Posted: Saturday, November 28, 2015 6:00 am
BY MICHAEL LINGBERG firstname.lastname@example.org
(Editor’s Note: This year, The Porterville Recorder’s annual All-Orange-Belt football team will consist of a first-team, plus honorable mentions. Players of the Year are not listed as first-team members, and no players are listed twice. Individual success was a factor in the selection process, as well as team success.)
There weren’t many successful high school football teams in the Orange Belt this season, with the exceptions of Strathmore and Lindsay. But there were some major individual contributions for area teams. Those players have been named to the 2015 All-Orange-Belt team.
Player of the Year: Isaiah Jones
There really is no other choice for the Orange Belt Player of the Year. Porterville High School senior running back Isaiah Jones broke several school records this season, rushing for 2,376 yards and 28 touchdowns. He now holds the record for the most career touchdowns (75), most career yards (6,376), most yards in a game (437 against Tulare Western on Oct. 16) and most rushing touchdowns in a game (six versus Mission Oak on Oct. 8). No other player came close to Jones’ production.
Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Avalos
Out of necessity for Strathmore, wide receiver Andrew Avalos became a triple threat on the offensive side of the ball. He went 4-0 playing quarterback, ran the ball out of the backfield and was also a down-field threat as a receiver, highlighted by his 77-yard touchdown catch and run against Robert F. Kennedy High School. He finished the season with approximately 630 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. Avalos grabbed multiple first-team spots on the All-East Sequoia League team.
Defensive Player of the Year: Mark Inman
The Porterville High School sophomore linebacker grabbed first-team All-East Yosemite League honors for his work backing the defensive line. He recorded seven sacks in nine games, 14 tackles for a loss, caused two fumbles and recorded 73 total tackles, good for an 8.1 per-game average. He was forced to move to inside linebacker as a result of injuries ravaging the Panthers’ linebacking corps this year, a position he had never played before.
Utility Player of the Year: Elijah Russell
Monache High School’s Elijah Russell did a little bit of everything for the Marauders, including throwing passes. He was named the All-EYL Utility Player of the Year as well. Having played the full 10-game season, Russell recorded 81 tackles, caused three fumbles, and gained 273 yards rushing, 233 yards receiving and 288 yards on kickoff returns. He threw a touchdown pass, too.
Coach of the Year: Jeromy Blackwell
At one point in the season, the Strathmore High School football team was 2-5 overall. Head coach Jeromy Blackwell helped the Spartans finish the season at 6-6 overall and reach the second-round of the playoffs despite losing his No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks in Carlos Lopez and Nick Salas for much of the season. Blackwell kept his offensive attack evolving not only from game-to-game, but from half-to-half.
Quarterback: Chris Steventon
The Monache senior produced a quality season as the signal-caller, playing in all 10 games this year. He completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,356 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Running back: Jeru Starks, Robert Jimenez
Lindsay High School’s Jeru Starks missed the first five games of the season after transferring to Lindsay. But once he was on the field, he provided the Cardinals with a dynamic force in the backfield. On Oct. 30, he racked up 230 yards and five touchdowns against Corcoran.
Porterville junior Robert Jimenez was Isaiah Jones’ understudy this season after Daniel Ali suffered a knee injury. With just 99 carries, he rushed for 503 yards and three touchdowns, setting the stage for what promises to be a successful senior campaign.
Wide Receiver: Isaac Flores, Josiah Robles, Tyler Daguman
Lindsay senior Isaac Flores was named to the All-ESL first team at wide receiver, catching 12 balls for 273 yards and two touchdowns, with a long of 64 yards.
Josiah Robles represented Monache as a first-team All-EYL selection this season. The junior caught 37 passes for 544 yards and three touchdowns.
Porterville junior Tyler Daguman started the season as the quarterback, but he moved to wide receiver and helped the Panthers get out of some tight spots. He amassed 291 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive Line: Josueh Ceballos Tapia, Wyatt Della, Wyatt Dempsie, Jonathan Tapia
Considering the success of Porterville’s Isaiah Jones and Robert Jimenez, Porterville Panthers Jossueh Ceballos Tapia, Wyatt Della and Wyatt Dempsie dominate the All-Orange-Belt offensive line. Strathmore’s Jonathan Tapia also gets the nod here after being named to the All-ESL Offensive Line and helping the Spartan rushing attack lead the team to the second round of the postseason.
Tight End: Daniel Baca
Monache sophomore Daniel Baca was named to the All-EYL first team as a tight end, narrowly beating out Porterville’s Victor Duran.
Kicker: Agustin Valdavinos
Lindsay’s Agustin Valdavinos was named the East Sequoia League’s best kicker this season. The sophomore has a strong leg that can easily connect from more than 30 yards out. He converted all 13 of his extra-point attempts and three of his five field-goal tries, with a long of 35 yards.
