Photo: Marvin Pfeiffer /Staff Photographer
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When Caleb Camarillo was growing up in Gonzales, he never could have imagined playing for the local high school’s football coach in a different town.
Ricky Lock was the Gonzales Apaches football coach in those days and Camarillo’s mother, Janice, was Lock’s nurse. Janice had been a track and field athlete and girls basketball player for the Apaches. Chris and Caleb Camarillo’s father, who’s also named Chris, pitched for Gonzales’ baseball team.
By the time the Camarillo brothers were in middle school, the family had relocated to San Antonio. Chris and Caleb would attend Southside games while Lock patrolled the sidelines.
A few years later, in 2019, they both were Class 5A all-state selections for the Cardinals.
Lock took over the Cardinals’ football program after five seasons at Gonzales, where his teams twice advanced to the Class 3A state quarterfinals. The veteran coach has produced five playoff teams in six years at Southside, including the 2018 squad that became the first Cardinals team to reach the area round.
“When I first moved here, Southside was 2-3 in district,” Caleb said. “But the next year they were undefeated. Then they went to the second round (of the playoffs) and built off it. Last year, we lost in the first roud, but we had a lot of players who weren’t 100 percent.
“How our athletes think is that we want to take what happened last year, and raise it a couple of levels.”
Although they’re separated by a grade level, Chris and Caleb made their varsity debut at the same time, early in the 2017 season.
“Caleb, when he was younger, didn’t have the work ethic he has now,” Lock said. “Chris and Caleb play off each other and they’ve improved because of that.
“It’s good to see good students have such success as athletes. They both do a great job of representing the school and the community.”
Caleb Camarillo is one of the area’s top players heading into the 2020 season — along with Burbank running back Matthew Suarez and Holy Cross quarterback Jordan Battles.
Chris Camarillo is a freshman cornerback on a football scholarship at Oklahoma Panhandle State.
This year will be the first time since Caleb was in eighth grade that the brothers won’t be wearing the same uniform.
“When I scored a touchdown, he was always the first one to (congratulate me),” Caleb said. “I forget who we were playing, but he blocked somebody out of bounds to spring me, and he ran 50 yards to slap my helmet. He was crazy.
“There were so many times during the game that he’d get into somebody’s head, even if we were down three touchdowns. Now I see where he was coming from. He made me more intense.”
Chris was the District 15-5A Division II defensive most valuable player in 2019. He was selected to the all-district team once as a defensive back and twice as a wide receiver.
“Chris is a self-made player,” Lock said. “He has that work ethic and mentality to get better and better in every game. He’s really conscientious and just has a tremendous work ethic. I’m so happy he got the opportunity to go on and play at the next level.”
Caleb is the preseason offensive most valuable player in District 14-5A Division I and the Cardinals are favored to win the district. He is being recruited by the Air Force, Army, Colorado State, Dartmouth and Fordham.
“He has some wheels on him,” Lock said. “He can be bigger and better this year. Caleb is up to 180 (pounds) now and wants to come in at 190. He can lineup at running back or in the slot. He’s a great player to have because he can do so many things.”
Camarillo is part of an ongoing tradition. From Matt Collier to Eddie Perez to Perfecto Doria, Southside has had a standout back under Lock.
Caleb, who broke a 17-year-old school record with a 10.6 100-meter dash, knows some dispute his 4.45 clocking in the 40-yard dash. That only makes him more determined to put up big numbers this season, after rushing for 1,188 yards despite being slowed by a broken toe for much of the 2019 season.
“Coming after three or four successful backs,” Caleb said, “makes me want to step up my game and keep it going at Southside.”
The Camarillo brothers’ influence at Southside hasn’t been limited to the football field. They’ve also been standouts in both baseball and track. Chris and Caleb have helped the Cardinals set multiple school records in the 400- and 800-meter relays along with Paul Maldonado and Neil Vallejo.
“I was a distance runner in middle school until I had surgery on my knee,” Caleb said. “I became a sprinter after that.”