By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
2016 ALL-AREA FOOTBALL
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Elijah Hicks, La Mirada, Senior
La Mirada High School’s Elijah Hicks is a throwback to old school.In an era of specialization, he’s Mr. Versatile. The senior did it all for the Matadores this season while helping La Mirada to the CIF-Southern Section finals for the second consecutive season.
For his efforts, Hicks is 2016 Whittier Daily News High School Football Player of the Year.
“It’s cool (to be player of the year),” Hicks said. “It’s something that comes with hard work. I’m thankful, appreciative.”
So is La Mirada, which used his talents to advance win a third consecutive Suburban League title and advance to the CIF-SS Division 3 finals, losing to Edison (44-24).
Hicks, who has committed to Notre Dame, proved to be an Elijah of all and master of all. He was a big-play receiver with 31 receptions for 483 yards and five touchdowns; arguably the scariest kick returner in the area with close to 1,000 return yards and three touchdowns, and top defender with five interceptions, including one for a score.
“He did it all,” said La Mirada coach Mike Moschetti who resigned following the season. “Offensively, defensively, a great kick returner. But most importantly, in the locker room. He was one of our leaders.
“He’s such a great player and was a spark. We definitely wouldn’t have had the success we’ve had the past two years without him. He’s a kid who comes around your program every (once in a while). We were lucky to have him.”
Hick’s biggest moment this year came in the Division 3 quarterfinals when he helped the Matadores rally from 21 points down to beat regional rival La Serna, 32-31.
The senior, after the visiting Lancers went up 31-10, returned the kickoff 82 yards to cut the deficit to 31-16 late in the third quarter. Then on La Mirada’s winning drive he hauled in two fourth-down passes from Tristan Meyer to set up Brandon Petruescu’s winning field goal.
“I just wanted to do whatever was possible to put my team in position to win,” Hicks said. “They put me back (to return the kick) and I thought I could make something happen.”
La Mirada’s season ended two weeks later with the loss to Edison. But Hicks looks at is a positive to win one divisional title and have a shot at a second. He will leave La Mirada with no regrets.
“There was some adversity, but no regrets,” Hicks said. “Things happen for a reason. I’m just thankful to be in my situation here.
“It was a tough loss to Edison like that. Making it (to the finals) another year was good. It didn’t end like we wanted it to. But it was another fun year, playing with my brothers.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Pete Gonzalez, Montebello
Gonzalez, who completed his eighth season with the Oilers, has built a budding power at Montebello. The Oilers have won the past four consecutive Almont League titles and have a league winning streak of 20 games.
He’s 52-37 at Montebello, and helped the program end a nine-year stretch where it missed the playoffs. The Oilers are 35-13 since 2013.
This season was the best since taking over prior to the 2009 season. Montebello won 10 consecutive games in winning another league title and advanced to the CIF Southern Section divisional semifinals for the first time in three decades.
“It was a really exciting season,” Gonzalez said. “I thought our team did extremely well and prepared well for (the season). It was just a fantastic season. Another league title, which was great. It’s tougher to stay on top than to get there, so to win it four years in a row, it’s just been really exciting for our players and our school.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tristan Meyer, La Mirada, Senior
Meyer was the straw that stirred the Matadores’ offense. He was one of the top passers in the CIF-SS, throwing for 2,462 yards and 37 touchdowns, which ranked second in the area. He was 23-4 in two seasons as a starter, throwing for 4,398 yards and 64 touchdowns while also leading the Matadores to state and section titles in 2015 and the CIF-SS Division 3 title game this fall. He’s committed to FCS Sacramento State.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brandon Gonzalez, Montebello, Senior
Montebello put together one of the area’s better defensive efforts in recent memory and Gonzalez was at the center of that performance, which saw the Oilers give up a mere 9.2 points a game in leading Montebello to its fourth consecutive Almont League title and an appearance in the CIF-SS divisional semifinals for the first time in three decades. Gonzalez controlled his spot in the middle at nose guard. He finished with 53 tackles and had four sacks. He also helped on the offensive end with 26 receptions for 398 yards and two touchdowns. He was co-Almont Player of the Year.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Gabriel Tapia, Montebello, Junior
Tapia emerged from the Montebello junior varsity team to become one of the top players in the area. He keyed the Oilers run to an 11-2 record, the program’s fourth consecutive Almont League crown and first trip to the divisional semifinals in three decades. The senior accounted for 2,674 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was Almont League Offensive MVP after throwing for 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
Quarterback, Whittier Christian, Junior
Commans was the most-prolific passer in the area this season. He threw for a school-record 3,777 yards and 43 touchdowns, both of which led the area and the CIF-SS during the regular season. Commans, who also set a school mark for a single game with a 558-yard effort in a loss to Heritage Christian in 2015, tied a CIF-SS record with a nine-TD effort in a 68-55 victory over Bell in September. He also a touchdown run in the game. He completed 66 percent of his passes and threw just two interceptions.
