Cantu a pocket-sized playmaker for Bloomington

Oct. 4, 2012 at 5:04 a.m.
Updated Oct. 5, 2012 at 5:05 a.m.

Josh Cantu lines up at cornerback for the Bobcats during a preseason scrimmage against St. Joseph.

Josh Cantu lines up at cornerback for the Bobcats during a preseason scrimmage against St. Joseph.

BLOOMINGTON - The first time he put on football pads, Josh Cantu may have weighed 40 pounds. Then, and now, he was among the smallest on the field.

Size has not impeded the Bloomington senior from sports. If anything, it's forced the 17-year old to be more resourceful.

At 5-feet-2-inches and 110 pounds, Cantu is a pocket-sized playmaker for the Bobcats.

"I really try not to let it get to me," said Cantu, who has been on the Bloomington varsity since his freshman year. "I try to find ways to help myself. My speed helps me. I'm not really that strong, but I try to use as much strength on the guy as possible. I try to go for the legs, so I can get them down."

He intercepted passes in consecutive games against Agua Dulce and Bishop this fall. The latter interception was on a rainy night in Nueces County. To date, it's the last game Josh has played.

The next week in practice, Cantu sustained a freak injury while making a tackle. He was making a tackle when a teammate came in to help finish the play. Somehow, some way, he sustained a facial fracture below his left eye.

Usually, Cantu wears a visor to practices and games, but he wasn't wearing it that day in practice, because it kept fogging up during the Bobcats 20-12 loss to Bishop.

At the earliest, he'll return for next week's game against Dilley. But it's more likely the senior cornerback will return for an Oct. 19 contest against Nixon-Smiley.

Amy Gonzales said her son has remained relatively healthy playing football. Years ago, he sustained blunt-force trauma to the kidney while playing in a youth league, but that and his most recent injury were the most serious.

"Size has always been a hindrance for him," Gonzales said. "I've always told him 'Please, go out there. I don't care if you are out there for a minute or 10 minutes. Just do your best.'"

She tells her oldest son to give 150 percent, but is always reminded that one can only give 100 percent.

It didn't matter if her boy was playing football, or being a pinch runner for the baseball team. Whether it was Bloomington's basketball, powerlifting, cross country and track teams, Gonzales wanted to expose him to different experiences.

"I've always asked him to try to play everything and give everything a chance," Gonzales said. "He may not like it. But, in his freshman and sophomore year, I made him try everything and in his junior year he could decide. He likes to play everything and I'm glad."

Regardless of season, there is usually a host of people in the stands supporting Josh. From his father, Felix Sital, to Gonzales and her husband Javier or Josh's two younger siblings Cantu's extended family has become a mainstay at Bloomington sports events.

There haven't been too many victorious Friday nights for the Bobcats (0-4) in recent years. But, Josh, and his head coach, are confident the this year's team will be the ones that end the 10-year district losing streak.

"We're trying to let them know we can win games," said Bloomington head coach Layne Elkins. "The two games we were in, Agua Dulce and Bishop, we could have won had it bounced one way or another."

Considering the Bobcats have lost 52 straight district contests, they will be underdogs the rest of the season. When asked whether there may be a correlation between the team, and its senior cornerback, since both are frequently counted out by outsiders, Elkins said yes. The coach said Cantu is fearless on the field and always fighting to help his team.

"He may not be the strongest on the team physically . He really wants to be successful and he helps push the players around him," Elkins said about Cantu.

Meanwhile, Cantu said Elkins, as well as fellow seniors Rueben Aguirre, Zack Depine and others are constantly pushing the team. He believes that prodding, and their togetherness, will pay off, if not against Karnes City Friday, then in the near future.

"If we all get pushing in the same direction . it's not going to be because I'm a new coach. It will be this team coming together," Elkins said.

Aguirre had an 85-yard kickoff return in a 51-6 loss to Poth last week and leads the team with three touchdowns. Depine and Trey Hanna have been anchors on the offensive line. David Llamas has been one of the best punters in the Crossroads this year. Sophomore middle linebacker P.J. Zendejas may not be as slight as Cantu, but at 5-feet-8-inches and 130 pounds, he's another one who doesn't worry about his stature while on the field.

"We're really growing with each other," Josh said. "As we've gotten older we've had a chance to know and play with each other more. Throughout the years, some of the seniors, like Zack, have played together since youth football. Some of us haven't played a long time with each other. But, the chemistry during school, and away from school, has helped."

Sports are supposedly a laboratory for life lessons. Though there have been bumps and bruises along the way, Gonzales said athletics taught her oldest child discipline, self-motivation and the will to never give up.

However, the enduring lesson might be teamwork. It's why Josh has played five sports every year. He enjoys the camaraderie of being a teammate.

"The chemistry, sometimes we may not get along," Josh said. "But, overall, we do. We really connect. That seems more important. I don't want to miss out, or let them down."



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