Tigers roar as they are celebrated in San Jacinto

Members of the champion San Jacinto High School Tiger football team enjoy a celebration parade in their honor, Jan. 20. Valley News/Carrie Best photo

It is hard to find something new happening at a school that is more than 100 years old but the Tigers football team at San Jacinto High School did it when they recently clinched the first-ever CIF Southern Section Division 6 title and the CIF State Division 3-AA Regional title. To celebrate this historic accomplishment, a parade and rally was held on Jan. 20 to celebrate the players, coaches, staff and supporters from the entire season.

Starting at the parking lot adjacent to the football stadium, the parade wended through the city in a one-block square route that was lined with many fans and well-wishers. Two flat-bed trucks carried the football players while they hoisted the trophies overhead for spectators to see. At the conclusion of the 30-minute procession, guests gathered at the school’s quad area for grilled hot dogs and chips provided by the San Jacinto Lions Club. This was followed by a ceremony where Head Football Coach Aric Galliano was presented with a few gifts and it was announced that he has been named Riverside County Coach of the Year.

Humbled to be honored, Galliano thanked assistant coaches John Norman Jr, Jeremiah Budnovich, Ryan Cogdill, Sean Wilson, Kevin Guilford, Rich Lunsford, Lowell Thomas and Anthony Fernandez. Besides the big wins, he said the highlight was “having my wife and kids, my family, and my coaches’ families present for the record-setting season.”

His wife, Amanda Galliano, began working at San Jacinto High School in 2011 and became its Athletic Director six years ago. Her role encompasses all sports on campus where she oversees clearance of athletes to include physical packets, academic and CIF eligibility, coordinating of practice schedules, supervision of events, scheduling of games, buses and officials and more. She is also the first point of contact with athletes when there are questions or concerns. She and Aric have four children, a 10-year-old son and a set of 7-year-old triplets.

The players were applauded for their amazing work on and off the field. They included team members Dereun Dortch and Dillon Gresham who were named Division 6 Offense MVPs and Andre Taylor who was named D6 Defense MVP.

SJUSD Superintendent David Pyle said, “We are beyond proud. To hear the stories not only of the final scores but hearing about the boys being gentlemen on the field, shaking other players’ hands, helping them up when they were down, shows we’re raising good kids here in San Jacinto.”

Soboba Foundation President Dondi Silvas, SJHS class of 1988, said she was very honored to have been on the journey with the team, attending their games and going to Sacramento with her mother, Yvonne Silvas, to cheer them on.

Dondi’s late father, Charles “B-Bop” Silvas Sr., coached football and other sports at San Jacinto High School for 17 years. She told the team that she knows he’s very proud of them and that she really appreciated how they handled themselves. “I hear there’s a lot of colleges looking at you and that’s the next step so enjoy this time and we wish you luck in all your endeavors,” she said.

San Jacinto City Manager Robert Johnson said, “This is what building community is all about. What we’re trying to do is connect the community to City Hall but what you’ve done is connect yourselves to the entire community. It’s phenomenal what you’ve done this year. We are so proud. That’s something that helps us put San Jacinto on the map. We know we’ve got good schools, we know we have a good college and we know we’re getting new retailers, but now we also have championship football.”

Johnson explained that the celebratory event was also a team effort. He said he was approached by City Councilmember Phil Ayala about doing something special, like a parade, so the Tigers could be recognized by the entire community for such an outstanding season. Along with City Councilmembers Brian Hawkins and Phil Ayala, Johnson presented Coach Galliano with a commemorative crystal football trophy to share with the team.

Craig Shultz congratulated the team on behalf of Valley-Wide Recreation & Park District, which is known for creating a community of athletes in the San Jacinto Valley. “As proud as we are about you winning, we are even more proud to hear about all the class and goodwill that the players showed, because that’s what Valley-Wide is all about – good sportsmanship.”

San Jacinto Education Foundation President Jerry Peebles told the players, “There have been 888 games played at the high school and this is the greatest season in the history of San Jacinto; I congratulate you for it.”

Assistant Principal Bill Powell served as the Tigers’ football coach for 20 years, 17 of them as Head Coach. He said it is very special to see the team go this far. He was able to attend their final game and said it was a great experience.

“This is a special group of kids who showed their mettle on several occasions in close games,” he said. “A very mature group who exhibited great poise. They were great representatives of our school.”

Powell said Coach Galliano and his staff should be commended for their tireless work this season with an outstanding group of young men. He noted that Galliano was also named Inland Empire Sports Network Coach of the Year, Inland Sports Coach of the Year, CIF Division 6 Coach of the Year and Mountain Pass Coach of the Year.

