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Why Easton Mascarenas went into college mode at Mission Viejo

Linebacker Easton Mascarenas of Mission Viejo is known for his passion, versatility and quickness.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

Easton Mascarenas was given his first name by his mother, Toni, because she’d used Easton bats to send softballs flying over fences while playing in high school and college. She once hit 25 home runs in a single season at Arizona, helping the Wildcats win the 2001 NCAA championship.

“It’s her love for softball, which is cool,” Mascarenas said.

He long ago gave up hitting baseballs for hitting running backs in football. A 6-foot, 220-pound senior linebacker at Mission Viejo, Mascarenas is the prototype for the new version of linebacker required to play at the highest level.

“I’ve got one thing in mind, and that is going as far as I can in football,” he said.

Mascarenas’ versatility helps make him a valuable defensive player.

“The game is changing,” Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson said. “The game is fly sweep one way, zone the other way, then bubble screen. You have to be able to run sideline to sideline. There’s so much speed on the field now a lot of colleges are looking for linebackers who can really run. He’s super athletic, can cover, is physical and has a great motor.”

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Mascarenas has been playing football since he was 7. He played for the Diablos’ varsity as a sophomore, but a back injury made him hesitant. Then came the start of his junior season with a game in Hawaii.

In the first quarter, a draw play was called and Mascarenas read it perfectly, sprinted forward and threw the running back to the turf. It gave him an immediate boost of confidence.

“After that, I started celebrating. It was a great feeling,” he said.

He’d go on to record 91 tackles during the 2019 season, including 17 for losses, for an 11-1 team. He signed with Oregon State, where his step-brother, Akili Arnold, a former Mission Viejo player, is a defensive back.

“I met the whole coaching staff and having a brother there, that’s the most comfortable place,” he said.

During five months of not having in-person contact with Mission Viejo coaches because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mascarenas kept training on his own trying to be ready when he’d get back onto the field. He didn’t know it would take 11 months to return. Oregon State gave him permission to play when the Diablos restarted their season last week.

“At first, it was a hump to get over with no one telling you what to do,” he said. “Working out on your own is definitely a challenge, but once your mind switches, it benefits you every single way.”

Mascarenas went into college mode, forcing himself to mature and do things on his own.

“I’m going to make sure everyone knows who I am,” he said. “I play with heart and passion. Playing with passion increases your game. If you give 100% what you have every single play, playing for your coach, playing for your family, that’s passion.”

Mascarenas tried to explain what is required to play linebacker.

“You have to be physical,” he said. “The second thing is having a motor, and that all comes with offseason training. You have to know every part of the defense at my position.”

LINEBACKERS TO WATCH THIS SEASON

Player, School, Ht., Wt., Yr., Comment

Easton Macarenas, Mission Viejo, 6-0, 220, Sr.: Mobility and toughness are his strengths

Jonathan Flowe, Upland, 6-1, 195, Sr.: Oregon signee loves to sack quarterbacks

Raesjon Davis, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-1, 210, Sr.: USC signee is best in Trinity League

Tyler DeLeon, Los Alamitos, 6-4, 235, Sr.: Has had two big games in spring season

Andrew Simpson, St. John Bosco, 6-1, 215, Sr.: Flies to the ball


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