight ship. It’s a done issue with me.
“I’ve got the true Gladiators here, so that’s all that matters to me. They’re playing good ball and it’s quite an eye-opener.”