Every time linebacker Keishawn Bierria of Harbor City Narbonne steps onto the field, he looks ready to run through a brick wall. It's his way of honoring his father, Lowell, who died from cancer when Bierria was 8, leaving behind four boys who loved to play sports.
"It's been real tough," Bierria said. "He was always there for us."
You can see Bierria's intensity when he slams down a ballcarrier. You can feel his effort when he turns on the speed to run back a punt. You can sense his leadership skills when he tries to inspire a teammate.
During the first six weeks of the season, Bierria has raised his value as a player in the minds of college recruiters, fans and even opponents. On defense, he has been nothing short of spectacular, whether tackling, covering or disrupting for the unbeaten Gauchos. On special teams, he had a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown against Santa Ana Mater Dei.
"I keep teasing him ... 'this week are you going to return a kickoff for a touchdown?'" Coach Manuel Douglas said.
Linebackers aren't supposed to be able to return a punt or a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Except the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Bierria thinks it's perfectly logical for him.
"I just think I'm an athlete," he said. "When I get the ball, there's something special about making a big play. It's great."
"He's a very versatile linebacker and is able to do things most guys can't do," Douglas said. "When you see him, he's physically imposing."
He came to Narbonne last season after starting at Carson as a sophomore. An older brother was a tight end at Carson. Another brother played basketball at Bellflower St. John Bosco. A sophomore brother plays football at Narbonne. His mother, grandparents, aunt and uncle helped raise him, but it was his older brothers that he turned to after his father's death.
"I really leaned on my brothers," he said. "They stepped in."
It's inspiring to see that performance on the field actually motivate college recruiters to offer a scholarship instead of relying on test results from a combine or camp.
Besides Bierria, there are other players who have raised their profile and gained traction in the recruiting game based on performances against good opponents.
Receiver Thomas Duarte of Mater Dei has been showing as a receiver and linebacker that he's fast enough, skilled enough and tough enough to play at the highest level.
Receiver-defensive backs Mossi Johnson and Dominique Hatfield of Los Angeles Crenshaw each picked up scholarship offers after intercepting two passes apiece against Westlake Village Oaks Christian. Johnson committed to UCLA.
Dominic Collins, a 6-3 junior receiver for 7-0 Lake Forest El Toro, has caught 63 passes for 801 yards and seven touchdowns. Colleges are paying attention.
Bryce Dixon, a 6-4 junior tight end at Ventura St. Bonaventure, caught seven passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns against Corona Centennial. Miami offered him a scholarship.
Playing well against good teams usually means someone has talent. And Bierria tops everyone, having shown what he can do against the likes of Long Beach Poly, Gardena Serra, Mater Dei and Carson.
His father would be proud.