This is the fourth in a series of stories looking at the top high school football players in the Southland by position. Today: tight ends.
Randall Telfer wanted to make the world a better place.
A proposed sewage sludge recycling plant in Rialto planned to truck in waste from coastal counties and convert it into a coal-like fuel. Telfer figured his neighborhood could do without such a business, so he sprung into action.
He and his classmates called local newspapers. They toured a wastewater treatment plant. They spoke out against the perceived evils of the recycling plant.
"We had to figure out how we could stop it," Telfer said.
He was 11.
Today, more than six years later, Telfer's focus has shifted into making things go. He is a senior tight end in a Rancho Cucamonga High offense that is expected to lay waste to opponents as it tries to defend its Southern Section Central Division title.
The Cougars return enough talent from last year to outfit an all-star team. There's dynamic quarterback Greg Watson, a threat to move the ball with his arm or his feet; hard-charging tailback Michael Boyd; and linemen Gary Berwick and Jon Hernandez, a pair of three-year starters.
Getting Telfer back is like returning two standouts. He's a 6-foot-4, 225-pound hybrid who runs like a receiver and blocks like a tackle. He caught 42 passes last season for 677 yards and five touchdowns, including the score that helped secure a 21-7 victory over Upland in the championship game.
"He's 6-4, so he's an easy target to hit over the middle, and he's fast," Watson said. "He can outrun any DB. So all I have to do is throw it up and let him catch it."
Although Telfer may have arrived before his time in his environmental advocacy, he got a late start in football; his freshman year marked the first time he put on pads.
"I never knew the game or how to play," Telfer said.
When his teammates talked about having done this or that in Pop Warner, Telfer felt left out of the discussion. But by next fall, he'll be able to converse about something foreign to everyone but a select few: wearing the cardinal and gold of USC.
"He really only has 14 games under his belt and he's going to USC," Rancho Cucamonga Coach Nick Baiz marveled. "Most guys USC takes have 30 or 40 games under their belt."
It's been a swift ascent for a player who Watson said "couldn't catch anything" as a freshman. Telfer played sparingly as a sophomore and then became a key contributor as a junior, when he was Watson's No. 2 receiving target. He was such a dominating blocker that he registered three pancake blocks on one play against rival Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos.
This year, the Cougars plan to keep defenses guessing by having Telfer line up at tight end, in the slot and as a wide receiver. He'll also play defensive end in the team's nickel package when opponents face third-and-long situations.
"We're going to enjoy this year," Baiz said, "because you don't get a guy like this all the time that can do everything."
Telfer also excels in the classroom, where he has a 3.5 grade-point average. His mother's work as a physical therapist sparked an interest in kinesiology, which Telfer plans to study at USC with hopes of eventually becoming a chiropractor.
If that career doesn't work out, he could always go back to being an activist. The recycling plant that Telfer and his classmates worked so hard to stop finally became operational this summer, meaning a new plan of attack might be in order.
"I try to do my part," Telfer said.
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Top 10 tight ends
*--* PLAYER SCHOOL HT WT COMMENT Alani Fua Oaks Christian 6-6 215 Sr., Brigham Young commit, makes clutch catches. Dylan Gutierrez Ventura 6-3 220 Jr., has the hands, size and intelligence to excel. Albert Jackson Eisenhower 6-2 205 Jr., all-league as a sophomore. Gardner Kennedy Morro Bay 6-5 215 Sr., showed potential a year ago. Tyler Perry Buena 6-5 240 Sr., Oregon State commit is best in Ventura County. Anthony Quiroz Franklin 6-1 250 Sr., can block and catch passes. Pierce Richardson Crespi 6-5 240 Sr., a big target who's developing. Randall Telfer Rancho Cucamonga 6-4 230 Sr., USC commit makes an impact. Christian Thomas Highland 6-3 235 Sr., lots of speed for someone big and strong. John Young Loyola 6-4 255 Sr., a good athlete with mobility. *--*