La Cañada High football Coach Dan Yoder must look at this year's All-Rio Hondo League teams and realize he has his work cut out for him next year.
The Rio Hondo's all-league teams were released and eight Spartans — all seniors —were among the honorees. All but one of the La Cañada athletes played both ways on offense and defense.
"There's going to be a lot of vacancies next year, and that opens up a lot of doors for competition," Yoder said.
Michael Arkfeld took home the highest honor of any Spartan this year. He was named the Rio Hondo League's co-Defensive Back of the Year.
Yoder refers to Arkfeld as a "jack-of-all trades" because the player did a bit of everything. He spent some time at wide receiver and at running back, as well as returning punts and kick-offs. It was in La Cañada's secondary that he really started making a name for himself, though. Arkfeld finished the season with six interceptions, 41 tackles, seven passes defended and one fumble recovery.
"[Arkfeld] had big numbers at defensive back in the beginning of the season," Yoder said. "Later on his numbers went down, not because he underperformed, but because teams stopped throwing the ball his way. It's nice when you have a player that can shut a whole side of the field."
Jay Kolina, another two-way player for the Spartans, made the all-league first team at tight end. He was also a second-team selection for his work at defensive end. Kolina was easily the leading receiver for a run-first La Cañada offense, grabbing 17 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns. He also racked up 20 tackles and two sacks on defense.
"He's just an outstanding kid and a great leader," Yoder said. "He was probably one of our best football bodies out there and he has a great football mind to go with it."
Scott Gray, the motor for La Cañada's offense this season, was named to the second-team as quarterback. He finished the season with 1,457 total yards (852 passing and 605 rushing) and 19 touchdowns (13 rushing and six passing). La Cañada didn't look the same without Gray under center in a game against Arroyo when the Spartans' offense only generated 86 yards — a season-low by 99 yards.
"Scott just has that leadership, that confidence and that swagger. He's just a great athlete too, if he wasn't at quarterback, he would have been somewhere else for us," Yoder said.
La Cañada ran the ball nearly three times more than they passed it. This made it difficult for Daleep Sandhu to find running lanes because defenses constantly filled the box to squash the run. However, Sandhu earned first-team honors at running back. He carried the ball 122 times and picked up 526 yards and eight touchdowns.
Opening up holes for Sandhu were tackle Luke Sanborn and guard Joe Torres on La Cañada's offensive line. Both made the all-league second team.
"We were an undersized, running team and the fact we could even do that is really a huge compliment to Sanborn, Torres and really the entire offensive line," Yoder said. "Without them, there is just no way we run the ball."
Lucas Gauthier and Jeff Barker brought a punch to the Spartans' defense. Gauthier, a linebacker, had 38 tackles, two sacks, one interception, a forced fumble and a blocked punt this season. Although Gauthier had the fewest tackles among starting linebackers, he was still a clear all-league choice, according to Yoder.
"We talked about making the play without making the tackle and that's exactly what Lucas did," Yoder said. "The other linebackers reaped the benefits of Lucas taking the edge or picking up the right block."
Barker came on late, bringing in four interceptions in the final two games of the regular season. He also had 15 tackles, three defended passes and one touchdown on a 21-yard pass at wide receiver.
"Barker is one of the guys who struggled early in the season but stuck with it and always seemed to find himself in the right spot," Yoder said. "He always seemed to come down with the ball whenever it came near him."
Yoder said it's bittersweet to see the 2010 senior class come and go.
"Competition is always a good thing but it's going to be sad to see these guys go, they were vital to our success," Yoder said.