By Steve Ramirez
MONTEBELLO — Montebello High School’s Daniel Servin is a marked man.
The senior is the one player on the Oilers’ defensive that opposing offensive coordinators tag as the one guy that must be accounted for.
But Servin, one of the top returning defensive players is the area, is worth more to Montebello than the production he provides on the field.
“He lives by example,” Montebello coach Pete Gonzalez said. “He works hard in the weight room, he works hard at practice. He’s a great guy who goes out and plays.
“He makes everyone on our team better, because he plays so hard, so fast all the time. You can’t take a down off in practice, because if you take a down off, he’s going to make you look bad. He’s just one of those guys who is going to force you play hard all the time. He’s a great kid all the way around.”
Servin is also a very good football player who creates headaches for opponents. He showed his worth on the field last season, earning first team All-Almont League, honorable mention All-Area and was Montebello’s MVP. But he also understands that in addition to performing on the field, he must also be a leader his senior season.
“Leadership is important to me,” Servin said. “I try to teach all my brothers on this team the right way to do things. I just want to be a good person.”
On the field, he was one of the top in the area, ranking among the leaders in tackles with 97, while his eight sacks led the Oilers.
The statistical aspect is not lost on Gonzalez.
“We expect a lot from him,” Gonzalez said. “He was one of the better players in our league.
“You look at him, stature-wise, and you wouldn’t (think much about him). He’s 5-foot-9, about 200 pounds. He looks like a slow, small defensive lineman. But he’s that guy who is so quick off the ball, has a great knack to get (to the quarterback). You turn around, and he’s by you. He’s that guy who gets us going.”
But it wasn’t always that way for the senior. He can remember his first few days with Montebello when he wasn’t the fastest or strongest player on the team. But he also knew that hard work would make a difference.
“I’ve really improved my speed,” Servin said. “The coach would make me run a lot after practice. But I just knew that I had to work hard in the weight room and (have the mantra of not) giving up. I play to the end of the play, the game. I just play until I hear the whistle.”
Servin also accepts being the marked man. But it also provides him with motivation.
“It is a great challenge for me, after last year,” he said. “I want to be better than last year, get stronger and show people what I can do.”
He also wants improvement from his teammates that he hopes translates to a spot in the playoffs this season.
“We just have little mistakes that we have to fix,” Servin said. “We’ve been working hard on everything. We’re going to do better this year. We just have to correct those mistakes, and try to get better every day.”
Montebello finished third in the Almont League last season, missing the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs by one game.
But expectations are high that the Oilers can improve enough to change that.
Part of that optimism comes from the return of receiver George Romo, who was one of the top targets in the area with 50 receptions for 532 yards and seven touchdowns. But Montebello also features linebacker Robert Garcia, who was All-Almont League and running backs LaShawn Howard and Andrew Gallegos.
“We want to make sure we are taking steps forward in our program,” Gonzalez said. “The biggest thing is we worked hard in the weight room, worked hard in the offseason. We’re committed to what we are doing.
“Our expectations are high to be very productive and have a fun season.”
The concern for the Oilers is their youth, which starts behind center, where junior Matt Saenz and sophomore Carlos China are the favorites to start at quarterback.
Romo is the key variable and he said he is doing the best to get the duo up to speed.
“I can help (them) as much as I can,” Romo said. “If (they make) a bad throw, I’ll try to adjust to it the best I can, and adjust to where (they) can put the ball and I can catch it. It’s (about) being on the same page.
“(They) are doing good. They are getting adjusted to the plays, adjusting to finding their strengths.”