By Aram Tolegian, SGVN
Denzel Talifero is getting a lot more than he bargained for as a member of the Duarte High School football team.
And so long as the wins keep piling up, nobody’s complaining.
Talifero, who originally thought he’d be playing only linebacker for the Falcons after transferring from Muir in February, also has been the starting quarterback.
The added role was something that came about just weeks prior to the season and it has paid off to the tune of 15 touchdowns combined between rushing and passing. A number that certainly has helped the Falcons to a 3-2 record with aspirations of a Montview League championship.
“I had never played quarterback before in my entire life,” Talifero said. “It’s one of those things where everybody wants to play quarterback. Like, when you’re a little kid, you always want to be the cool quarterback.
“So I was like, `If they need me to play quarterback, I’ll try it.’ ”
The move has paid dividends for the Falcons, who are averaging 32 points per game. It’s just that if you see Talifero’s 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame, it becomes obvious he’s built to be a linebacker.
Talifero was just that the past two seasons at Muir. And he was quite good for the Mustangs while helping them reach last season’s semifinals of the Southeast Division playoffs.
Talifero would have been the top defensive returner for Muir, but decided to transfer to Duarte after all the coaching upheaval at Muir created an environment he wanted no part of.
At the time, it didn’t look like Talifero was making a smart move. Duarte had fallen on hard times and the memory of winless seasons in 2009 and ’10 was fresh in the minds of many. But Talifero made a go of it and has become a team leader while helping to change the culture around the program not so much as it pertains to enthusiasm, but rather wins.
“Over here, it’s a little bit different because the coaches are here every day and the players actually want to be here every day,” Talifero said. “It wasn’t my team that I was trying to get away from (at Muir). It was just the problems with the administration and all the different things that were going on the last two years that I was there.
“It takes a lot here because you have to change the mindset. A lot of the seniors here have been on varsity the last two or three years. So they were here for the 0-10 season and all that losing.”
The Muir connection at Duarte doesn’t stop with Talifero. Head coach Jason Martin played for the Mustangs during his prep career and assistant coach Antoine Sims was a longtime assistant at Muir before joining Martin’s staff.
If area fans weren’t buying into Duarte earlier this season, they are now after the Falcons ended Azusa’s 27-game league win streak last Thursday with a resounding 40-14 win. With Gladstone sitting pretty at 5-0, Duarte still is not considered the favorite to win the league despite the victory over Azusa. But that’s just more motivation for the Falcons to keep showing everybody how serious they should be taken, according to Talifero.
“That was a big win, a statement win, but we’re not finished,” Talifero said. “There’s still people that are skeptical. To us, every game from now on is a statement game.”
Talifero’s numbers so far in league have put him right in the thick of the Montview MVP race with Gladstone quarterback Kevin Amezquita. Talifero has proven to be quite the dangerous quarterback, but there’s still no doubt he’s a linebacker first and one of the best around. And when asked which position he prefers, the answer came with no hesitation.
“Linebacker, definitely,” he said. “It’s just always been me. I’ve always wanted to be the one delivering the hit. I like having control of the defense. I like being the one to make the big hit or big play to help my team.”
So far, so good.