By Steve Ramirez
LA MIRADA — Andy Gramajo will start in the backfield for the La Mirada High School football team this season. Just don’t expect him to be in that spot every time the Matadores come to the line of scrimmage.
The senior is La Mirada’s Mr. Versatility, capable of putting a dent in the opposition no matter where he lines up on the field.
“He’s been playing football his whole life,” La Mirada offensive coordinator Armando Rivas said. “He’s smart, knows our offense. He can play a number of positions. He’ll play running back, receiver, or even be our main guy in the Wildcat (formation) if we decide to run it.
“He’s smart, like a coach on the field, and he’s a great athlete who is the fastest guy on our team and has the best hands on our team. He’s going to be the guy we expect to carry the load.”
He’s also one of just three starters who return from last season’s Suburban League championship team, but it will be a different look for Gramajo, who during most sets will move from the wideout spot he played last year to tailback.
“It’s not a big transition,” Gramajo said. “I’ll be playing both. I guess I like running back more, because I love reading the holes, and like the feeling when I can make a play.”
Last season’s move to receiver was out of necessity. La Mirada already had an established back with Max Gama, now at Washington State, pushing Gramajo to the edge of the formation.
It proved to be a perfect fit. Gramajo was a key weapon for La Mirada with 19 receptions and a workmanlike 8.9 yards per catch.
“It was tough,” Gramajo said, “but I had to do what I could for the team, to help us win. I made the transition.”
Now, he makes the move back, and Rivas said it will be a key to the Matadores’ success.
“Andy was a tailback in waiting,” Rivas said. “He played receiver last year because we had Max, and that was his spot.
“Andy was the backup, but we needed to get him on the field because he’s such a tremendous athlete, so we moved him to receiver. He’s more comfortable at tailback because he’s a true tailback. This year, he’ll give us that burst between speed and power. We’re looking forward to giving him the ball as much as we can.”
Gramajo also plays the role of team leader, along with receiver Reuben Poncedeleon, who moves from safety to wideout, and defensive lineman Josh D’Ambra.
All three are faced with the task of trying to limit the Mats’ learning curve, which could be treacherous with a schedule that features two traditional area powers and one of the better programs in Southern California.
La Mirada, which has won the Suburban League the past two seasons, opens its season against St. Paul on Sept. 2 before getting CIF-Southern Section Southwest Division champion La Habra at home in Week 2. The Mats then travel to Bishop Amat before beginning league play at the end of September.
Gramajo believes they won’t miss a beat.
“I don’t think our expectations are any (less) than last year,” he said. “I believe we are going to have a good year. We’re getting better every day.
“We know what we have to do (to get ready for the season). We have to get these guys ready. We are not going to skip a beat from last year. We’ll be fine.”