Running Back, La Serna, Senior
Marshall, who combined physicality with deceptive speed was the top running back in the area after rushing for 1,536 yards and 24 touchdowns. He keyed La Serna to an 8-4 record and the Lancers’ second consecutive Del Rio League crown and their fourth in five seasons. He saved his best for last, rushing for 242 and three scores in a 41-34 victory over Serrano in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs before gaining 142 and scoring two TDs in a 32-31 loss to La Mirada in quarterfinals. Marshall ran for 1,194 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final six games. He was Del Rio League Player of the Year.
Running Back, La Mirada, Senior
Hernandez was another key cog in La Mirada winning the Suburban League for the third consecutive season and advancing to the divisional finals in consecutive years. The senior filled in nicely for the graduated Sei-J Lauago by rushing for 1,142 yards and 16 touchdowns. He ran for over 100 yards six times, including 182 in a season-opening win over Orange Lutheran and 171 in the finals loss to Edison. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
Wide Receiver, La Habra, Senior
Ross, who made the winning catch to give the Highlanders the 2015 CIF-SS Southwest Division title, enjoyed another banner year. He again showed the big-play ability in helping La Habra to an 8-5 record and a second consecutive trip to the divisional semifinals. He was the constant for the Highlanders, with 33 receptions for 633 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had three returns for scores. Ross was All-Freeway League.
Wide Receiver, La Mirada, Senior
Clark was La Mirada’s go-to receiver and he came up big in the big moments for the Matadores, who reached the divisional finals for the second consecutive season. He showed deceptive speed, which allowed him to grab a team-high 47 receptions for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns. He two TD catches in finals’ loss to Edison that allowed La Mirada to stay close before losing, 44-24. He was All-Suburban League.
Wide Receiver, Whittier Christian, Junior
McGee was a key component for the Heralds’ high-powered passing attack. He took advantage of the sophisticated scheme by catching 63 passes for 1,166 and 20 touchdowns. He averaged 18.5 yards per catch and had double-digit receptions twice, including getting 15 for 215 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-29 victory over Bishop Union in the season opener. He also had 10 receptions for 203 yards and three scores in a 68-55 victory over Bell.
Offensive Line, Montebello, Junior
Montebello featured one of the area’s better running attacks, which was spearheaded by Pelayo. The Oilers rushed for more 2,500 yards and averaged close to six yards per carry. Pelayo helped Montebello gain 150 yards or more in seven of 12 games, including rushing for 200 or more three times. He was Almont League co-Lineman of the Year and its top offensive lineman.
Offensive Lineman, St. Paul, Junior
Reyes was one of the keys for St. Paul ending its nine-year playoff draught that also saw the Swordsmen be one of four area teams to advance to the CIF-SS divisional semifinals. St. Paul had a solid run game helped by Reyes, who was first team All-Angelus League. St. Paul rushed for 2,337 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Swordsmen averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
Offensive line, La Serna, Senior
Casillas played a key part in La Serna winning its second consecutive Del Rio League title. His blocks paved the way for Matthew Marshall to rush for more than 1,500 yards and the Lancers to gain 3,467 yards on the ground and rush for 47 touchdowns. He was the Del Rio League’s first team center.
Offensive Line, La Mirada, Senior
Toa is first team All-Area for the second consecutive season. He played a big part in the Matadores winning a third consecutive Suburban League title and back-to-back trips to the divisional finals. Toa’s blocks helped La Mirada rush for 2,737 yards and 34 touchdowns. They averaged nearly seven yards a carry. Toa was All-Suburban League.
Offensive Line, La Mirada, Junior
Casodas was the top offensive lineman in the Suburban League. He played a big role in La Mirada advancing to the divisional finals for the second consecutive season. He helped senior Nick Hernandez rush for 1,142 yards and 16 touchdowns and the team for 2,737 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The Matadores, after losing two of their first three games, finished 11-3, won the Suburban League title and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 3 title game.
