Like many kids who grew up in Santa Barbara, Joshua Rosales was raised on soccer.
He started playing organized football in the third grade and has never looked back.
“My family is a pure soccer family,” he said. “I’m the only one who plays football in the family. I think what drew my attention was the excitement of making a splash play and just hitting someone every time.”
He gave up soccer when he entered junior high school, though he admits he still plays during family barbecues.
“If you put a body on them they take it a little too personal,” he said with a laugh. “Especially if you’re a football player.”
The 6-2, 230 pound defensive lineman quickly learned that football is more than just a game.
“With football, it’s a sport but it’s really an outlet too,” Rosales explained. “If you ever have problems going on outside at school or anything, football is always there for you.”
Rosales entered high school at 270 pounds and predominantly played at defensive tackle. He lost 50 pounds entering his sophomore season and became a force to be reckoned with for the varsity squad. He has played all over the defensive front during his four years and has found his place as a defensive end this season for the Golden Tornado.
‘We just felt that with his athleticism and his long arms that he would be a better fit at defensive end,” said coach J.T. Stone. “But it also opened up another spot for one of our guys. It was better for our team to put him at defensive end and it worked out tremendously for us.”
Rosales, the 6-2, 230 pound senior, had some big shoes to fill. He stepped in at defensive end replacing Jeremiah Phillips, who recorded 19.5 sacks for the Santa Barbara last year.
“He’s got that speed and the size and he really gets down the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ralph Molina said of Rosales. “It took him a while to adjust to that end spot, but he’s gotten better.”
Rosales admitted it wasn’t the easiest transition. With his size and strength, he has always been able to hold his own in the trenches. He’s been able to keep his weight in check and now uses his speed and quickness to keep offensive linemen at bay.
“It’s helped me out a ton,” he said. “It’s helped me use my speed, leverage, balance – now with tackles I can dip on them and keep my balance, or dip under them and use my speed.”
As they have done all season, the Golden Tornado will rely on Rosales to set the edge on defense – while also playing disciplined against the Palm Desert zone-read attack. Aztec senior Simon Gaete enters the game with 2,328 yards rushing with 28 touchdowns. Quarterback Zavier Hill-Kemp is second on the team with 700 rushing yards and 10 TDs.
“As an end, you just have to be patient,” Rosales said. “I think that’s kind of the hard thing for a defensive lineman in general because you want to get in there and try and bully and get in the backfield and make plays. This week it’s just about being patient and reading with our eyes and not getting fooled with the little things.”
Molina said the defense plans on mixing things up along the front to keep the Palm Desert guessing. Across the board, the Aztecs offensive line averages about 6-3, 265 pounds – so Santa Barbara will rely on its speed and quickness to slow down the rushing attack.
“We’ll never be the bigger team, but we’re fast and quick,” Molina said. “That’s what we’re going to rely on – be fast and control the line of scrimmage. We don’t want to go toe to toe with these guys.”
Rosales said that the defense is not fazed by the size of their opponents.
“They’re a pretty physical team, but it’s nothing that fazes us because I’ve played – I think – the best tackle that I’m going to pay this year when we played Lompoc with (Jason) Nunez (who is 6-4, 275 pounds). I think across the board we have played a lot of offensive lines who have been very physical and strong, so coming into this game it’s nothing different,” Rosales said. “We’ve just got to be more physical than them, just wrap up and make tackles and make plays.”
Santa Barbara’s defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown since Oct. 18 at Lompoc – a streak they will look to continue Friday night.
“We’re just not making the little mental mistakes we were making early on in the season,” Rosales said. “We really get into film now as a defense. Our goal now is really to goose egg every time. We don’t want to let any team go out and put points up against us.”