For the first time in his seven years as a head coach, Buena High’s Rick Scott will turn to the freshman class for varsity football players. In fact, Scott has used only one sophomore on the varsity in his career, but his reach into the ninth grade already has garnered surprising results.
George Keiaho and Shaun Popkin probably will play in the backfield together at some point this season, although Buena’s opener against Westlake at Ventura High has been ruled out. Keiaho is only 14 years old and won’t be eligible under state age-limit rules until he turns 15, which will happen before the team’s second game, Sept. 14 at Thousand Oaks.
Keiaho, 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, is from Fiji and had only one year of youth football experience before he joined the Buena team during the summer. The late start has hindered his ability to understand the offense, but Scott raves about the tailback.
“He’s a man-child,” Scott said. “Everyone who saw him this summer said he had to be 21 or 22 years old. But he can carry the load. He’s got great natural instincts.”
Popkin, 15, is 6-foot and 185 pounds. He has worked out at fullback and linebacker, although his progress has been slowed by his having missed practice time because he was showing his prize bull at an area fair.
“It’s been fun having them in practice,” Scott said. “Every time one of my guys misses a tackle against them I get all over them about letting a freshman beat them. It’s sure created a lot of interest.”