From the opening kickoff of last week’s game against Calera, Benjamin Russell’s defense was firing on all cylinders. The Wildcats looked hungry for a victory in a game that decided their playoff fate, and there was no one else who seemed to be in the right place at the right time more than outside linebacker Deshaun Gonzalez.
“I can always tell defensively when linebackers play well by when the whistle blows and the play is over, they’re in the right spot,” BRHS coach Kevin Smith said. “An outside linebacker is responsible for reverses, counters, anything tricky to the backside. I’ll usually sit and I’ll count how many plays went away from him and was he right, and he was 100 percent. That doesn’t mean he’s dragging behind; it means his eyes are where they’re supposed to be. He did a very good job of that.”
In addition to a few big quarterback sacks, Gonzalez also scored his first varsity touchdown with a fumble returned for a score, and he is the Outlook Player of the Week.
“Coach (Steve) Burkhalter (defensive coordinator) put in a good plan for us against their offense, and he was running a 4-2 defense and a 3-3 defense and he kept switching me and Kolby Ford back into the game,” Gonzalez said. “When they would run the ball, we put a 4-3 defense in there then they like to pass more than they run, so he put back a 3-3.
“In the second half, coach Burkhalter told us we were going to blitz a lot more ’cause the quarterback was dropping back. I saw the snap go over the quarterback’s head, and I tried to just land on the ball, but I picked it up and scooped it in for a touchdown.”
It was a 10-yard return.
Gonzalez has been playing football since he was little and is also a starter for Benjamin Russell’s boys soccer team. Both sports have taught Gonzalez different important life lessons.
“Football has really taught me how to really not give up and to just keep on going in life,” Gonzalez said. “Bro. Wayne (Cowhick) and coach Smith, they teach heavily on that. Life is going to be hard after high school; you have to go through college then a job, and you can’t just stop working at your job.
“Soccer has taught me to be better with communication. Even if I don’t like the people around me, I still have to communicate with them and let bygones be bygones.”
Gonzalez is part of a defense that had a tall task at the beginning of the year in replacing guys like Jaden Tuck and Benjamin Hendrix, but Gonzalez thinks the Wildcats have lived up to the expectations set before them. He said the players now looked up to Tuck and Hendrix back then, even if they didn’t know it.
And as for Smith, he’s seen consistent growth from Gonzalez throughout this season.
“He and Lane (Rigby) both over the year are getting better,” Smith said. “That’s not to say they’re necessarily dominating because they’re undersized linebackers in our scheme, but they’ve been steady and gradual in their growth. They’re trending upward, I should say, and Deshaun really peaked this Friday.”