“Let’s go Riddick,” a teammate on the Los Angeles Garfield High sideline shouted as running back Michael Aguilar raced by on his way to a 49-yard touchdown run.
Aguilar has been blind in his right eye since birth, and his Garfield teammates have nicknamed him “Riddick,” after the Vin Diesel character whose eyes glow in “The Chronicles of Riddick.”
“I think it’s a great accomplishment for him,” quarterback Jovanie Flores said of the running back who has rushed for 100 yards or more in five of Garfield’s seven games this season. “Even though he’s blind in one eye, he’s just like any other running back. He doesn’t let anything hold him back.”
Aguilar wears an Oakley visor inside his helmet as protection and was cleared by his eye doctor to play football. It’s a sport he started only two years ago as a sophomore, and his parents were initially split on giving approval.
“I asked my mom and she said, ‘Yes,’ ” Aguilar said. “My dad wasn’t sure I should play.”
Aguilar’s father wanted careful consideration of safety issues and didn’t want to put his son in a situation to fail. As it turned out, Aguilar was a natural, picking up yards on the freshman-sophomore team, then gaining experience last season as a junior on varsity.
He has speed, power and toughness. Yes, a tackler coming from his blind side has an advantage, but Aguilar has developed instincts to sense someone approaching.
“Sometimes when I’m running, when people are coming from the right side, I don’t see them,” he said. “But if you watch the film, it looks like I did. I lower my shoulder. It’s a reaction. I feel it.”
Aguilar, 5 feet 9 and 175 pounds, has rushed for 872 yards for Garfield, which is 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the Eastern League. He gained 142 yards against Los Angeles Fremont, 135 yards against Los Angeles Wilson and 183 yards in a 21-20 loss to Huntington Park.
“He puts moves on kids, accelerates and runs through kids,” Coach Lorenzo Hernandez said. “He’s really feisty because he wanted to play.”
Aguilar understands the risks of playing football. An injury to his good eye would leave him totally blind. But he added, “I never think of the risks because I like doing it.”
Flores tried to put himself in Aguilar’s shoes and discovered how difficult it is.
“I tried to close my eye and hit the receiver, and it was hard, so I know where he’s coming from,” he said.
Aguilar believes nothing should hold someone back if he has the desire to succeed.
“If you like it, you should go out and try it,” he said. “I found a way to compete.”
The No. 1 high school basketball player in the West, if not the nation, 6-10 center Kevin Love from Lake Oswego, Ore., is going to make two appearances in Southern California, which is great news for UCLA fans because he is scheduled to sign a letter of intent with the Bruins on Nov. 8.
Love will play at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 15 against Compton Centennial as part of the Los Angeles Verbum Dei Real Run Winter Classic. Then, on Feb. 3, he’ll face Santa Ana Mater Dei at the Monarchs’ new gymnasium as part of the Nike Extravaganza.
Chatsworth could become a contender for the City Section girls’ basketball championship if the Brandon sisters are given a hardship waiver to compete this season after transferring from Palmdale.
Kimberly Brandon, a 6-2 junior, and her sister, Jennifer, a 6-1 sophomore, helped Palmdale win the Golden League title last season. First-year Chatsworth Coach Michelle Chevalier has become their legal guardian.
Santa Clarita Golden Valley, a high school in its third year of existence, was beaten, 90-0, by Canyon Country Canyon in a Foothill League football game last week.
The program obviously needs to improve, but at least the school has chosen to compete. San Juan Capistrano Serra is forfeiting each of its Trinity League games this season because it didn’t want to experience what Golden Valley is going through. That’s worse.
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at email@example.com