SportStars Magazine

NorCal FB Offensive Players of the Year

  Co-Offensive Players Of The Year

  RONNIE RIVERS • RB • FREEDOM-OAKLEY • SENIOR
  An argument in favor of Ronnie Rivers winning any sort of Player of the Year trophy can almost start and end with seven simple words:

  He was the MVP of his league.

  Winning the highest honor in one’s league doesn’t always carry the gravitas one might need to win the regional honor as well. Except in Rivers’ case. That’s because the 5-foot-8, 170-pound running back shared the Bay Valley Athletic League with the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Antioch’s Najee Harris, and the back who became storied-Pittsburg’s career rushing leader, Montaz Thompson. But the BVAL coaches voted to anoint Rivers as the MVP after he literally did just about everything for a Falcons team which went 10-0 in the regular season.

  Rivers was named SportStars NorCal Co-Offensive Player of the Year following a season in which the Fresno State-bound back rushed for 2,239 yards and 33 touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes for 205 yards and two TDs. He completed a touchdown pass, and had three kickoff returns of 90 yards or more (scoring on two of them). Defensively, he made 28 tackles and returned his only interception for a touchdown.

  “His lateral quickness is so good,” Pittsburg coach Victor Galli said of him. “His speed once he got outside and turned on the jets, wow. He might be the best back I’ve seen (Freedom) have.”

  Statistically he is. His breakout game of the season came on Oct. 14 when Freedom defeated Antioch 65-28 and Rivers finished with single-game school records in rushing yards (389) and touchdowns (7). He then put together a six-touchdown effort in the NCS Open Div. semifinal — which the Falcons won.

  “He’s earned everything,” Freedom coach Kevin Hartwig said. “He’s the hardest worker. He’s just Ronnie. He’s the strongest kid to come through Freedom pound-for-pound.”

  NAJEE HARRIS • RB • ANTIOCH • SENIOR
  The Hype Machine could have psyched him out. The relentless recruiting process could have distracted him. His team’s early season struggles could have left him with a notion to ease off the gas pedal, protect his body and not sell out on every play.

  All or some of that could have happened. But it never did. That’s just not how Najee Harris was built.

  Despite constant attention, a nagging knee injury that surfaced and faded multiple times throughout the season, and being the object of a tug-of-war between the two most recognizable coaches in college football, Najee Harris was always the same player once the ball was snapped. And boy did that player know how to light up a scoreboard.

  Harris is one of two SportStars’ NorCal Offensive Players of the Year following a season befitting of the nation’s No. 1 recruit. The 6-foo-2, 226-pound tailback rushed for a Bay Area-best 2,776 yards, averaging 9.5 yards per carry and reaching the end zone 34 times. He also caught 15 passes for 260 yards and two scores, and he tacked on 30 two-point conversions for a total of 246 points in 13 games.  

  “It’s amazing with all the attention how he stays focused,” Antioch coach John Lucido said prior to Antioch’s season. “But (to him) it’s about his teammates. He’s not going to hold himself out and say “I’m going to save myself.” … We have to hold him back. We have to stop him from working out. We have to hide the keys and hide the equipment.”

  Harris scrapped for every inch and willed a young and flawed team to the North Coast Section Division I final where the Panthers finished runners-up to Monte Vista-Danville. And when it was all said and done, and he’d repeated as the Player of the Year for both major Bay Area newspapers, and played in the U.S. Army All-American Game, Harris kept a commitment he’d made nearly 20 months earlier and enrolled early at the University of Alabama.

  Those who knew him best likely weren’t surprised. “That’s what he’s about,” Lucido said.

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