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ALL-AREA FOOTBALL: Staas earns Defensive Player of the Year honors
Sutter linebacker was a force for Huskies
DL - Trevor Carr, Sutter
DL - Garrett Wallace, Sutter
DL - Chas Benton, Pierce
DL - Brett Whiteaker, Yuba City
LB - Izaya Johnson, River Valley
LB - Preston Smith, Pierce
LB - Philip Robledo, Sutter
LB - Garrett White, Wheatland
DB - Andrew Lopez, Live Oak
DB - Colton Minton, Sutter
DB - Jaylon Deas, Yuba City
DB - Dewey Maxham, River Valley
K - Triston Montoya, River Valley
P - Victor Santillan, Pierce
When it comes to an intimidating presence on the football field, it's hard to top the imposing shadow cast by Sutter High's Ryan Staas.
Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 235 pounds, Staas grabs the attention of the opposition when he lines up for each snap at his middle linebacker spot. However, there's much more to him than just his physique.
As a student of the game, Staas put in countless hours preparing for each opponent the Huskies faced this season and was a quiet leader on a defense that will go down as one the best in Northern Section history.
The stats speak for themselves: Staas led Sutter with 167 tackles, recorded four sacks, forced six fumbles and intercepted two passes on a squad that won the Northern Section Division II title, finished 13-1 and
made it all the way to the CIF Northern California Division III Regional Championship.
But while his ability — and size — was noticeable, what his coaches admire most about the senior captain was the amount of time he put in off the field.
"What stands out to me is his work ethic," Sutter coach Ryan Reynolds said. "He's a weight room guy all the way. He's the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, and he's focused on his diet and nutrition.
"He took a fanatical approach to being the best he could be."
And in the offseason, he had to take a fanatical approach just to get back to full health.
During the regular season finale against Orland his junior year, Staas suffered a stage-two tear of the MCL in his left knee. He played with the injury through the team's two playoff games, and although surgery wasn't needed, Staas had to put in hours of rehab to return to form.
"I worked my butt off this offseason. During camps I was definitely nervous about it because I couldn't plant or put weight on it," said Staas, who praised junior varsity coach Mike Landa for helping him through the injury. "I'm 100 percent now. I never even think about it."
That kind of dedication paid off during a remarkable senior season that saw him earn both Butte View League and Northern Section defensive MVP honors. Now, Staas has added to his resume by being named the 2012 Appeal-Democrat All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.
"His size was very intimidating. He was a captain, so we'd send him out for the coin toss each game," Reynolds said with a chuckle. "He could play anywhere. He's big, but he can run, too. He's not slow."
Staas started his prep career as a defensive end, but made the switch to middle linebacker midway through his freshman season. The change proved to be a perfect fit for Staas, whose surprising speed and ability to diagnose plays made him a force from sideline to sideline.
"I like it a lot better because you don't have to hit a lineman on every play," Staas said of his transition to linebacker. "You get to read the play, and not having a lineman in your face was nice."
Reynolds said the one play that stands out came in Sutter's big game at eventual Northern Section Division-I champion Enterprise on Oct. 19. The Hornets opened the game with an onside kick and recovered it, putting the Huskies on their heels early.
But there was Staas, who turned in one of the many big plays that became his calling card.
"On the first play, their quarterback dropped back and tried to throw it over him, but he jumped up and picked it off," Reynolds recalled. "The momentum of the game turned on that play."
The Huskies went on to win 34-27, setting the stage for a memorable run that nearly culminated in a state title game berth.
"Going 13-0 and winning the section was our goal, but we knew we had to take it one game at a time," Staas said. "Making state was always in the back of our minds, though."
Staas said he will be playing football next year, but as of yet he doesn't exactly know where. One thing he is certain of is that he will miss running out on the field on Friday nights to do battle with his teammates.
"I'm going to miss playing with my friends. Football is like no other sport — you build bonds and brotherhood," he said. "Once you get to the next level, it's not about having fun, it's a business. I'm going to miss knowing everybody in the stands and playing for the community."
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE:
Trevor Carr, Sr., Sutter
An All-BVL and All-Northern Section first-teamer, Carr was an immovable object at his defensive tackle position where he finished the season with 100 tackles and 11.5 sacks.