“He did a great job of pushing all the right buttons to keep the team focused on the task at hand. He works extremely hard and really cares about these kids,” Powell said. “This was a very selfless group of kids who cared about each other and not about their own accomplishments. I was appreciative of the opportunity to be around them as much as I was.”

Coach Galliano has been at San Jacinto High for 10 years as a teacher and coach. He coached under Powell for two years before taking over in 2015. He’s been head coach for eight seasons. In prior years under his leadership, the team has gotten to the finals in 2018 and in 2019 they made it to the semifinals.

“This season the kids all believed in our vision and expectations we put forth at the start of summer football,” he said. “We were stronger on offense; we led the state No. 38 nationally in scoring with 701 total points scored.”

At the rally he said he was humbled to be there “to continue the legacy that Coach Powell put forth and to have the honor to take over for him and lead this program and be able to do what we were able to do this year. I couldn’t have done it without him and his support, as well as our administration and the stability of our coaching staff.”

San Jacinto High School Principal Kristi Coulter, who emceed the rally, addressed the 60+ players in her closing remarks. “When you become champions, you become leaders on campus and people are watching you. I want to commend you guys for being the gentlemen you are,” she said.

After the team’s championship win at their home stadium on Dec. 2, they traveled to Sacramento to face Grant High School on their turf Dec. 10. It was a community effort to help the team make the successful trip up north and Coach Galliano said the district did a phenomenal job coordinating everything.

Amanda Galliano said, “The best part of the season, on a professional note, was seeing the overall growth of the team and coaches. I think what we forget sometimes is it’s not always easy winning games, especially by large margins. In fact, it is often harder to remain focused and keep the work ethic and intensity at the level it is required to be at to continue to prepare for the more difficult postseason games.”

This year’s Tigers played 16 football games, which is one less than what an NFL team would play in a regular season. Amanda said, “I have the unique perspective to see just how much our student athletes, their families, our coaching staff and their families have sacrificed to do what they did this year. Along with that, the San Jacinto Unified School District, Soboba Foundation, alumni and community support was like no other and I am extremely proud to have been a part of the experience as their current Athletic Director.”

CIF made contributions as well as the Soboba Foundation and Hemet Sportsman’s Club. Families pitched in for snacks and drinks for players for the final game.

“When we first found out the team was going to State, I reached out to other members of the Foundation to see what we could do to help. I’m happy we were able to contribute,” Dondi Silvas said.

Pyle said the district was able to use some discretionary funds to help pay expenses for the trip. “The Soboba Foundation’s generous donation made a huge difference. We wouldn’t have been able to do things at the same level we did without the support of Soboba,” he said.

The San Jacinto Tiger Varsity Football fall roster, which includes 28 seniors, alphabetically: Marty Acebedo, Ahlijah Afemata, Luis Aguilar, Victor Alvarez, Elijah Arrellano, Ervin Barnes, Jayden Brown, Jeremiah Brown, Malachi Brown, Denton Capell, Dejon Carter, Jayden Cruz, Josue Cubarrubias, Erik Cuevas, Dereun Dortch, PJ Enosa, David Enriquez, Ryan Esqueda-Long, James Felio, Noah Frazier, Jason Geffrard, Erik Gonzalez, Sean Gordon, Tashawn Greene, Dillon Gresham, Hayden Grigsby, Ryan Guilford, Jonathon Hollins, Vincent Holmes, Bryan Jackson, Angel Jones, Deyton Kersey, Kiu (Q) Kupu, Solomon Kupu, Daylen Love, Noe Mares, Ralphy Martinez, Kartell Matuu-Malepeai, London Miguel, David Myers, Jayden Nelson, Nehemiah Norwood, Troy Oloa, Pule Onosa, Ramiro Orozco, Joshua Orta, Roger Ortero, Dylan Prieto, Jomini Ransom, Andrew Rocha, Austin Rosales, Martin Sanchez, Malakhy Siitia, Ryan Sims, Aiden Stinnett, Christopher Tautolo, Andre Taylor, Diego Teo, Julian Thomas, James Tolliver, Tevita Tukunga, Josiah Vaifanua, James Walker, Hajani Washington, Sebastion Wood, Enoch Woods, Andrew Zepeda and Nathan Zunner.

For more information, www.nfhsnetwork.com/schools/san-jacinto-high-school-san-jacinto-ca/football or #fearthepaw.