Nary has a weekend gone by without one of the Gonzalez brothers making a big play on the football field. Last Saturday night, it was SBCC’s sophomore receiver Art Gonzalez Jr., who set up the winning touchdown in the Vaqueros’ come-from-behind 26-21 victory over L.A. Southwest. With just over a minute to play, Gonzalez caught a John Uribe pass on the sideline and raced 72 yards to the Southwest 16, from where Michael Douglas dashed into the end zone on the next play.
Brandon Gonzalez, a junior at Bishop Diego High, plays both ways for the Cardinals and is their leading rusher. He gained more than 100 yards in two consecutive games and scored four touchdowns, but he was injured in the second half of the Cardinals’ 34-29 loss to Fillmore last week.
Emilio Gonzalez, a sophomore at Santa Barbara High, is a tight end and linebacker. At 6′3″ and 215 pounds, he’s bigger than his older brothers. He caught three passes against Nordhoff last Friday, including a 23-yard touchdown.
“Football is a family passion,” says Annette Gonzalez, who has transmitted plenty of rough-and-tumble DNA to her sons. Her father, Massie Chierici, was a football star at Bishop Diego (then Santa Barbara Catholic), and she played on four CIF championship teams in volleyball and basketball at Bishop. “I was the leading rebounder,” she says. “I’d knock girls out of the way. They called me ‘Hips Chierici.’”
“I saw this beautiful, big girl walking by my house all the time,” says Art Gonzalez Sr., who lived around the corner from the Chiericis on the east side. He was a Santa Barbara High student when he started dating Annette. They were married 21 years ago and have five children, including son Dante in the seventh grade and daughter Gianna in the fourth.
Art Sr., who owns a landscaping business, was a placekicker at SBHS and Cal Poly. “I’m always messing with my dad because he was just a kicker,” says Art Jr. When he reached high school age, Art Jr. chose Bishop Diego without hesitation, as did Brandon. Emilio had other ideas. His father didn’t pressure him to attend SBHS, he says, “but he’s probably thinking in his head, ‘What a great decision my son made.’”
Brandon, a feisty 5′10″ and 175 pounds, credits his dad for “his brains and his smarts for the game.” His mother, he says, inspires him with “her competitiveness, not willing to quit.”
Three and a half years ago, Annette was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer. She has undergone five surgeries, as well as chemotherapy and radiation. The cancer is gone, she says, but the treatments have taken a toll on her, mentally and physically. “Everything is complicated with me,” she says. Still, she manages to attend most of her sons’ games. “It’s the only time I get out,” she says.
“She’s my hero,” Art Jr. says of his mother. “She’s very brave. She’s made us all stronger by her example.”
Art is one of the strongest-minded players at SBCC. “He reminds me of [New England Patriots receiver] Wes Welker,” Vaquero coach Craig Moropoulos says. “He’s extremely reliable and hard working.”
Annette made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, during her illness and came home with two jugs of water from the shrine. “I bless the boys before every game with holy water,” she says. “I sprinkle their head, neck, arms, legs, and especially the hands.”
The boys are not enthusiastic about the ritual, she says, but they go along with it. Art was reluctant last week. After he caught seven passes for 140 yards, his mother couldn’t help but ask, “Think the holy water helped?”
WARD TRIBUTE: John Ward, the director of athletics, basketball coach, and head of the math department at Carpinteria High, died of cancer on September 29. His life will be celebrated Sunday, October 10, at Carpinteria Valley Memorial Stadium, 4810 Foothill Road. The public tribute will begin at 5:30 p.m. Before moving to Carpinteria in 2005, Ward taught and coached at Bishop Diego for 23 years.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: In prep football Friday night, October 8, San Marcos hosts undefeated Nordhoff; Bishop Diego faces St. Genevieve at La Playa Stadium; and Carpinteria will host Grace Brethren in a clash of 3-1 teams. Cate School’s eight-man football squad, ranked sixth in the Southland, will tackle East Valley at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the Carpinteria hills. On Sunday, UCSB hosts UC Irvine in women’s soccer at 1 p.m., and on Tuesday night, October 12, the Gaucho men will renew their spirited rivalry with Cal Poly.