His speed allowed him to wreak havoc in the backfield and he was a force on special teams as well with a pair of blocked punts, a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery a touchdown.
Chas Benton, senior, Pierce
One of the quickest defensive lineman in the area, Benton earned All-Sacramento Valley League accolades by leading the Bears with 12 sacks.
Strong off the ball and with the speed to outrun some running backs, Benton went on to record 40 tackles from his defensive tackle position.
Brett Whiteaker, Sr., Yuba City
An All-Tri-County Conference selection, Whiteaker did all little things to keep offensive lineman away from Yuba City's linebackers and went on to record 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks on the year.
"He was consistent, we didn't have to worry about him," Honker coach John Ithurburn said. "He's physical and he got after the quarterback. He didn't always get to him but he made him move."
Garrett Wallace, Sr., Sutter
The Northern Section sack leader with 19.5, Wallace's great technique and tenacity allowed him to shed blockers with ease and play the majority of games in the opponents' backfield.
The three-year varsity starter was an All-BVL first-teamer and was selected to the section's second team. He also led the Huskies with five fumble recoveries.
Izaya Johnson, Sr., River Valley
One of the area's most complete players, Johnson filled many roles for the Falcons, but it was on the defensive side where he truly excelled.
RV's senior captain and team MVP totaled 72 tackles, two sacks, an interception and recovered six fumbles on the year. He also saw time at running back and took over as the Falcons' quarterback midway through the season.
Preston Smith, Sr., Pierce
An All-SVL selection, Smith helped power the Bears to a league championship and an 11-1 record by leading the team with 108 tackles.
The leader and play-caller on Pierce's strong defensive unit, Smith also recorded three sacks, picked off a pair off passes and recovered two fumbles.
Philip Robledo, Sr., Sutter
The BVL's co-defensive MVP with Staas, Robledo capped a stellar three-year varsity career by finishing with 117 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Playing with a motor that never stopped and a nose for the football, Robledo's scoop-and-score was the pivotal play in the Huskies' 14-6 win over Orland in the section semifinals.
Garrett White, Sr., Wheatland
Playing mostly at outside linebacker, White was an All-BVL pick after leading the Pirates with 103 tackles while recording three interceptions and two sacks.
As the team's only returning defensive starter, White was a versatile team leader and totaled 383 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball as well.
Andrew Lopez, Jr., Live Oak
The Mid-Valley interception leader with seven, Lopez was named to the All-SVL team as a cornerback.
He also recorded 32 tackles and his two interceptions against Trinity and game-winning pick against East Nicolaus in overtime was key to the Lions earning a berth in the Northern Section Division II playoffs.
Colton Minton, Sr., Sutter
The backbone on Sutter's dominant defensive unit, Minton finished second on the team with 64 solo tackles and picked off four passes from his safety position. He was an All-BVL first-team selection.
Minton received the Huskies' playmaker award for his tendency to make the big play and was a standout punt returner. His interception against West Valley in double-overtime also clinched the Division-II title for Sutter.
Dewey Maxham, Sr., River Valley
A hard-hitter and a ball-hawk at free safety, Maxham was named All-TCC after leading the Falcons in tackles with 75.
He also picked off a pair of passes and returned one for a touchdown, returned a punt for a score, rushed for four TDs and caught two touchdown passes on the year.
Jaylon Deas, Jr., Yuba City
A physical player who never shied away from contact, Deas was a run-stuffing force for the Honkers from his strong safety position.
Only a junior, Deas finished second on the team with 69 tackles and led Yuba City in sacks with 7.5.
Triston Montoya, Sr., River Valley
Montoya was the Mid-Valley's most accurate place kicker where he was a perfect 32 of 32 on PATs and 5 for 5 on field goals attempts.
His longest field goal came on a 41-yarder against Yuba City in the Mayor's Cup and as goalkeeper, he led the Falcons' soccer team to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title, the school's first ever section crown.
Victor Santillan, Sr., Pierce
Besides leading the Mid-Valley with 11 touchbacks on kickoffs, Santillan was also the top punter in the area where he averaged 39 yards per punt.