Spartans lead the way in ESL All-League awards
Head coach Jeromy Blackwell leads group of Strathmore athletes with individual league recognitions
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
STRATHMORE –Strathmore received their just rewards after dominating the East Sequoia League this past fall. Five of the individual recognitions went to Spartans in the sports of football and volleyball. The top honor went to head football coach Jeromy Blackwell who received the coach of the year award.
Coach of the Year
For the second straight year the East Sequoia League coach of the year award for football went to a man who knows how to win. Over the past two seasons Jeromy Blackwell, head coach of the Strathmore Spartans, has gone a combined 30-1. That equates to a 97 percent winning percentage. Such an impressive feat that even the Spartans main rival took notice.
“It was pretty cool that Lindsay head coach [Matt Mendonca] nominated me,” Blackwell said. “This is a testament to my entire coaching staff, and to the players.”
Later Blackwell added that winning the D-6AA State Championship back in December was the coolest thing he had ever been a part off in football. However, the build up for the perfect season began four years ago when things began to change.
Shaylan Singh was the first players of the class of 2018 who joined the varsity ranks in 2014. That season Strathmore went 4-6, and according to Blackwell, “no one had fun.” That led to Blackwell giving more responsibilities to his staff. Yet, the biggest was a philosophy changes. Coach Blackwell introduced the encouragement policy.
“Any time we did anything we would clap for each other,” Blackwell said.
The changes took effect the very next season with the Spartans going 6-6, but the big thing was that they felt like a team. That year both Nick Salas and Joseph Garcia made varsity. Even though they saw limited playing time the foundation was set for what was to come. Two trips to the State Championship and one they would win.
Most Valuable Player
How does one follow up a record breaking season? By breaking those same records again. That is what senior running back Joseph Garcia did during his senior season with the Spartans. Once again he was honored by the East Sequoia League as the most valuable player for football.
“This is an honor and an amazing feeling to receive this award twice,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s first MVP award came after the 2016 season. In which he broke a list of records, including three season records. On the ground he rushed for a total of 2,345 yards. In total he accounted for 3,039 all-purpose yards and scored 46 total touchdowns.
This season Garcia went after his own records while being a workhorse for the Spartans during their State Championship season. Over the course of 16 weeks all three fell. On the ground he rumbled for 2,849 yards which was a big piece of his 3,516 all-purpose yards. He also accounted for 53 of the Spartans 101 total touchdowns.
Garcia says that this season was accredited to his off the field training, and the simplicity of the Spartan offense for his success. Over the offseason Garcia joined the track team. Already having a reputation as a downhill runner those practices made him faster in the open field.
Then there was the offense. Garcia and his teammates have been running the same plays since day one of peewees. It was the countless seasons of repetition that made them so effective. One above the rest grey 26 power. The first and last play Garcia ever ran.
Currently Garcia is unsure where he will be able to display his football talents next. The Kingsman of Cal Lutheran have shown interest, but no offer as of now.
Most Valuable Player
For the second straight season a Strathmore junior has risen to the top of the East Sequoia League. After a breakout season Emily Kissick received the most valuable player award for volleyball.
“I am really thankful to be honored in this way,” Kissick said.
A three-year varsity player she had never broken 200 kills. This season she made it a personal goal to break that mark. She even surprised herself by totaling 310 kills. Kissick’s best game came when during a 3-1 win over Lindsay on Oct. 26 when she had 22 kills.
The big factor for Kissick’s success, she says, is the relationship and bond she has with setter Isabella Galang. Now with Galang graduating Kissick understands that they are going to have to work harder. However, she is determined to make or even beat this year’s mark.
Defensive Player of the Year
The middle linebacker position is often considered the quarterback of the defense. For the Spartans this past season they had a three year veteran in Damian Valencia. Now he is the defensive player of the year for the East Sequoia League.
“This is something that I have wanted to accomplish since my freshman season,” Valencia said.
From the middle linebacker position Valencia totaled 64 tackles, of which 42 were solo. On Sept. 15, in a 35-13 win over Orosi he hauled in seven tackles. He also snagged one interception this season.
The desire to get all those tackles comes from a never ending pursuit to gain more pride stickers for his helmet. For Valencia how many of those are on a helmet tells how good a player is.
Lineman of the Year
A constant presence on both sides of the trenches was Spartan junior Jadon Guire. Considered by some to be the most athletic lineman in the league. Now Guire is the top lineman in East Sequoia League after winning Lineman of the year.
“This is a good achievement,” Guire said. “To know that all my hard work paid off, but the whole team achievement this year was greater.”
On the defensive side Guire was a force to be reckoned with from the tackle position. Over the course of the season he totaled 84 tackles, of which 56 were solo, and six sacks. Guire’s best performance was 14 tackles during the Spartans 55-20 win over the Templeton Eagles on Sept. 1.