By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor
Glendora’s Matt Gonzales and Ayala’s Jacob Badawi have so much in common.
They are both seniors, 18 years of age, and they star for their school’s football and baseball programs.
Badawi is the leadoff hitter and outfielder for the Bulldogs baseball program, while Gonzales hits first and plays shortstop for GHS.
On the football field, Gonzales is the Tartans’ big-play threat at receiver, a defensive back and special teams leader.
Badawi is the heart and soul of the Bulldogs ground game, and he also plays linebacker and returns punts.
Both Gonzales and Badawi are bright, and they’ll continue their baseball and academic careers next year at Cal State San Bernardino and UC Riverside, respectively.
They’ve both been raised and guided by strong and loving parents and the Badawi’s and Gonzales’ have been close since 2010, when Matt and Jacob played on the Chino Hills Storm baseball team together.
Until the age of 14 or so, Gonzales and Badawi were teammates.
But for the last four years, these two proud young men have battled for Palomares League supremacy in both football and baseball.
Unlike many who check their friendship at the door for four quarters or seven innings when going to head-to-head, Badawi, Gonzales and their parents actually root for the other to do well.
Obviously GHS wants to beat Ayala and vice versa, but there’s never been a time where either wanted their buddy to fail.
In fact, they both said the most satisfying feeling in this rivalry is to win while the other is playing at a high level, because it makes the victory taste better.
Over their sophomore and junior football seasons, GHS claimed the 2018 Palomares League championship and Ayala paid the Tartans back in 2019.
To earn the title of league champs, the Tartans won on the Bulldogs’ field, and last year, Ayala defeated GHS at Citrus College.
In baseball, it’s been a different story.
Ayala has won all six games when Gonzales and Badawi have battled on the diamond.
And while there are three games left, starting April 16 at Ayala, all eyes are focused on football.
The Bulldogs will host the Tartans tomorrow night (Friday) and both teams enter the contest at 3-0.
Glendora has defeated Diamond Ranch, West Covina and Colony by a combined margin of 86-27, and Ayala has victories over Temescal Canyon, Bonita and Charter Oak, and the Bulldogs outscored their opponents, 100-28.
Jacob Badawi is an incredible athlete, but he’s an even better student and person.
He boasts a 3.8 grade-point average and is headed to UCR to play baseball.
Jacob’s love is baseball, but he also likes the education provided, and hopes it leads him into a career in the medical field.
Basel and Raquel Badawi, his parents, are Jacob’s foundation.
Badawi said he gets his work ethic from his father, who he looks up to immensely, and his mom has always pushed him to be a great student and person.
During the pandemic, and because he’s committed to play baseball at UC Riverside, Badawi had all but given up on playing football this year.
But the stars aligned and the CIF-Southern Section cleared the way for a five-game football season.
The only downside being there wouldn’t be a postseason after the five games, and the biggest challenge still remains that baseball and football are being played simultaneously.
Not to worry, though.
Badawi is built mentally and physically to do both.
On March 25, he went 4-for-4 in a win against Downey, and then his father drove Jacob from Chino Hills to La Verne with just 39 minutes to spare.
Badawi put on his football uniform and he scored the game’s first touchdown on a 24-yard run, which allowed the Bulldogs to head home with a 27-0 victory.
With Badawi and Elijah Crockett’s combined ability to bleed a clock dry with a controlled run game, and with the emergence of and production from freshman quarterback Bryan Wilson, Ayala has become a very tough team to beat.
And just to illustrate how much both programs at Ayala mean to Badawi, before he even gets to the football field for its 7 p.m. kickoff, Jacob will play at Alta Loma in the Palomares League opener for the Bulldogs.
Jacob’s work ethic is unmatched and even during the pandemic lockdown, he still remained productive, including working out daily, three-mile runs, keeping up with his studies and occasionally he enjoyed playing video games.
His production in the leadoff role has been a huge key to Ayala starting the 2021 baseball season 6-1.
He’s batting 458, with 11 hits, nine runs, nine RBIs and three doubles.
His parents are also revered by the Ayala baseball and football programs.
