On a chilly, cloud-covered Sunday afternoon, Dec. 8, at Mike and Kate Magnuson’s avocado and vineyard ranch, Coast Union football players, families and coaches coaches gathered for the annual awards event. Just as the food — pot luck style, with pizza boxes stacked up high — was set on the table, the sun appeared, warming things up considerably.
Warm also describes the comments that Head Coach Charlie Casale and his assistant coaches, Bill Clough, Jon Hillen, Dan Whisler, and Thom Holt, offered about each of the players as they received their varsity letters.
When a football team concludes a very successful 11-2 season, there are plenty of positive remarks to be made. And the short coach’s speeches at Magnuson’s delightful agrarian setting were abundant with affirmatives and sincere appreciation for the effort the Broncos put in at practice and on the gridiron.
Sophomore Lane Sutherland was given the “Ironman Award,” thanks to his ability to pound into the line, spin, dart and pick up extra yardage. He gained 1,390 yards — averaging 115.8 yards per game and 7.85 yards per carry — and scored 15 touchdowns.
Including the 46 yards receiving, he totaled 1,441 yards. The Ironman award was also based on the 58 solo tackles he made.
Senior nose tackle and center Grant Magnuson was given the “Coach’s Award” for his sturdy, consistent skills at blocking, tackling, and snapping the ball. Magnuson had 21 solo tackles, but, just as importantly, quarterback Angel Avina could absolutely rely on Magnuson’s center snaps, whether from the shotgun formation or directly snapped into Avina’s hands.
Senior Danny Rodriguez received the “Defensive Player of the Year” award and, though he wasn’t able to attend, he was lauded by the coaches for his quickness, sure tackling, and ability to harass the opposing quarterback.
Rodriguez had 52 solo tackles, five quarterback sacks, four fumble recoveries and he intercepted a pass in a playoff game at Lucerne Valley and ran it back 42 yards for a Bronco touchdown.
Quinten Raethke, a senior out for football for the first time, received the “Offensive Player of the Year” award. Raethke caught 44 passes for 907 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. On defense, the 6-foot, 3-inch Raethke made 19 solo tackles, had two quarterback sacks and returned five kickoffs for 79 yards.
No one in the audience had even a moment’s doubt as to who would be the Most Valuable Player for the 2013 Broncos. Hands down, no question at all — it was senior quarterback Angel Avina, who scored 18 touchdowns rushing, made 11 solo tackles, passed for 2,066 yards — 131 completions on 210 attempts — and connected with his receiver for 26 touchdowns.
Avina’s rushing statistics are remarkable: he gained 1,259 yards on 185 carries, often knifing through the line behind a block and scurrying untouched downfield for pivotal yardage. He racked up 3,325 total yards for the season.
Coach Casale said Avina “was a pleasure to work with … a tremendous competitor.” The senior — who took a year off of football in 2012 to be healthy for this season — “finds a way to win,” Casale recalled. “He did everything I asked for and more. He led the state in total offense for eight-man football.”
Interviewed after the awards were handed out, Avina told a reporter his most memorable play of the season was the interception he made at Dunn School. In the waning minutes of a very close game — the Broncos were leading 39-34 — the Earwigs were driving deep in Bronco territory and threatening to score.
Avina, playing defense, leaped high in the air to intercept a pass and save the game for Coast Union. “I saw their quarterback pump fake,” Avina remembered. “I knew he was going in (my) direction because it’s the same route that we run. I turned around and ran and jumped,” he recalled, adding that he leaped about as high as he is able to to put another win on Coast’s sparkling record.
Coach Casale was asked how he looks back on the season given that the final game, the championship game in Canoga Park, did not go well for Coast Union.
“When you set your goals high like we did, you could be disappointed, because we strived to be the best. When you shoot for the top, that’s what happens sometimes. We thought we could win it all, but we came up short.”