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OCVarsity rankings: O.C.'s top 10 running backs
With the start of the high school season quickly approaching, the Register has put together its lists of the top 10 players in the county at each position.
These lists are based on the observations of the Register’s reporters, the input of football coaches around the county and the amount of interest shown by college scouts.
Here is a look at the top running backs going into the season:
1. Jacob Fimbres, Sonora, Sr.
If Orange County held a high school fantasy football draft, Fimbres would be the top pick. His measurements won’t blow you away (5-foot-9, 165 pounds), but the Raiders stud is oftentimes the fastest guy on the field. Plus, he has a knack for hitting the hole and taking off for the end zone with his speed (4.6 time in the 40). Of the county’s top-10 rushers in 2014, Fimbres finished in the top 5 in the county for yards (1,622) and ranked second in yards per game (162.2) and rushing touchdowns (28) despite not having the chance to accumulate stats in the postseason. Fimbres scored at least three touchdowns in all but one game last season, and he is determined to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark this fall.
2. Vlad Dzhabiyev, San Clemente, Sr.
Tritons coach Jaime Ortiz recently called Dzhabiyev the toughest kid on his team, and it seems fair to say he’s one of the toughest players in Orange County. The senior runs angry and welcomes contact. He is the thunder in San Clemente’s dynamic backfield duo this season. With the Tritons easing in a new starting quarterback, look for Dzhabiyev to touch the football more often than he did a year ago. As a junior, the 6-foot, 195-pounder rushed for 1,149 yards and 13 touchdowns, in addition to being on the receiving end of six TD passes.
3. Jordan Antunez, Garden Grove, Sr.
Garden Grove hoisted the Southern Division championship trophy a season ago, and Antunez might be the chief reason they are confident they can repeat. The county’s leading returning rusher bulled his way to 1,747 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior, and finished as one of only three backs to average 8 yards or more per carry. Antunez averaged 150 yards per game over the final 10 weeks.
4. Anthony Battista, Tesoro, Sr.
One of the high-profile transfers of the 2014 campaign, Battista did not disappoint in his first season with the Titans. The former Corona del Mar back ran for 845 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior, and was among the area’s top receiving threats out of the backfield, hauling in 28 passes for 320 yards. In terms of a quarterback-running back tandem, Tesoro might be the standard for 2015, teaming Devon Modster with Battista. A second-year in the Titans’ system will only help Battista in his senior campaign.
5. Chad Crosbie, Trabuco Hills, Sr.
Football players grow up with dreams of scoring a long touchdown in a championship game. Last December, Crosbie made that fantasy a reality on his first carry of the Southwest Division finale against San Clemente, breaking loose for a 64-yard touchdown run on Trabuco Hills’ first play of the game. Crosbie finished with 152 yards in the Mustangs’ victory, giving him a total of 1,286 yards for the season. Crosbie should see more touches this year as Trabuco Hills graduated its quarterback and said goodbye to its top four leading receivers.
6. Brandon Reaves, San Clemente, Jr.
Possibly the fastest player on this list, Reaves is the lightning that will complement Vlad Dzhabiyev in San Clemente’s backfield, forming the county’s top one-two combo. As a sophomore, Reaves made the most of his 89 carries, averaging 7.2 yards a pop for a total of 645 yards and 13 touchdowns. He proved to be as dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 40 balls for 558 yards and seven touchdowns. His speed (4.5 in the 40) makes him difficult to tackle and cover. As the Tritons’ primary return man, Reaves averaged 28 yards on kick returns and 15 yards on punt returns in 2014.
7. Hunter Simmons, Huntington Beach, Sr.
The Oilers finished 3-7 a season ago, but Simmons proved to be one of the bright spots, turning in 1,020 rushing yards along with 16 touchdowns. After touching the ball just 14 times in the team’s first two outings, the 6-foot, 195-pounder boasted double-digit carries from the third week of the season on. With Huntington Beach graduating its starting quarterback and five of its top six receivers from 2014, Simmons will see his workload grow this season.
8. Isaiah Miller, Mission Viejo, Sr.
With last year’s leading rusher, Rome Innocenzi, gone, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Miller becomes the elder statesman in Mission Viejo’s backfield. Miller had his share of standout moments last season, including an 85-yard performance against Oceanside and a 113-yard night against Dana Hills. While he is not the biggest guy, Miller is a patient runner with a great burst and who can fit through the tiniest of holes.
9. Ramon Chaves, Villa Park, Sr.
The Spartans have made a routine of churning out a physical brand of running back in recent seasons, and Chaves fits that mold for the defending Crestview League champs. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Chaves is the last guy defensive players want to tackle in the fourth quarter. Because they thrive on physicality, the Spartans back will continue to punish and wear down opposing defenses late in games this season. Chaves rushed for 805 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014.
10. Kenneth Lamb, El Modena, Sr.
Despite missing three games a season ago, the Vanguards’ go-to player finished the 2014 campaign with 1,099 yards rushing. More importantly, he led a team that won just three regular-season games to a semifinal berth in the Southern Division playoffs. The 5-foot-9 speedster averaged 117 yards over the second half of last season, which garnered him All-CIF honors. With a veteran offensive line returning this season, expectations are as high as ever for Lamb and the Vanguards.
Others to watch: Dominik Austin, Orange Lutheran, Jr.; Elijah Bynum, Buena Park, Sr.; Jared Copeland, Foothill, Sr.; Brandon LaMarche, Mater Dei, Sr.; Dylan Laurent, Los Alamitos, Jr.; Connor McBride, Woodbridge, Jr.; Justin Osborn, Whittier Christian, Jr.; Dray Shaw, Troy, Sr.; Jackson Taylor, Servite, Sr.; Avery Williams, JSerra, Sr.
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