Raquel has been a booster club president and Basel knew the baseball team was lacking a bench, so without being asked, Mr. Badawi went to the school, measured the area, and built a bench for his son’s program.
That’s just who they are as people.
You’ll see in the quotable section below what his two coaches, as well as Glendora’s Dan Henley (baseball) and Brandon Rohrer (football) think of the Ayala game changer.
But make no mistake about it, Jacob Badawi is everything that’s right about student-athletes and the same can be said for his longtime friend, Matt Gonzales.
When asking his father what makes him most proud of Jacob, Basel Badawi said, “It’s Jacob’s hard work and the dedication he gives to everything he does. He’s great in the classroom, and has a tireless work ethic on the field. As a young man, I respect his humility, interpersonal skills, and respect for others. He’s a great son, brother, friend, and teammate.”
Matt Gonzales might not look the part at 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds or so.
But disregard his physical will and skills at your own peril.
Gonzales, just like his buddy at Ayala, is a game changer.
Matt’s time at receiver, defensive back and on special teams has turned games in the Tartans’ favor, and he’s often times been the difference between winning and losing.
Despite being smaller than the typical football player, Gonzales has always played like a guy 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, because he has zero fear, a very high IQ and the stones to take anyone on.
You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed a much larger football player come at Gonzales like he’s going to mow the Tartans’ senior down, but in the end, it’s that cocky opponent that ends up on his ass.
His older brother Andrew competed in MMA and has challenged Matt his entire life to toughen him up, and to his credit, Gonzales has always felt like he belonged, because he knew he has the skill and heart to play against anyone.
But he’d be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy proving his doubters wrong.
There were times when Gonzales was on the field on 98-percent of snaps on Friday nights, because he wants to compete, but more than anything, it’s his mission to do anything and everything he can to help Glendora win games.
Just like Badawi had doubts about playing football, Gonzales had already told Brandon Rohrer he wouldn’t be out for football.
But when Gonzales was putting up the baseball fence with his teammates, he looked just south of the baseball field and saw the football team practicing and thought, “I don’t want to be sitting at home or in the stands when Glendora plays Ayala. I want to be there to play against Jacob and I’m so happy I made that decision.”
The Tartans have gotten great production from its defense, the o-line is coming into its own and Braydon Brus and Noah Acuna have been lethal in leading the GHS rushing attack.
Glendora sophomore quarterback Jake Denerson has improved each week and he’s earned the confidence of his coaches and teammates.
Gonzales bats leadoff for Dan Henley’s program and after a slow start, the senior shortstop is batting .390, with nine hits, six runs, two RBIs and two doubles.
After Thursday’s 13-2 beatdown of Colony in the Palomares League opener, GHS is 5-2 overall and 1-0 in league.
Gonzales is bright and articulate and he hopes to have a career in MLB, but if that doesn’t happen, he wants to work in the financial world.
During the lockdown, Matt called his dad Louis and challenged him to make a bat together.
They bought some wood, cut it, sanded the wood and while it’s not the ‘greatest’ as he put it, dad and son were spending quality time together.
Louis and Drea, his mom and dad, are no longer together, but they are very friendly and equally supportive of their two boys that have evolved into intelligent and respectful young men.
Matt said he takes a similar approach to life as his father and the business aspect of things and that he tries to encompass the love, respect and forgiveness that his mom affords everyone.
When asking Louis Gonzales what he respects most about his son, he said, “he’s a hard working young man with good character and a big heart to help others. He would never ask someone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself. I’m just proud that he represents our family in such a positive way. His mother and I are very proud of the young man he’s become.”
As with Badawi, Ayala’s Arthur Gracia (football) and Chris Vogt (baseball) have great respect for Matt Gonzales, which you’ll see in the quotable section below.
There are also four clips of interviews below, where both Gonzales and Badawi talk about their friendship, the close relationship with each other’s family and the challenges of life as a two-sport athlete during a pandemic.
There are several adages that would be applicable to the Gonzales-Badawi relationship, but perhaps none better than, “you are the people you surround yourself with.”
And because of that collaboration, Jacob Badawi and Matt Gonzales represent their schools, programs and families in the best way possible.
