First published in the Sept. 9 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
La Cañada High School’s undefeated varsity football team will look to build on its five-game winning streak dating back to last season when it hosts Santa Paula High this Friday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. in a nonleague matchup.
These two teams faced each other in the pandemic-shortened spring season when the Spartans defeated Santa Paula, 54-42, to start their winning streak last school year.
“We recognize that they’re a great team,” said Dave Avramovich, La Cañada’s head football coach. “We know the challenge. Santa Paula’s got a bunch of really good kids that play really hard and are competitive, and they’re not going to fall over and lay down.”
Sophomore quarterback Macky Plocher has had a terrific start to the campaign, helping lead LCHS to a 2-0 overall record. Plocher is 27 for 44 (61%) in passing attempts with a whopping 578 passing yards. He has found plenty of success passing to junior Corey Cheung, who has eight receptions for 222 receiving yards and has carried 33 times for 153 yards. Including Cheung’s kickoff return yards, he has 411 all-purpose yards. On the year, Plocher and Cheung have connected for six touchdowns.
“We just trust [Cheung] with the ball in his hands,” Avramovich said. “He’s done such a great job catching the ball, running the ball.”
La Cañada’s receivers have done an excellent job so far this campaign. Seniors Caleb Carruthers and Cole Stratton have seven and five receptions for 154 and 68 yards, respectively. Senior Brandon Shepherd has four receptions for 89 yards, and junior Anthony Venneri has caught three passes for 45 yards.
“[Shepherd] does it all for us; he punts, plays middle linebacker, plays receiver, blocks really well, runs the ball really well,” Avramovich said. “He’s kind of a lighting-in-a-bottle guy — the ball gets in his hands and things happen. It’s very fun to have him on the field.”
Shepherd seems to be almost everywhere on the field. He has 131 all-purpose yards on top of a team-high 14 total tackles (10 solo, four assists).
The Spartans’ defense has been sturdy. As a team, the Spartans have 98 total tackles (64 solo and 35 assists). Including Shepherd, senior Jamie Warner (eight solos, five assists), Stratton (nine solos, two assists), junior Mateo Gallegos (four solos, five assists), senior Diego Reyes (four solos, three assists) and junior Jake Adkins (six solos, one assist) have combined for 61 total tackles, almost two-thirds of the team’s total.
“I think one of the unsung guys was Diego Reyes, who just does his job play after play and does a great job up front,” Avramovich said.
Senior placekicker Shaina Clorfeine is also five for six (83%) in PATs.
With so many bright young stars in the program, it is difficult for Avramovich to pinpoint one standout player. Instead, he said it has been a complete team effort and is excited about the future.
“Our kids have been resilient. They’ve worked really hard to prepare for this season — in the weight room, on the field, in the classroom — and we’re just really excited for them to have an opportunity to play,” Avramovich said. “I’m just excited for the whole program to continue to move in the trajectory that it is.”