Jayson ‘Papi-Rican’ Gonzalez could have ended the good vibes in West Bay.
The rookie head coach inherited a dms West Bay Hellcats team coming off a third consecutive national flag football championship. While the squad was dominant, as usual, on both sides of the ball, complacency could have taken over.
Instead Gonzalez, 34, coached dms to a fourth straight title. The Puerto Rican states it was not easy.
“It was tough losing running back Oliver ‘Dark Star’ Parker and offensive lineman Barry ‘Jus B’ Bush,” Gonzalez said. “But still, people stepped up. One good thing about the Hellcats, we’re a family. The whole year, we stayed together. Sure, we argued but after the game, we were friends again. That’s important on a team.
“Every year we lose players but we add some. This year we got Tito ‘Show Stopper’ Solomon, Jeremy ‘Buff’ Miller and Jamaal ‘Local Beef’ Anderson. They really helped.”
The Hellcats recently claimed their seventh championship in nine years by beating the Club House Bulldogs 6-0 in overtime at the Ed Bush field in West Bay. As a result, the Hellcats won the 2012 Digicel Summer League, put on by the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association.
Interestingly, dms rebounded from a challenging regular season campaign that saw the champs finish second at 8-4. Club House, behind Luigi Moxam and Chris Spigner, were the top seed at 9-3.
This year marks a third straight title for Gonzalez, who came to Cayman six years ago from New York. The airline agent, who lives in George Town, started out as an offensive lineman for the Hellcats before moving to coaching. Gonzalez eventually took over the reigns from George ‘Teddy’ Hydes, the team president. He states the transition had its challenges.
“Last year I was the offensive coordinator before this, my first season as head coach. It was not that hard to be the coach of a really good team. At the beginning of the year, we tried to be more of an offensive team.
“At the start of the year, it was good but by the end, we struggled. However, the defence stepped up and I had the help of defensive captain Phil ‘Pacman’ Brown and offensive captain Perry ‘BoyWonder’ Levy. Teddy came by a couple games to help but yeah, it was very stressful.”
Moving from Hydes to Gonzalez presented not just a strategy shift, but a leadership change. There were growing pains as the Hellcats endured a three-game losing streak heading into the postseason.
It was a turning point in the season for West Bay, a team who had never been mired in such a funk during a championship year. For players like wide receiver/safety Nikolai ‘Nino’ Hill, it was a time that Hydes’ voice needed to overshadow that of Gonzalez.
“This year was tough, 8-4 was the worst record we’ve had,” Hill said. “That losing streak, no one could remember us being that bad. The Burger King Panthers were cocky and Club House were confident. Credit has to go to a lot of the head figures on the team like Teddy, Adrean ‘Big Sexy’ Russell and Phil for recruiting, coaching and team planning.
“Teddy is more in your face while Papi has a calmer demeanour. Teddy was there from the start, he started the club and of course, he gets away with a lot with most of the players. We’re all grown men who have been there before.
“Papi brings his own play-calling to the offence and a new energy to practice. Teddy has been there longer, before Papi joined the team, while Papi is relatively new to the franchise. I’m just happy to have both of them out there for us.”
Gonzalez steadied a veteran team that already had loads of championship experience through the likes of quarterback Jacob ‘Frecko’ Ebanks, lineman Damian ‘Beast’ Barboram and cornerback Nate ‘Nate Dawg’ Narcisse.
For relative newcomers like tight-end Kevin ‘Star Boy’ Maxwell, a West Bay resident in his 30s, that fact spoke volumes about Gonzalez’s ability.
“Their styles are similar in some ways,” Maxwell said. “Teddy was first and he’s more vocal and likes to talk. Papi is calmer. Considering this is his first year, he did a great job, especially with the offence. He led us to victory.
“I don’t mean to sound disrespectful to Papi but when Teddy talks, we listen. I played five seasons with the Maples Packers and two with West Bay. This is two straight titles with the Hellcats and it’s a great feeling. We’re going to try it again so I can go back-to-back-to-back.”
Ultimately, Gonzalez has a Hellcat team with all the pieces for more glory. The veteran cast shows little signs of decline and the squad is primed to add further talent.
Gonzalez states his future is secure in West Bay.
“The guys want me back, I plan to be back next year and win another championship. I have to go back-to-back. I don’t want to be the coach that loses.”