Among all the players set to participate in this weekend’s high school football championship games, perhaps no one deserves more attention than 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior running back Isaac Hurtado of unbeaten Cypress (13-0).
Not only has he scored 42 touchdowns and rushed for 2,516 yards but he’s someone who decided to stay at his neighborhood school five minutes from his home for four years and not worry whether his team was a power or not.
“I feel if I started somewhere, that’s where I’m going to finish,” he said Monday in Long Beach during the CIF Southern Section championship luncheon. “Whether or not my team was going to be good or not didn’t matter. I just wanted to be able to show what I could do. Being at Cypress, I got colleges being able to look at me.”
Hurtado was worried he had grown so tall some might not think he could play running back. But coach Rick Feldman told him about a running back named Eric Dickerson. Hurtado switched to wearing No. 29, Dickerson’s number.
“He runs so physical,” said Feldman, whose team hosts Temecula Valley in Friday’s Division 7 championship game. “He never gets caught from behind.”
Whatever happens this week, Hurtado will be long remembered around Cypress for his talent and humbleness.
“I’m super proud of my team and all we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. “Obviously I need the help of every single one of them. I can’t do it on my own. I’m glad I have a great group of guys around me that are able to lift me up whenever I need it, and I hope [to] do the same.”
Select company: Simi Valley coach Jim Benkert could join an elite group if the Pioneers defeat Crescenta Valley in the Division 10 final on Friday at Simi Valley. Benkert has won section titles coaching at Westlake Village Westlake and Westlake Village Oaks Christian. With a win, he’d join Harry Welch, Don Markham and Dick Hill, among others, who have won championships at three different schools.
A first. El Monte is awarded the D12 championship trophy pic.twitter.com/6Fo8antn49— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) November 25, 2019
Strange celebration: Standout running back Abel Cueva of El Monte was spending Sunday afternoon working as a cashier’s at McDonald’s when he found out from a coach that El Monte had been declared Division 12 champion when the semifinal game between Adelanto and Perris Orange Vista was declared a double forfeit for fighting and players leaving the bench.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “From all the hard work. ... it sucks to be that way. I wanted to win it on the field. We did our part to get into the championship.”
El Monte received its championship plaque on Monday and resumed practice in preparation to play in a state bowl game next week.
Praise for wide receiver: Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young offered praise for senior receiver Kody Epps, who has caught 10 touchdown passes in two playoff games and has 28 touchdowns on the season.
“It’s great to see all the hard work he’s put in coming to fruition,” Young said. “He’s been under the radar for a while. It’s good to see him get the attention he deserves. It’s not like overnight he woke up in game one and started playing amazing. Everyone who’s been here four years has told me he how hard he’s been working since he first got to Mater Dei. The timing was perfect as far as having his breakout year.”
UCLA-bound CB John Humphrey of Muir said he was ready to help vs. USC. “I would have shut them down,” he said of Michael Pittman, Amon-ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns. pic.twitter.com/s1K87w3elG— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) November 25, 2019
Upsetting USC fans: Pasadena Muir defensive back John Humphrey, a UCLA commit, has helped his team reach the Division 11 final against Huntington Beach Marina on Friday. He was asked if he could have helped cover USC’s collection of receivers last week at the Coliseum.
“I would have shut them down,” he said confidently.