Pulling double duty is part of the deal when you’re a football player at Rio Hondo Prep High School.
With only 31 players on the Kares’ roster, it can make for some less-than-comfortable roles. Like the one Colby Rivera has.
When Rio Hondo Prep is on offense, Rivera plays quarterback. When the Kares are on defense, he’s a middle linebacker. It’s a dangerous, yet very productive combination for the Kares.
It’s paid off to the point that Rio Hondo Prep, fresh off its second consecutive CIF-SS Northeast Division championship, will see its season continue on Friday when the Kares visit Santa Fe Christian in a Division IV CIF State bowl game qualifier.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Del Norte High in San Diego.
“I just do what the coaches ask of me,” said Rivera, who lives in Covina. “I haven’t had too many problems. I’m holding up pretty well.
“It’s my favorite sport and my last year, so I’m just trying to do the best I can.”
No football coach would tell you having his quarterback play middle linebacker is an optimal situation, but when you’re Ken Drain and you’ve got to get your best 11 players on the field at all times, that means caution is thrown to the wind.
“That’s just life here at the school,” Drain said. “He’s one of our best defenders and plays middle linebacker for a reason. We need him there.
“Sometimes you’d like to have your quarterback off the field so you can talk to him, but they don’t get that luxury here, so that’s the way it is.”
Rio Hondo Prep is a run-first team with Nate Tayco a major force carrying the ball. But when the Kares need a big play through the air Rivera can deliver, just like he did in last week’s win over Mission Prep. With his team down by a touchdown in the second half, Rivera connected with receiver Jake Holguin on a 60-yard pass down the sideline to set up a score.
Later in the game on a critical two-point conversion, Rivera fired a perfect touch pass to Ryan Wiley in the back corner of the end zone to get the two points.
“I do wish we’d pass more, but if we’re winning games then I don’t mind,” said Rivera, who has thrown for 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
On defense, Rivera has 71 tackles and has no qualms about his getting his hands dirty, even if that means getting them hurt.
“Sometimes, I’ve been hit and got my hand jammed up and it was hard to hold the ball,” Rivera said.
Rivera always was a linebacker growing up. It was only when he got to high school that quarterback was thrown into the equation. He’s now a three-year starter with very little preference about which position he likes more.
“It kind of depends on what team we’re playing and what kind of offense or defense they’re running,” Rivera said. “If they’re a run offense and playing smash mouth, then I like to play linebacker so I can hit more.”
The Kares won’t change anything about their approach on Friday against Santa Fe Christian. That means Rivera will spend most of the night handing off to Tayco and watching him do his thing. It also means Rivera will be on stand-by, as usual, to make a big pass whenever the Kares need it.
When football season is over, Rivera will shift to soccer. He also plays volleyball. But before that happens, he’s hoping to put an exclamation point on a championship career by guiding his team to a bowl game win in two weeks.
“This has been a chance to prove to our area that we can play football,” Rivera said. “It means a lot just to know that people are starting to respect us more.”