BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH -- Bellarmine-Jefferson High football
player Derek Leiphardt doesn’t mind putting pressure on himself.
This season, the junior running back has set some lofty goals.
Along with wanting to gain 1,500 yards, Leiphardt also hopes to
average three touchdowns a game for the Guards.
Although personal accomplishments are paramount for the 5-foot-8,
170-pound speedster in his progression as a player, there is
something more important he hopes to accomplish.
“I just want to help bring a little respect to the Bell-Jeff
program,” Leiphardt said. “For so long, Bell-Jeff has just been the
little school in the city and a lot of people have never paid us much
“I’m hoping that we can have a good season, and maybe we will be
recognized for our accomplishments, in the city, and in the CIF
In just three games, Leiphardt is on track to meet -- and even
exceed -- his goals. Also, he is helping put Bell-Jeff on the map in
the high school football community.
Leiphardt has churned out 660 yards in 27 carries -- a 24.4
yards-per-carry average -- and has 11 total touchdowns.
The remarkable thing about Leiphardt’s numbers is that he has
accomplished them in what amounts to about eight quarters -- or two
games. The Guards have had big leads in all of their games, and the
running back has spent most the third and fourth quarters cooling his
jets on the bench.
“It is kind of frustrating to sit out when you’re having a good
game,” Leiphardt said. “But I can understand why I’m not in there.
I’m just happy that when I’m taken out, it gives an opportunity for
other players to play.”
Bell-Jeff Coach Rolando Aguirre said Leiphardt’s desire to stay in
games has nothing to do with him trying to pad his stats.
“Derek is just a competitor,” Aguirre said. “We wants to be in
there doing all he can for the team.
“I know it irks him when I take him out, but I know he understands
why he is on the bench.”
In Saturday’s 55-18 nonleague win against Claremont Webb,
Leiphardt spent most of the fourth quarter on the sideline after
rushing for 242 yards in 11 carries and three touchdowns. He had
scoring runs of 72, 28 and 70 yards.
Leiphardt’s exploits have helped the Guards jump out to their best
season in decades. Not only does Bell-Jeff have a 3-0 record, but it
has devastated opponents with a juggernaut of an offense that
features senior quarterback Brendon Doyle and junior running backs
Adrian Anetema, Joey Diaz and Matt Magallon
Bell-Jeff has racked up 152 points and is averaging 50.6 points a
The team’s success is getting noticed, as the Guards are ranked
No. 7 CIF Southern Section Division XII.
With a refreshing modesty and a desire to share his success,
Leiphardt doesn’t see himself as a star player. Instead, he likes to
think he is just one piece of a big puzzle that fits together just
“I couldn’t have the success that I have without the help of my
line,” he said. “They are the ones out there blocking for me and
doing all of the hard work. They do such a good job at opening the
holes, I just have to follow behind them and do what I’m supposed to
The Bell-Jeff offensive line might appear to be Leiphardt’s
personal battering ram. Some pretty hefty divides have been opened up
by a beefy front that includes Brian Alfaro (6-4, 275), Robert
Alarcon (6-2, 285) and Alex Khachatoorian (6-2, 235).
“With those big guys out in front of me, I wonder if the other
team even sees me some times,” Leiphardt said.
To thank his linemen, Leiphardt says he regularly pays them off in
pizzas, knowing he has to keep his protectors happy.
Success as a running back didn’t just magically come about this
season for Leiphardt. He also put up impressive numbers in 2002 as a
sophomore, running for 760 yards in 83 carries for 10 touchdowns.
Leiphardt also got a unique and rare opportunity as a freshman,
when he was brought up to the varsity team midway through the season.
With CIF rules making it difficult for freshmen to play on the
varsity level, Aguirre said he had to submit special documentation
that had to be approved before Leiphardt was cleared to make the
“I was brought up because [Brendon Doyle] got injured his
sophomore season and they needed a backup quarterback,” said
Leiphardt, who was the junior-varsity quarterback at the time.
“I was pretty scared when I played my first game. But I was just
happy to be there.”
Seeing time as a ninth-grader, against players who were much
bigger -- and some who were three years older -- Leiphardt got a
quick, hard-knock education in high school football.
However, in a Santa Fe League game against L.A. Daniel Murphy,
Leiphardt gave the Bell-Jeff faithful a glimpse of what was to come,
when he caught three passes for 111 yards and scored a 53-yard
“I think being up as a freshman has helped Derek a lot,” Aguirre
said. “He has a lot more confidence than the average player because
he’s been here and he knows what to expect. He really thinks and acts
like a senior.”
At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Leiphardt and the Guards will try to make
it four in a row when they play in a nonleague game at Yermo Silver
Silver Valley (0-2) has a suspect defense that is vulnerable to
the run. That could spell another big night for Leiphardt.
If the Guards keep rolling, there is a good chance they could have
a 6-0 record when they open league play Oct 18 against Daniel Murphy.
It is league competition that Leiphardt said the Guards are looking
“One of our goals this season is to win league,” he said. “That is
something all of us are working hard to accomplish.
“Other than that, we just hope to go and play [well] in the
playoffs. Hopefully, we can win some games in the playoffs.”
Winning a few playoff games is probably going to be easier than
trying to nail down a Santa Fe League championship. That’s because
the league’s best team is also one of the premier programs in
Division XII -- Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart.
The Cardinals are 0-3, but they have lost to excellent
competition: Fountain Valley (plays in the Division I Sunset League),
27-18, L.A. Cathedral (No. 4 in Division X), 34-27, and Simi Valley
Grace Brethren (No. 2 in Division XIII), 26-13.
However, despite the challenge Cantwell will pose, Leiphardt likes
his team’s chances for a league title.
“We just have to go out there and play well. If we do, I know we
have a chance, and we can win the championship,” he said.
That’s a pretty big goal. But setting high aspirations is nothing
new for Leiphardt.