Defensive line: Salvador Rincon, Dillon Breland, Pedro Avila, Alan Rangal
Salvador Rincon terrorized defenses with his 9.5 sacks for Porterville. The senior was named to the All-EYL first team on the defensive line. Breland recorded four sacks and five tackles for a loss for Monache. He too was named to the All-EYL first team.
Pedro Avila represented Lindsay as a first-team All-ESL selection on the defensive line, as did Strathmore’s Alan Rangal.
Linebacker: Alex Lineras, Leroy Campbell, Damien Valencia
Strathmore’s Damien Valencia helped a strong sophomore linebacking corps help the team to the second round of the playoffs. The freshman impressed in his first season by racking up 64 total tackles, five of which were for a loss. He made the All-ESL first-team.
Monache junior Leroy Campbell was a tackling machine this year, recording 99 tackles, seven of which were for a loss. He made the EYL first-team.
Alex Lineras made the All-ESL second-team for his linebacking work. The sophomore recorded 60 total tackles, nine of which were for a loss.
Defensive backs: Juan Infante, Jeff Scheer, Pedro Perez, Mikey Ramirez
Juan Infante represented Lindsay on the All-ESL first team with six passes defensed and 36 total tackles. His performance helped Lindsay earn a postseason berth.
Porterville’s Jeff Scheer earned All-EYL consideration with his 63 total tackles. He had three tackles for a loss, two sacks and caused a fumble.
Part of a strong Granite Hills defense, defensive back Pedro Perez was difficult to throw on, batting down eight passes throughout the season. He made the All-ESL second-team.
Monache’s Mikey Ramirez made the All-EYL second-team by recording 29 tackles, causing three fumbles, recovering three fumbles and batting down two balls.
Punter: Antonio Valencia
The Granite Hills punter was named the ESL Punter of the Year. Due to the Grizzlies’ struggles on the offensive side of the ball, Valencia got a lot of work. The freshman averaged 31.1 yards per punt, with a long of 56 yards.
Strathmore High School football fans rushed the field and surrounded the team while the squad jumped up and down chanting “Lindsay who?” The Spartans had just beaten their rival in the Battle of the Bell, with Lindsay High School legend Bill Baird in the stadium to boot.
Though the game was tense at the end, the Spartans beat arch rival Lindsay 28-21 and earned a playoff berth with their third straight win and third win in East Sequoia League (ESL) play. Per Porterville Unified School District rules, teams must have a .500 record or better in league play to qualify for postseason play.
Strathmore was up against a very talented running back in Jeru Starks of Lindsay, but he was overshadowed by Spartan running back Victor Ochoa. The junior carried the ball 13 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns, and that was in just three quarters. Ochoa was benched for the first quarter because he was late to practice on Thursday. Head coach Jeromy Blackwell said that created a “hunger” inside of Ochoa.
“Victor Ochoa came out of nowhere,” he said, “He’s shown that explosion, but he played with a passion.”
Lindsay found itself down 28-7 late in the third quarter after Strathmore running back Joseph Garcia broke a tackle up the middle and scored a 25-yard touchdown. That drive was set up by a 60-yard run by Ochoa. But in the fourth quarter, Starks showed why he’s a special talent when he followed an excellent block from a teammate, cut up field and scored a 10-yard touchdown to pull the Cardinals to within 28-14 with 10:50 left in the game. He finished with 154 rushing yards on 23 carries.
Less than two minutes later, Lindsay’s Ricky Diaz jumped a short receiver route, picked off an Andrew Avalos pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. Lindsay was down 28-21 with 9:23 to play.
After the defense held strong and the Cardinals offense drove down the field, Lindsay had a chance to tie the game with 1:17 left to play. Quarterback RJ Rueda dropped back to pass on fourth down and lobbed a pass to senior wide receiver Issac Flores in the right side of the end zone. Unfortunately, it was too high for the 6-foot-1 wideout, and the Spartans got the ball back on downs. The fact the Cardinals were passing the ball at all was part of Strathmore’s game plan, according to Blackwell.
“I’m proud of our guys for penetrating the gaps and forcing the throw,” he said. “We knew if we could force them to throw we’d have a chance to win.”
Ochoa scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 15-yard run up the middle, a run that involved two broken tackles. He then punched the ball in from one yard out later in the second quarter to give the Spartans a 14-7 lead. That score was set up by a 45-yard catch from Andres Lara.
Lindsay actually scored the first points of the game when Rueda tossed a 17-yard pass to the right corner of the end zone to sophomore Ernie Baustista.
“I feel pretty good, they’re our rivals,” Ochoa said. “We had to take that bell back home.”
Now that Strathmore has earned a postseason berth, Ochoa said there’s nothing stopping the Spartans from winning everything.
“I’m expecting Valley, man.”
Strathmore finished the regular season with a 5-5 record overall and 3-2 in ESL play. The seedings for the CIF Central Section Division V playoff brackets will be released this weekend.
Posted: Friday, November 6, 2015 11:18 pm
By MICHAEL LINGBERG
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