30-Year Legacy

The 2012 Castle High School football season promises to be a special one for Castle quarterback Mitch Gilles. If he repeats his performance from last year’s 11-1 campaign, the senior stands to own the Castle Knights passing record by the time his high school career is over. The thoughtful, well-spoken teenager allowed himself a moment during summer workouts to consider the possibility of all those records within his grasp, but almost immediately put it into perspective.

“I just play within our offense. My teammates and coaches put me in the position to make plays,” he says. “If I do what I’m supposed to within our offense, those things will come.”

Mitch knows the value of teamwork, dedication, and heart on the football field. His family has been teaching it to him since he was born. His father, Gary Gilles, was a Castle football player (Class of ’84), along with two uncles, Mark Gilles (’87) and John Gilles (’93), who is currently the Knights’ defensive backs coach.

“The team makes Mitch better just as I’m sure he makes the guys around him better,” John says. “Playing with your heart is something that my dad has always encouraged and passed on through the whole family; to Mitch, as well.”

Friday nights are a family affair for the Gilles clan, especially during football season. By the time all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are settled in, the Gilles contingent often numbers a dozen to see Mitch play.

“On Friday nights in the fall, there’s only one thing the Gilles family is doing, and that’s watching Castle football somewhere,” Gary says.

The 2012 football season is special for another reason. It also marks the 30th anniversary of Castle’s stunning 26-23 upset of the heavily favored and seemingly invincible Hobart Brickies in the 1982 AAA state championship game.

The significance of the moment is not lost on Mitch, whose dad knocked down Hobart’s last-chance desperation pass to seal the victory.

“I think about what those guys did (30 years ago),” Mitch says. “Heading into this season, I think we can go far, too.”

The Gilleses have had a lot of nice football memories over the decades, the best of which typically involve special moments together.

For Mitch, the highlight of his football career came in last season’s 51-48 double-overtime victory over the Mater Dei High School Wildcats. The memory was not about what happened during the game, but after, when his father leaped the chain-link fence encircling Central Stadium, in his cowboy boots and blue jeans, and raced to find the young quarterback in the throng, offering his son one of the greatest hugs of his young life.

“That,” Mitch says, “was special.”

Meanwhile, Gary, unaware of his son’s answer to the same question, takes only a split second to consider his favorite football memory. It was at that 1982 championship game 30 years ago, not when he swatted down Hobart’s last pass to clinch the championship, but afterward, when his own father found him in the throng of celebrants and embraced him. “You don’t forget those moments,” he says.

» Read the full feature article, "30 Years Strong," the story of an unlikely football champion.

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