San Clemente's Brandon Reaves runs the ball for a touchdown during a non-league game against Huntington Beach Friday night.

San Clemente's Reaves makes it look easy


Brandon Reaves had never played football, let alone on the line. His mother, Ebony, hesitated to let him, afraid he’d get hurt.

But Reaves, then 10 years old, was itching to play. Ebony finally conceded, signing him up for a local team in Stafford County, Va., where the family lived.

During one game, the ball inadvertently came to Reaves for a kickoff return. He picked up the ball and ran, faster and faster, up the length of the field, his pint-size frame whooshing through the wind.


“The coach looked at me, we looked at each other, neither of us knew he had that ability,” said Ebony, who was about four months pregnant at the time and ran with her husband, Kindel, all the way down the sideline as the play unfolded. “Brandon just came out of nowhere.”

Reaves, now a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior running back for No. 6 San Clemente (1-1), has morphed into one of the most explosive high school players in the county, earning the nickname “Lightning.”

Last week, he helped the Tritons to a 38-13 win over Huntington Beach, finishing with three touchdowns and 238 all-purpose yards.

He returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, while also scoring on a 55-yard run and returning an interception 20 yards for a third score.

His speed is partially a credit to his genes, as Ebony and her parents all ran track. Reaves posted the fastest time in the 100-meter dash at his middle school in seventh grade.

It’s also a credit to his work ethic. He uses a speed-resistance parachute for sprints and spends hours doing squats, dead lifts and cleans in the weight room.

“There’s certain players in the county that every time they touch the ball, you kind of hold your breath for a second. Brandon’s one of those guys,” San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz said. “He has the opportunity to score every time he touches the football and it’s hard to find players like that.”

Reaves, a three-year varsity starter who was named All-CIF last season, thrives on his versatility; he plays offense, defense and special teams this season. Some colleges are even looking at the running back as a slot receiver.

“He keeps defenses on their heels because he’s a run threat and a pass threat,” said Tritons senior quarterback Jack Sears, who has committed to Duke. “He’s one of the most versatile players in Orange County, in my opinion.”

Reaves is soft-spoken and quiet off the field. On the field, his explosiveness can seem just as unassuming, almost effortless.

He’s always been a natural athlete, picking up baseball, softball, volleyball and basketball with ease. One of his former basketball coaches in Virginia used to become upset, said Ebony, because while doing running drills, Reaves had a half smile on his face – not because he wasn’t taking the drill seriously, but because of the ease with which he did it.

“He’s working really hard but it doesn’t look like he is because it just comes so natural,” Ebony said.

Reaves has worked hard to hone his physical gifts, a mentality instilled in him by his parents.

Ebony was on active military duty for 11 years. Kindel is still on active duty in the Marine Corps. The family is stationed at Camp Pendleton.

“They’re hard workers and that motivates me to work hard in football,” Reaves said. “It’s tough, you have to work hard a lot (in the Marine Corps), so they pushed me a lot as a kid to be a better kid.”

Kindel taught his son the fundamentals of the game. He’d push Reaves to get quicker with cone drills and parachutes, telling him that nothing would come easy, no matter how natural of an athlete he is.

“It was never a complaint for him to work out or do anything to get better,” Kindel said. “He was definitely self-motivated. Whenever we go out and do the drills, he’s always going 100 percent.”

Reaves had a breakout season in 2015, rushing for 644 yards (8 yards a carry) and 10 touchdowns. He also had 43 receptions for 639 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Reaves has one offer from Colorado State. He said he has had interest from other schools, including Washington State, University of Montana and University of Wyoming.

His size has likely caused him to fly under the radar in terms of recruiting, but Ortiz said his size is misleading.

Reaves was recently added to the Power Club board in the weight room at San Clemente High, with a total of 1,135 pounds – 275 pounds on bench press, 425 pounds squat and 435 pounds dead lift.

“He’s 5-9, 170 pounds, but he’s one of our strongest players, pound for pound,” Oritz said.

Reaves uses the doubts about his size as fuel, as reason to spend more hours sprinting on the field or lifting in the weight room.

“It motivates me a lot because I feel like I can play with all the bigger guys,” Reaves said.

Ortiz said more schools are likely to come calling as Reaves’ senior season takes off for the Tritons, who aim to return to the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division Finals.

“At the end of the day, it’s about having a guy on the field who can make plays, that’s what really matters.” Ortiz said.

“Whether you’re 5-11, or 6-5, or 5-9, if you can take the ball and do special things with it, there’s a spot for you somewhere.”

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