Utility, St. Paul, Senior
Redick was St. Paul’s go-to back and played a big part in the Swordsmen ending their 10-year playoff jinx.
The senior, despite missing time during the middle part of the season due to injury, rushed for 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns to lead St. Paul to the CIF-SS Division 7 semifinals. He eclipsed the 100-yard barrier five times, including 168 yards in a first-round win over Monrovia and 144 in the semifinal lost to Norte Vista. He was second team All-Angelus League.
Place kicker, La Mirada, Senior
Sanchez was also first team All-Area last season. He was one of the area’s most effective kickers before an injury cut his season short in the divisional quarterfinals. He proved to be an important part of the kick game for La Mirada with 17 touchbacks and 58 of 61 conversion kicks. He finished with 61 points.
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB: Adam Chandler, El Rancho, Sr.
RB: Noah Rangel, Schurr, Sr.
RB: Joshua Cooper, Santa Fe, Sr.
WR: Noah Sanchez, Whittier Chr., So.
WR: Derrick Corso, La Habra, Sr.
WR: Daniel Cruz, La Serna, Sr.
OL: Omar Gonsalez, California, Sr.
OL: Josh Rosca, La Habra, Sr.
OL: Michael Martinez, La Serna, Sr.
OL: Sebastian Perez, Sonora, Jr.
OL: Cody Stewart, La Serna, Sr.
U: Miguel Aguero, Schurr, Jr.
PK: Holden Remme, La Habra, Jr.
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
Defensive Line, La Serna, Senior
Gomez is All-Area for the second consecutive season. He was one of the top defenders in the area. He secured 80 tackles and had a team-high 12 sacks. He also had two pass deflections. The senior, who helped La Serna go 8-4 and advance to the divisional quarterfinals, was Del Rio League Defensive Player of the Year.
Defensive line, La Mirada, Senior
Hallock was one of the leaders of defense, which shut out three opponents and held nine to 15 points or less as the Matadores went 11-3, won the Suburban League and advanced to the divisional finals for the second consecutive season. He was a force off the edge, securing a team-high 6 1/2 sacks. He also had 50 tackles and forced two fumbles, recovering one.
Defensive line, Schurr, Junior
Rodriguez played a key part in the Spartans advancing to the divisional quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. He helped Schurr limit the opposition to 16 points a game while going 8-4. He had 44 tackles and three sacks, with seven hurries. He was Almont League co-Lineman of the Year.
Schurr finished second in the Almont League, beat Fillmore in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs before bowing out in the quarterfinals with a loss to eventual divisional champion Arroyo.
Linebacker, St. Paul, Senior
Haro was a key factor St. Paul advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 2007, which was also the Swordsmen’s last playoff appearance. The senior led the team in tackles with 114 and had four sacks, with seven hurries. He also caused a fumble. Haro was also first team All-Angelus League.
He helped St. Paul rebound from forfeited consecutive losses to finish third in the Angelus League. They scored a key win over Salesian before advancing to the divisional semifinals. The march to the final four featured wins over Monrovia and top seed Oxnard Pacifica.
Linebacker, La Habra, Senior
Rivas makes his second consecutive appearance on the All-Area team. He combines physicality with speed and usually finds his way to the ball. The senior ranked among the area leaders in tackles. He played a big part in La Habra advancing to the divisional semifinals for the second consecutive season, which included an upset of Oaks Christian in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs. Rivas was All-Freeway League.
Linebacker, Montebello, Senior
Olguin was a key cog for a defensive that allowed less than 10 points a game and was pivotal in the Oilers winning a fourth consecutive Almont League title and advancing to the divisional semifinals for the first time in three decades. He had a team-high 120 tackles, with six sacks and a forced fumble. Olguin was Almont League co-Defensive MVP.
He helped the Oilers maintain their Almont League dominance, which now includes a 20-game league win streak. They outlasted Covina in the quarterfinals before losing in the semifinals, their first trip to the final four in three decades.
Defensive Back, La Mirada, Senior
Lan, who is also one of the top baseball players in the area, was a steady constant in the Matadores secondary. He earned his second consecutive All-Area selection after securing 69 tackles with two interceptions. He also had 5 1/2 takedowns for a loss.
