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ALL-AREA FOOTBALL: Yuba City's Van Dusen named Offensive Player of the Year
Honker senior did it all at fullback
QB - Trent Little, Sutter
RB - Nathan Ahlers, Sutter
RB - Andrew Rodriguez, Colusa
WR - Francisco Silvas, East Nicolaus
TE - Jordan Samson, Wheatland
TE - Aaron Pamma, Live Oak
OL - Carlos Valdez, Sutter
OL - Justin Noreen, Yuba City
OL - Logan Morace, River Valley
OL - Reid Melani, Sutter
OL - Jimmy Mann, Yuba City
Romario Acosta, Live Oak
T.J. Dove, River Valley
Anthony Fleenor, Yuba City
Francisco Garcia, Marysville
Andy Corona, Pierce
Nate Van Dusen spent many of his Friday nights as a kid at Honker Stadium. He would throw the football around with his friends in the shadows on the adjacent freshman baseball outfield as Yuba City High was going to work under the lights.
Van Dusen always pictured himself donning the brown and gold — he just thought he would be scoring goals, not touchdowns.
"I was a soccer player my entire life," Van Dusen said. "I would mess around playing football with the other kids, but I always told them I was a soccer player."
Van Dusen finally left the pitch for the gridiron in eighth grade when he wanted to "try something new."
In his one and only season with the Yuba City Jr. Honkers, Van Dusen discovered quickly that working as a fullback in the veer offense would be quite the departure from dribbling a soccer ball.
"When I first started running, it was a new feeling for me," Van Dusen said. "I wasn't used to it. I didn't know too many fundamentals. As I learned more, it became easier and easier — running with the football became more like an instinct."
With instruction from his uncle, former YC great Doug Van Dusen, Honkers assistant coach Mike Ithurburn and tons of videos, Van Dusen learned the intricacies of running back. Four years later, he's MVP of the Tri-County Conference after leading Yuba City to the program's first league title in 25 years.
Achieving MVP status and a league banner were Van Dusen's goals this past offseason when he spent his summer days either sleeping or working out. He was in the gym 2-3 hours per day and conditioned with Elite Fitness — he hasn't touched fast food or soda in nearly two years.
That dedication resulted in 1,299 yards rushing for the Honkers' senior fullback this season and 23 total touchdowns.
Van Dusen is the Appeal-Democrat's 2012 All-Area Offensive Player of the Year, and though he put in the time during the offseason, he credited his teammates for helping him reach his goals this year.
The Honkers' offensive line opened up holes for him all season and his best friend, quarterback and TCC Offensive Player of the Year Taylor Elkins, was key in making reads in the veer offense.
The chemistry between the two senior captains was vital in Yuba City's success with Elkins running the option by reading the opposition's defensive line.
"It's become now where we both know when he's going to pull it or give it," Van Dusen said. "Taylor reads it, and I just wait for him to give it to me. We've been playing together since eighth grade so we've got that timing down."
The best example of that was in Yuba City's shining moment of the 2012 season when the Honkers dethroned five-time defending TCC champion Inderkum in Sacramento.
Facing fourth-and-1 inside the red zone, Elkins made the Tigers' defense bite hard and gave the ball to Van Dusen who sprinted in for the touchdown untouched to give Yuba City the lead and eventually the victory.
"I wasn't hearing anything," Van Dusen said. "I was nervous, but once I broke through and saw open field in front of me I was like 'This isn't happening' and then it did.
"The line made great blocks, Taylor made a great read and we just all put our effort into it."
Van Dusen averaged nearly 130 yards per game this season and almost 8 yards per carry. He also impressed as a junior in 2011 with 1,120 yards and 12 TDs in a season cut short by injury.
That shoulder plagued him again this season, but with a brace on every game, Van Dusen powered through the pain.
"It kind of sucked to have it, but it was my senior year," Van Dusen said. "I just had to toughen up."
Van Dusen displayed a combination of brute strength and lightning speed as a running back as he was labeled by coach John Ithurburn as the team's "home run hitter."
The simple fullback dive play in the veer can lull people to sleep, but when Van Dusen broke one off, there was no catching him. Ithurburn added that Van Dusen is also the best blocking fullback he's ever coached.
"He did everything for us," Ithurburn said. "Our best plays went through him. In my opinion, he's the best football player in the area. If he wasn't hurt, he could have been the defensive MVP, too.
"He's one of the big reasons we won our league and made the playoffs."
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
Trent Little, Sr., Sutter
The Huskies' three-year starting signal-caller was a huge reason Sutter made a run to the NorCal Division III Regional game.
The All-Butte View League and All-Northern Section pick completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,465 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Using the NFL formula, Little had a QB rating of 104.
Little also used his legs in the wing-T offense, picking up 368 yards rushing and seven scores.
Nathan Ahlers, Sr., Sutter
A 2011 A-D All-Area selection at defensive tackle, Ahlers made the full-time switch to fullback in 2012 and flourished.
He was named co-Offensive MVP of the BVL and first team All-Northern Section as he ended his senior season with 1,426 yards rushing on 157 carries and 25 touchdown runs. Ahlers also caught nine balls for 214 yards and two more scores.
During the Huskies' deep playoff run, Ahlers also saw time at his former defensive tackle position, picking up 14 tackles and two sacks.
Andrew Rodriguez, Sr., Colusa
The Mid-Valley's leading rusher excelled in his first and only season in first-year coach Paul Theriault's wing-T system.
