Serra running back Cincere Rhaney ready to take on all challengers

Gardena Serra's Cincere Rhaney gives a stiff arm to Long Beach Poly's Donovan Turner.
(Nick Koza / For The Times)

Second in a series of stories profiling top high school football players by position. Today, Cincere Rhaney, Gardena Serra running back.

When 5-foot-10, 220-pound running back Cincere Rhaney wears his blue Gardena Serra High jersey cut off at the shoulders, allowing his bulging biceps to stick out, you begin to realize what coach Scott Altenberg means when he says, “He’s a really big dude.”

Altenberg wants his most versatile players at running back, because that allows him to create mismatches, whether on running plays or pass plays. He did it with Adoree’ Jackson and other Serra football greats.


Rhaney is ready to assume that role this season. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,054 yards and scored 12 touchdowns for the Division 1-A state champion Cavaliers. He also was used as a receiver and blocker. His size and deceptive speed have Altenberg dreaming of ways to take advantage of his strengths this season.

“The thing about him is he’s really big but can move around like a receiver when we need him,” Altenberg said. “We’ve had a tradition of using running backs in multiple ways.”

Rhaney offers no sympathy for any undersized linebacker or defensive back daring to take him on physically.

“I can run around you, I can juke you, I can run you over,” he said.

The most astonishing moments last season came on sweep plays. Rhaney would get the ball and if you watched from the stands, you’d think it would be easy to catch up to someone so big. Then he’d end up turning the corner and picking up yards. Seeing his acceleration in person makes believers of any skeptics.

“He’s definitely special,” Altenberg said. “He’s got a little wiggle in him as well. He’s fun calling plays for because I can put him anywhere.”

Rhaney and another returnee, the versatile Kai Honda, give Serra one of the better one-two running back tandems.

Running back is a position that seemingly has lost some luster in importance. In recent NFL drafts, quarterbacks, receivers, linemen and defensive backs have moved past running backs in the pecking order. Rhaney wants to change that.


“I’m going to show the world that a running back is important,” he said. “You need a running back at all times. Running backs can change the game. In the NFL, going against a good running back, you have play action that can open up the offense.”

Rhaney said that because of his size he can serve as another blocker to help the offense succeed.

“I take great pride in protecting my quarterback,” he said.

Rhaney started his high school career playing football as a freshman at Playa del Rey St. Bernard. Then the program shut down after a series of issues that included the resignation of coach Manuel Douglas. Lots of top players left for other schools, leaving St. Bernard with no football for 2021.

“A lot of stuff happened,” he said. “Stuff just fell apart. I had to make a decision to leave because the football program was shutting down. We had a lot of great players.”

Now he’s feeling comfortable at Serra. He ran track during the spring, and Altenberg remembers seeing him run next to a tiny opponent in the 100 meters.

Here is the Los Angeles Times’ nine-part series on top returning high school football players plus a look at the preseason top 25 rankings and other features.

Aug. 9, 2022

He told Rhaney jokingly, “A little veer to the right and no way he’s passing you.”

Rhaney is ready for any and all challengers this fall.

“I just come out and play,” he said.

Running backs to watch

Name, School, Ht., Wt., Yr. Comment

Kobe Boykin, Orange, 5-8, 155, Jr. He is electrifying at times

Beau Bruins, Riverside Ramona, 5-11, 180, Sr. Rushed for 2,072 yards, 35 touchdowns

Jordon Davison, Mater Dei, 5-11, 210, So. All signs point toward breakout season

Brandon Johnson, Highland, 5-9, 185, Sr. Arizona commit rushed for 1,580 yards, 19 touchdowns

Cincere Rhaney, Gardena Serra, 5-10, 220, Jr. Let’s see who can bring down the locomotive

Dijon Stanley, Granada Hills, 6-0, 170, Sr. Utah commit has speed, speed, speed

Delon Thompson, St. Bonaventure, 5-9, 189, Sr. With a little blocking, he’s very good

Johnny Thompson, Oaks Christian, 5-10, 190, Sr. Flashed signs of brilliance as junior

Devyn Turner, St. Francis, 5-9, 190, Sr. Texas transfer will be impact player

Jordan Washington, Long Beach Jordan, 5-10, 180, Jr. Ran 10.31in 100 meters as sophomore.

Tomorrow: Raymond Pulido, Apple Valley offensive lineman.