Castaneda may be small, but he plays like a giant

Dayton High School football player Jesus Castaneda works on a pass rushing drill during practice.

Dayton High School football player Jesus Castaneda works on a pass rushing drill during practice.

DAYTON — When you think nose tackles, you think of big, bulky dudes.

And then there’s Dayton High’s 5-foot-4 170-pound Jesus Castaneda, who’s by far one of the smallest players in Northern Nevada, but also one of the toughest.

Castaneda bench presses 265 pounds and squats 355, and generally makes life miserable for opposing offensive lineman in the Northern 1A because of his strength and quickness.

His stature has made it tough to get any respect, however. The Dayton senior admits he endures a lot of trash talk from opposing players during games.

“All the time I hear it,” Castaneda said. “They look at me, all 5-feet-4 of me, and tell me they are going to take me down. I don’t like to trash talk on the field. I just stay quiet and try to show them up. I hear coaches on other teams wondering what I’m doing starting.”

Castaneda has thrived in a position that has masochistic tendencies. His role is to get dirty and get no glory. His role is to occupy two blockers so linebackers get the tackles and the glory. It’s a role he accepts without question.

“He is supposed to occupy the center and one of the guards,” Turner said. “He enjoys it. He takes on the double teams and tries to re-route the running backs. He frustrates offensive linemen because he is so quick. He is tough to deal with one-on-one because of his strength and quickness. We’re a hard team to trap because of our alignment (3-3-5).

“He does what we ask him to do. He never quits. His motor is always going. He’s high revving and high octane. He never stops moving.”

It doesn’t mean Castaneda, who had 27 tackles last season, hasn’t had his share of big plays in his previous two varsity seasons.

He turned in impressive plays against both Wooster and Truckee as a sophomore, and both led to scores. His best game last year came against South Tahoe when he had three sacks and pressured the Vikings’ quarterback into a fourth-quarter interception.

And although he also plays guard on offense, Castaneda makes no bones about the fact that if he could choose one position, it would be defense.

“I love to play defense,” the Dayton senior said. “I’d choose defense over offense any day, I feel like I can be more aggressive on defense. On offense, your technique has to be sound. On defense you don’t have to rely as much on technique. On defense you can be fast and disrupt plays. On offense, I have to rely on technique because of my size.”

Turner remembers watching Castaneda play youth football.

“I think it was his eighth grade year,” Turner said. “He put a swim move on the center and tackled the quarterback before he had a chance to hand off the ball. It was amazing. I couldn’t wait to coach the kid.”

Castaneda chuckled when told of Turner’s comments.

“I don’t remember what team we were playing, but I did that a lot that year,” he said. “Pretty much everybody was the same size back then which made it easier.”

Castaneda is the third brother to play in the Dayton program, following in the footsteps of Jose and Manuel. Castaneda said his brothers helped his interest in the game when he was in elementary school.

“They are both a little bigger than Jesus, but they are all short and strong,” Turner said. “They were great kids and good football players.”

“They both encouraged me to play when I was in the sixth grade,” Jesus said. “We’re pretty much the same (in ability) the way we play.”

Castaneda said he’s gotten nothing but encouragement since he started to play the game and throughout his career at Dayton. He said he can’t remember a time when somebody other than an opponent felt he was to small to play.

He is one of several three-year varsity players on the squad this year, and he’s one of the leaders on this year’s squad.

“I try to lead verbally,” he said. “But I want to lead by example, too. I think people see how hard I work. Because of my size I’m obliged to go a little harder than everybody else.”

And that kind of attitude has set him apart from many of his peers.


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