From the DNP to MVP, quarterback Bobby Avina’s return from a shoulder injury resulted in historic highs for the Gregori High football program.
Avina has been named the Modesto Metro Conference’s Most Valuable Player after guiding the Jaguars to an 11-0 start and their first league title.
Gregori knocked off Cat Fight rival Modesto and five-time defending champion Downey in back-to-back weeks to close the regular season.
The Jaguars continued to turn heads in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. Gregori was the underdog in its first round game against Franklin of Elk Grove, despite being the host.
Behind four touchdown passes by Avina, the Jaguars throttled Franklin 45-20, earning a shot at No. 2 Oak Ridge. Gregori lost 49-14.
“It’s got to go down as one of the best seasons in the history of schools in Modesto,” McCoy said. “I can’t remember another public school program going 11-0. We were on a mission and it was nice to complete that mission.
“Our No. 1 goal was to win the MMC championship. This team was dialed in from Day One. We were embarrassed by Downey last year and that fueled our team to work hard. The whole team invested. You win in the locker room. It’s not just on the field. Xs and Os can be overrated. This team had chemistry.”
And a gluttony of stars, too.
In a vote of league coaches, the Jaguars were awarded five of the nine major awards, including: Avina, MVP; Josh Hernandez, Outstanding Offensive Lineman; Peter Garcia, Outstanding Defensive Player; Marcello Longstreth, Special Teams Player of the Year; and McCoy, Coach of the Year.
McCoy was last named Coach of the Year in 2008 while at Johansen.
“It’s special,” he said. “Doing it with the staff we did it with was unbelievable. Everyone invested time and energy to get it done. Throw in players like Bobby, Gabe Sanchez and Marcello – guys who can make plays – and good things happen. It was a great year.”
Modesto quarterback Norvale Howard was named the Outstanding Offensive Player (1,642 total yards, 11 touchdowns), while Davis wide receiver Micah Irwin was awarded the Outstanding Offensive Back/Receiver. Irwin is believed to be the first player in school history to top 1,000 yards.
Modesto’s Ryan Henriques was the Outstanding Defensive Back/Linebacker after recording 98 tackles and two interceptions. Teammate Jesus Zepeda (39 tackles, seven sacks, two blocked field goals) was the Outstanding Defensive Lineman.
Avina ranked among the section leaders in passing. He completed 67.1 percent of his passes (186 of 277) for 3,015 yards and 36 touchdowns. He threw at least three touchdowns in eight games.
It was a far cry from his junior season. Avina appeared in just five games after suffering a torn ligament and separation in his throwing shoulder.
“Bobby talked about being on a mission to be the best player he could be,” McCoy said. “What that required was physical training, going to Bonsu (Elite Athletics) and playing for (Valley’s Got Talent, a nationally-ranked 7-on-7 team), and all the time he put in to have a breakout season.
“We knew during his junior year, if he stayed healthy, he had a chance, but it was cut short.”
Avina was joined on the all-MMC honor roll by many of his top weapons.
Sanchez was named to the first team as a tight end after leading the Jags in receptions (56), receiving yards (941) and touchdowns (11). Offensive linemen Josh Hernandez and John Garcia were also named to the first team.
Running back Mason Medrano, linemen Lucas Swartz and Andrew Herman, and Longstreth were second-team selections.
Medrano rushed for 13 touchdowns, while Longstreth was a versatile talent. The junior had 914 receiving yards, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and completed all three passes he attempted.
Gregori had three players named to the first-team defense, anchored by Garcia, the league’s top tackler. Garcia finished the season with 143 stops, the sixth-best total in the section.
Defensive lineman Fidel Velasquez (73 tackles, nine sacks) and corner Jace Tessaro (two interceptions) also earned a first-team nod.
Lineman Davion Reed (11 sacks) and Elliot Johnson, linebacker Lakari Benjamin (88 tackles) and Longstreth (four interceptions) landed on the second team for Gregori, which finished the season ranked No. 116 in the state and No. 18 in the section.
“The class of 2018 will be a team I won’t ever forget,” McCoy said. “The coaching staff was committed and the players were committed. We were all committed to getting things done. When everyone is committed to one vision, good things happen. I won’t ever forget this team. It was a blessing.”
All-MMC Honor Roll
MVP: Bobby Avina, Gregori
Outstanding Offensive Player: Norvale Horward, Modesto
Outstanding Offensive Back/Receiver: Micah Irwin, Davis
Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Josh Hernandez, Gregori
Outstanding Defensive Player: Peter Garcia, Gregori
Outstanding Defensive Back/Linebacker: Ryan Henriques, Modesto
Outstanding Defensive Lineman: Jesus Zepeda, Modesto
Special Teams Player of the Year: Marcello Longstreth, Gregori
Coach of the Year: Jason McCoy, Gregori
First Team – Offense: QB Bryce Peterson, Downey; RB Miles Lewis, Downey; RB Zaire Eugene, Modesto; WR Jairol Harris-Red, Downey; WR Micah Irwin, Davis; TE Gabe Sanchez, Gregori; Utility Norvale Howard, Modesto; OL Josh Hernandez, Gregori; OL Jack Dugan, Downey; OL Eric Soares, Modesto; OL John Garcia, Gregori; OL Zach Hopper, Beyer; K Ryan Curtis, Enoch.
Second Team – Offense: QB Xavier Rodriguez, Davis; RB Mason Medrano, Gregori; RB Seth Van Slyke, Beyer; WR Brandon Gray, Beyer; WR Anderson Grover, Downey; TE Jacob Flores, Beyer; Utility Marcello Longstreth, Gregori; OL Reniko Chavez, Downey; OL Jeff Farias, Davis; OL Lucas Swartz, Gregori; OL Eligio Arroyo, Modesto; OL Andrew Herman, Gregori.
First Team – Defense: DL Jesus Zepeda, Modesto; DL Fidel Velasquez; DL Xavier Lewis, Downey; DL Ramon Machuca, Downey; ILB Peter Garcia, Gregori; ILB Blake Brasil, Modesto; OLB Brandon Gray, Beyer; OLB Tyrieck Bland, Modesto; DB Ryan Henriques, Modesto; DB Skye Scacutto, Modesto; DB Jace Tessaro, Gregori; P Ryan Curtis, Enochs.
Second Team – Defense: DL Marcus Ingram, Modesto; DL Davion Reed, Gregori; DL Elliot Johnson, Gregori; DL Justin Cristo, Modesto; ILB Cody Schut, Downey; ILB Derek Gonzales, Beyer; OLB Lakari Benjamin, Gregori; OLB Isaiah Johnson, Downey; DB Matt Williams, Downey; DB Ben Polack, Beyer; DB Marcello Longstreth, Gregori.
Honorable Mention: Johansen – Gustavo Velasquez, Rafael Valencia; Beyer – Danny Mitchell, Brandon Myers; Downey – Jairus Lovell, AJ Cordero; Davis – Ryan Viodes, Mohammed Salameh; Modesto – Alex Verduzco, Connor Cruce; Enochs – Jacob Kenoyer, Anthony Fagundez; Gregori – Evan Camarena, Billy Craft.