Lan helped La Mirada go 11-3, win another Suburban League title and advance to the divisional finals for the second consecutive year.
Defensive Back, La Mirada, Senior
Wilson was another key cog for the Matadores second consecutive run to the divisional finals. He had three interceptions, including one for a touchdown that helped La Mirada open the season with a victory over Orange Lutheran. Wilson also had 32 tackles.
Wilson helped La Mirada reach the semifinals for the second consecutive year. The Matadores also beat a Trinity League foe in Orange Lutheran and won the Suburban League title again.
LANCE BABB II
Defensive Back, Schurr, Junior
Babb was a big part of a defense that yielded 16 points a game and helped Schurr reach the divisional quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. He was solid in pass defense and also had 21 tackles. The junior was Almont League co-Most Valuable player. He was also solid on offensive 57 receptions for 1,133 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Schurr finished second in the Almont League before beating Fillmore in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs. The Spartans season ended with a loss to Arroyo, which eventually won the division.
Defensive Back, St. Paul, Senior
Lemos helped St. Paul end its nine-season playoff draught. He was a ball hawk on defense, grabbing five interceptions to lead the Swordsmen. He also had 69 tackles. The senior was a first team All-Angelus on defense and second team on offense. As a receiver, he had 19 receptions for 317 yards and two touchdowns.
He helped St. Paul rebound from forfeiting consecutive games early in the season. The Swordsmen rebounded to finish third in the Angelus League before advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 2007.
Defensive Back, El Rancho, Senior
The senior played a big part in the Dons turnaround from 1-9 in 2015 to the divisional quarterfinals this past fall. Huerta was steady on defense, with 60 tackles and an interception and keyed an offensive resurgence with 76 receptions for 1,352 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was Del Rio League Offensive Player of the Year.
El Rancho rebounded from a one-win season in 2015 with a third-place finish in the Del Rio League, and Huerta played a big part in the rebound.
Punter, Montebello, Senior
Bravo was an effective weapon for the Oilers, who won games with defense, an opportunistic offense and an effective kicking game. Bravo averaged 38.8 five yards a punt and had 11 kicks inside the 20-yard line. As a place kicker, he had 11 touchbacks and made 33 of 36 conversion kicks and six of eight field goals.
Bravo was a key weapon for the Oilers, who had a dominant defense and a run-first offense. He helped the cause by putting opponents in bad field position in most games.
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL: Kevin Lopez, Montebello, Sr.
DL: Jonah Uiagalelei Aumua, La Mirada, Sr.
DL: Eli Martinez, La Serna, Sr.
DL: Tyler Morrison, St. Paul, So.
LB: Marcus Carrasco, La Habra, Sr.
LB: Justin Osborn, Whittier Chr., Sr.
LB: Steve Osorio, La Serna, Sr.
DB: Madison Wheeler, La Habra, Sr.
DB: Alan Giron, La Habra, Sr.
DB: Jaquari Levett, Santa Fe, Sr.
DB: Sebastian Ramos, Schurr, Jr.
P: Joseph Velasco, St. Paul, Sr.
1. La Mirada (11-3)
2. La Serna (8-4)
3. La Habra (8-5)
4. Montebello (11-2)
5. St. Paul (*6-7)
6. Schurr (8-4)
7. El Rancho (5-7)
8. Santa Fe (5-6)
9. Whittier Christian (6-4)
10. Whittier (5-5)
Note: *-record includes two forfeit losses
La Mirada (Division 3)
Del Rio: La Serna
Freeway: Buena Park
Olympic: Cerritos Valley Christian
South Catholic: Bishop Montgomery
Suburban: La Mirada
GAME OF THE YEAR
La Mirada 32, La Serna 31
Nov. 18, 2016 at La Mirada HS
La Mirada showed its never out of a football game after overcoming a three-touchdown deficit to score one its most-thrilling wins in its history, shocking the Lancers in final moments.
La Serna, behind 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Matt Marshall, looked to have the upset, leading 31-10 late in the third quarter. But Elijah Hicks returned a kickoff 82 yards to slice it to 31-16 before fourth-quarter touchdowns by Jeremy Clark and Angel Favela cut it to 31-29 with a two minutes left. Tristan Meyer than completed two fourth-down passes to Hicks to set up Brandon Petruescu’s 30-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to win it.