Ayala football coach, Arthur Gracia, on Badawi & Gonzales: “Jacob Badawi is everything you want in a football player. He is athletic, strong, hardworking, smart, and a leader. I know he is smart, because he is one of my best students in my Econ/Government class. He is a great young man in the classroom, on and off the field. He picks up everything we teach/coach him with ease. He always has a big smile on his face. Players and coaches just want to be around him, because of the positivity he brings. Badawi is the perfect example of the multi-sport athlete that we believe in at Ayala. I would do anything for this young man, because he would do anything for the program. I am lucky to have coached him these past four years. Matt Gonzales seems to be a tough and gritty player like Badawi. Neither one of them will be the biggest players on the field Friday night, but you better not underestimate them. Matt plays fast and aggressive. He always seems to be at the right place at the right time. I have tremendous respect for the Glendora players and what Coach Rohrer and his staff have been able to accomplish. Matt is a perfect example of their tenaciousness on defense. He is all over the field and has a nonstop motor on offense, defense, and special teams.”
Glendora football coach, Brandon Rohrer, on Gonzales & Badawi: “Matt is one of the smartest football players that I have ever coached. He can see plays happen before they happen and is very instinctive. I am very proud of the work he has put in for both football and baseball during his time at Glendora. I am very excited to see what the future holds for him. Jacob is an outstanding football player and I think he is their best player. He plays both sides of the ball very well and is tough to game plan for.”
Ayala baseball coach, Chris Vogt, on Badawi and Gonzales: “Jacob is a super smart kid. Has a lot of savvy. We knew during his freshman year that he would be special. He came on as a sophomore. He came over from football and we penciled him in. In his first game, he makes an amazing full-stretched catch and he doubled in a fall game and you knew he was going to really good. There are some guys who impact guy with their speed, bat and in the field, Jacob does all of those well. He’s made some of the most amazing plays in the field. He doesn’t strike out and he’s really fast. He doesn’t go into slumps because his speed helps him out. Everything he does, he does it without a bunch of fanfare. He just goes out there and that’s a tribute to him and the way he’s been raised. His family is awesome. Mom has been in the booster club, always there to help. We needed a bench and dad shows up, measures it, got it done. What I appreciate most about Jacob: I think we take him for granted–he’s so consistent in his production. I don’t know if we’ll appreciate him until he’s gone. Matt Gonzales, the first time I see him I’m thinking who is this little guy who is hitting the ball over our outfielder’s heads? He shouldn’t be able to do that. He also played a very solid second base. The kid doesn’t look like he should be able to compete with the big boys, but he does and that’s a huge credit to him.”
Glendora baseball coach, Dan Henley, on Gonzales and Badawi: “Matt Gonzales is a fierce competitor and has shown a tremendous amount of grit throughout his four years at GHS, as both a football and baseball player. He shows up to play and you can count on that! Jacob Badawi is an outstanding young ballplayer who plays the game the right way. He always does what is needed for his team to compete at a high level both defensively and offensively.”
Clip 1: Gonzales & Badawi discuss growing up together, building a friendship & playing baseball:
Clip 2: talking about the pandemic, uncertainty of a senior sports season:
Clip 3: Discussing football and other topics:
In the final clip, they discuss the typical day of a two-sport athlete during a pandemic:
2021 Football Schedule & Scores:
Glendora 20, Diamond Ranch 13
Ayala 38, Temescal Canyon 14
Ayala 27, Bonita 0
Glendora 33, West Covina 7
Ayala 35, Charter Oak 14
Glendora 33, Colony 7
April 9: Glendora at Ayala
April 15: Glendora at Bonita
April 16: Ayala at Chino Hills
2021 Baseball Schedule:
4/16: Glendora at Ayala
5/12: Ayala at Glendora
5/14: Glendora at Ayala
Football Records, 2019-2021:
2021 Baseball Records Through April 8:
Ayala (6-1 overall, 0-0 in league); Glendora (5-2, 1-0)
Baseball Records, 2019-2021:
To see a 38-picture photo gallery of Badawi and Gonzales, click on the Facebook link here: Facebook
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