Shelby had a strong first season under head coach Jairo Coronado last season, making the district finals, and despite losing some huge pieces from that squad, the Tigers hope to have another good run in year two.
The Tigers lost all-state top scorer Layton Jennings to graduation from last year’s squad, as well as all-league performers Diego Gonzalez and Luis Garcia.
“We have players coming back that can perform those tasks very well too,” Coronado said. “Every year we set a goal as a team to do better than the previous year. The team knows we set the bar high last year, but they also know we’re capable of beating that and do better this year. They all know the individual stats don’t matter as much; what matters the most is improving as a team game after game.”
Leading the returning Shelby players is all-state performer Brian Garcia, who will lead the Tigers’ defensive unit. Alongside Garcia are fellow returners Henry Kidder and Logan Claeys. All three are seniors, so their veteran leadership will be key.
“We only got scored (on) twice during the postseason last year, and a lot of it was because Brian, Logan, and Henry stopped many dangerous plays from the opposing teams,” Coronado said. “They are expected to do even better this year because their chemistry on the field gets better every year.”
Also back are all-league player Joseph Hayes and Riley Garcia. Both were sophomores last season and should take big steps forward as juniors.
With the departures of three of their top players, the Tigers are looking for new faces to help out too, and they may have found them in Ryan Jenkins and Ricardo Bahena. Jenkins had a great JV season in 2019 and looks to translate those gains to the varsity. He’ll bolster the offense. Harrison Jenkins looks to take on a bigger role this season, and Coronado is also expecting big things from Mauricio Castillo.
“Mauricio Castillo is a name that we’ll be hearing a lot in the upcoming years,” Coronado said. “His ball skills, vision of the field, and his ability to make the correct decision are simply phenomenal.”
Melding all these boys into a cohesive unit is Coronado’s task, and he’s optimistic the Tigers will be able to work together to become more than the sum of their parts.
“We have a great group of players and individuals who love to work hard to achieve their goals,” Coronado said. “They have been working hard during the pre-season to improve their individual skills to better help the team. Their perseverance to fight for every ball on the field will make it harder for other teams to beat us.”
The restrictions brought about by COVID-19 have made it more difficult for the Tigers to develop that chemistry, though, as the team has worked in small groups, one of the MHSAA recommendations made in its return-to-play plan, rather than as a whole team. However, Coronado said he’s hopeful that the chemistry his players have developed over their years playing together in the past will make it easy for them to pick up where they left off when the games begin.
“They all know each other very well, so I am sure that is going to reflect on the field once we start competition,” Coronado said.