Rodriguez carried the ball 180 times for 1,848 yards while averaging 168 yards per game. He also averaged 10 yards per carry and scored 21 touchdowns for the RedHawks, who went from 1-9 in 2011 to 5-6 this season.
The All-Mid-Valley League selection also caught six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Jordan Samson, Jr., Wheatland
One of the area's top pass-catching threats, Samson was a force in first-year coach Neil Stinson's offense.
The 6-foot, 210-pound junior caught 33 passes for 761 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to an All-BVL selection and a second team All-Northern Section nod.
Those receiving numbers easily led the BVL and his TD receptions ranked sixth in the Northern Section. His yardage ranked seventh in the section.
Samson also played a big role defensively for the Pirates with a team-high five sacks and three forced fumbles.
Aaron Pamma, Sr., Live Oak
Pamma was a go-to target in the Lions' passing game with 27 catches for 473 yards and four touchdowns.
The sure-handed senior earned All-Sacramento Valley League honors and also served on the Lions' defensive line where he picked up two sacks and 23 tackles.
Francisco Silvas, Jr., East Nicolaus
An All-MVL pick for the Spartans, Silvas caught 18 balls for 308 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Against a stingy Pierce defense, the speedster caught five balls for 111 yards and two scores. He was labeled by coach John Dolenga as one of the best overall "football players" on the team.
Justin Noreen, Sr., Yuba City
A bookend at tackle for the Honkers, Noreen helped the Yuba City offense average 290 yards on the ground.
He helped keep Elkins upright all season and earned an All-TCC nod in the process. He was also Yuba City's Lineman of the Year.
Jimmy Mann, Sr., Yuba City
Mann stood strong at the Honkers' other tackle spot opposite Noreen and picked up several pancake blocks while opening up holes for Van Dusen and Omar Herrera. He was named to the All-TCC team.
Reid Melani, Sr., Sutter
The Huskies' 6-7, 300-pound tackle was a force for the Huskies en route to their 13-1 campaign.
Carlos Valdez, Sr., Sutter
An All-BVL and All-Northern Section pick at guard, Valdez brought outstanding technique and skill to the Sutter offensive line this season.
Logan Morace, Sr., River Valley
River Valley's Lineman of the Year was an All-TCC selection and captain of the Falcons' line.
He provided senior leadership at the center position and also spent time on the RV defensive line where he ranked third on the team with 55 tackles and led RV with four sacks.
Romario Acosta, Sr., Live Oak
Live Oak's senior leader did just about everything except drive the team bus this season. That doesn't mean he wasn't giving the Lions a ride this year with his outstanding play all over the field.
An All-Area selection at quarterback last year as a junior, Acosta showed off his left arm again in 2012 with 1,368 yards passing, a .561 completion percentage and 14 touchdown passes while holding a QB rating of 87.
Named the SVL co-Offensive MVP, Acosta used his legs a lot as well with 499 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
Acosta earned a second team All-Northern Section selection at free safety as he led the Lions with 70 tackles. He also picked off two passes and recovered three fumbles. On special teams, he returned punts and kicks.
Andy Corona, Sr., Pierce
Acosta shared that offensive MVP award with Pierce's senior fullback who amassed 1,362 yards on 250 carries and 19 touchdowns. He also had a touchdown reception.
Corona did an admirable job filling the shoes of 2011 A-D Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Garcia as the Bears went to more of a true form of the triple-option this season.
When he wasn't piling up yards at fullback, Corona was trying to stop the other team's running back as he picked up 54 tackles and two sacks defensively.
T.J. Dove, Jr., River Valley
The Falcons' junior playmaker already set the school's career touchdown record with 16 scores this season.
Dove did it all for the Falcons spending time at running back, quarterback, slot receiver, cornerback, punt returner and punter.
A broken leg in the penultimate game of the regular season against Woodland cut his season short, though Dove still earned All-TCC honors.
He rushed for 619 yards on 62 carries and seven rushing touchdowns. Dove also caught 15 passes for 355 yards and four TDs.
Dove showed off his abilities as a punt returner with four punt returns for touchdowns. On defense he had 27 tackles and three interceptions at corner. As a punter, he netted 33.5 yards per kick.
Anthony Fleenor, Sr., Yuba City
The Honkers' senior jack-of-all-trades was the team's MVP as a junior in 2011 and did it all for Yuba City again as a senior. He was selected to both the All-TCC and A-D All-Area teams for the second straight year.
Defensively, he was Yuba City's leading tackler with 101 stops at linebacker, including 75 solo tackles.
On the other side of the ball he led the Honkers with 20 receptions for 270 yards as a pass-catching tight end.
Fleenor was also a superb punter with his ability to consistently pin opponents inside the 10-yard line.
Francisco Garcia, Jr., Marysville
One of the few bright spots in a 3-7 season for the Indians was the emergence of Garcia as a viable offensive threat in coach Cullen Meyer's new-look triple-option offense.
Garcia began the year at running back, but after starting quarterback Aaron Birch went down with an injury, Garcia assumed QB duties and performed well for Marysville.
He was named the Golden Empire League's Offensive Player of the Year with 1,175 yards on 146 carries and six touchdowns. He averaged 117 yards rushing per game and also threw two touchdown passes.
Garcia was a key player on defense at linebacker as he totaled 49 tackles.