Players come out of the woodwork every fall.
Far from the spotlight the first three years of their high school football careers, they seize the opportunity to step out of the shadows and make a difference for their team.
This season has been no exception in the Trinity League. In fact, it seems more players than usual went from backups to team leaders over the last nine months.
Aaron Simpson was just a blip on the radar the previous two years at Servite, yet showed his talent and versatility at every opportunity. He gained yards as a passer, rusher and receiver last year, but didn’t break 100 yards for the season in any of those categories.
That can happen when you’re buried behind talented seniors like Travis Waller, Tate Beachley and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Simpson didn’t sulk, complain or consider transferring to another school, instead continuing to work on all three phases of his offensive game. In the season opener against Fountain Valley on Aug. 28, he exploded for 235 receiving yards on six catches, scoring two touchdowns in the 45-7 victory.
“We felt, this year, putting him out in the slot and getting him the ball in space, he’d be trouble for some teams,” said Servite coach Scott Meyer after that game.
Simpson has continued showing his versatility. He replaced junior quarterback Taylor Lytle early in the game against Edison on Sept. 18, threw a touchdown pass and later ran for the game-winning score in the 21-14 victory.
“Aaron is a super dynamic player,” Meyer says. “He can play anywhere for us.”
Over at Santa Margarita, senior wide receiver Noah Rasheed was better known for his basketball skills than for anything he did on a football field. He transferred from Mission Viejo High prior to his junior year in 2014, caught 42 passes for 539 yards and five touchdowns, but was mostly overshadowed by senior receivers Kyle Sweet and Connor Bianchini.
Rasheed then had to sit out the first month of the basketball season as part of his transfer from Mission Viejo, then averaged 11 points, five rebounds and four assists over the final 13 games.
Many in Rasheed’s position might opt to focus entirely on basketball, but he returned for his senior year with the Santa Margarita football team this fall and, through the first four games, led the team with 20 receptions for 338 yards and a touchdown.
Brandon LaMarche tasted success as a junior running back at Mater Dei last season. He filled in for injured senior Adrian Contreras the first seven games, highlighted by a 102-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win against Servite in mid-October. But after a 17-10 loss to JSerra the following week, Contreras took over as the full-time running back, carrying the ball 30 times for 138 yards and a touchdown in a Halloween victory over Santa Margarita.
LaMarche remained in a backup role the rest of the season, but didn’t let the demotion get him down, working hard in the offseason to get in the best shape possible and avoid the type of injury that cost Contreras half his senior season.
This year, La Marche has had the starting running back job all to himself and hasn’t let it slip away, averaging 131 rushing yards through the first four games, including a 205-yard, four-touchdown effort against Tesoro.