Jake Maulhardt, arguably the best wide receiver in Ventura County, regularly faces double and triple teams, but teammates always step up.
Quarterback Travis Valdez, wide receiver Corbin Covey and lineman Brandon Baker—all important starters—missed multiple games this season with injuries.
Camarillo survives—and even thrives—despite the adversity.
“Our kids come up with huge plays to win games,” said head coach Dennis Riedmiller.
“Instead of getting down and out and upset, they step up and get the job done.”
Camarillo has won three consecutive league championships for the first time in school history.
The Pacific View League champion Scorpions (7-3 overall) will have to step once more tonight at 7 in their CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoff opener at home against San Luis Obispo (7-3).
San Luis Obispo tied for second place in the Pac-7 League standings with Righetti.
Camarillo and SLO both beat Oxnard and lost to Righetti.
“We have to come out hard to start,” said Tyler Sutherland, senior defensive tackle and left guard. “We have to finish the game hard, too.”
Sutherland is one of the unsung heroes on this Camarillo squad.
Although the defense has given up a plethora of points, the Scorpions make necessary stops to win.
Riedmiller defended his much-maligned defense.
“You have to figure out ways to win and our kids are doing that,” the coach said.
“We have found ways at big times to make plays on defense.”
During last weekend’s thrilling 48-44 victory against visiting Rio Mesa, the Spartans had the ball on Camarillo’s 5-yard line with precious seconds remaining.
Sutherland forced RMHS running back Jordan Nunnery to fumble, and Scorpion Brandon Knupp recovered the rock.
The defense must contend with San Luis Obispo’s doublewing offense that relies on misdirection and confusion. The Tigers run a similar offense to Oxnard, which runs a true option.
Andrew Groom, Richard Martin, Rigo Guerrero, Ryan Boyle, Darren Gales, Blake Brockett, Connor Hurd, Miguel Medina, Christian Galvan, Jameson Sperling, Baker and Sutherland must make stops on defense.
Maulhardt and Conrad Kotake, good friends off the field, form a dynamic one-two punch on offense.
Maulhardt and Kotake are the first players in school history to secure three varsity league titles, according to Riedmiller.
After a three- game losing skid earlier in the season, Camarillo has reeled off six straight victories.
“We’ve become more mature and players are healthier,” Kotake said. “The guys feel great. Our attitude is: We want to win the whole thing.”
Outside Camarillo city limits, Kotake is overshadowed by Maulhardt. There’s no denying Kotake’s importance to this team.
The versatile Kotake has 766 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on only 93 carries, gaining 8.2 yards every rumble.
He’s also caught 55 passes for 981 yards and 19 scores. On average, he scores a touchdown every third reception.
And there’s one other bonus with the senior that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet.
“He’s the nicest kid on the team,” Maulhardt said of Kotake.
Maulhardt is no slouch.
The 6-foot-7 wideout, who continues to receive interest from multiple Division I colleges, logged 109 receptions for 1,516 yards and 14 scores during the regular season.
His jersey was getting ripped to shreds by tugging Spartans last week, so his mom had to drive home in the second quarter to get her son’s jersey from last year.
Before Monday’s practice started, Maulhardt was in intense playoff mode.
“ I want to win,” he said. “It’s my senior year. I don’t care about records. I’d rather have a winning record.
“I don’t want it to end. I don’t want to put on my basketball shoes yet.”
Valdez, a junior, missed multiple games with a wrist injury. He’s back making smart throws and igniting the no-huddle spread offense with aplomb.
His philosophy on making the offense purr is simple.
“Always try to hit the open guy,” Valdez said. “Don’t try to be too fancy. Be smart with the ball.
“ There’s always room to improve. We could definitely do better. We’re clicking right now.”
Valdez completes 71 percent of his passes. He has 2,232 passing yards with 31 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Like any just quarterback, Valdez credited the big boys in the trenches.
“I don’t even have to worry about pressure the last couple of weeks,” he said.
In addition to Sutherland at left guard and Baker at left tackle, David Perry starts at center while guard Danny Victoria and tackle Brian Smith man the right side of the offense line.
Cornerstone Christian transfer Garrett Elliott is a solid role player on the offensive line.
“It’s really developed into an excellent offensive line in 10 games,” Riedmiller said. “Our center is as important as anyone on offense. . . .
“We pull a lot in the run game and guards do an excellent job. Our tackles do a great job protecting the quarterback.”
It’s almost game time for Camarillo. The Scorpions are ready to rumble.
“ Everyone’s happy after the big win versus Rio Mesa,” Valdez said.
“We’re pumped. We’re excited. We’re ready to start the playoffs.”