Sunday, August 30, 2015

EMOTIONAL THOUGHTS - TIME TO LET THE INK SPILL


The moment I entered Flamson Middle School’s football field and saw the stadium lights radiate off of the grass on Aug. 28, some deep thoughts started to cloud my head as I watched Clovis and Paso Robles kick off the football season.

I carry those same thoughts as I type this out because this actually has been a weekend full of emotions. I’m usually not one to talk about myself, especially since I run a blog that puts student-athletes on a platform to get noticed, plus I spend most of my hours talking about what’s going in the sports world.

But an array of emotions engulfed me after that Clovis/Paso Robles game and the events that occurred in the journalism world earlier this week. These emotions surfaced for a good reason and has given me the reminder to love a great number of things.

I’ve endured some turbulent times in the past year. Some people who I thought I was close to, and who told me they were on my side, wound up trying to run me out from what I loved to do and told me that I was no longer good enough. Then in December, I finally found out what it was like to have a death nail hover over me, as I started to lose movement in my joints and ligaments, lost my appetite and got confined to a hospital bed. As tears flooded my eyes, I started wondering if I had wrote my last story, evaluated my last prospect and if I had breathed my last breath. My feeling was I had gotten ALS, which was the only virus I can think of that gets everything in your body to shut down.

But through prayers, encouragement from a wonderful group of people and a desire to get back at doing what I loved, I got out of that hospital bed in a short span of time. Still’s disease was what I received, which is nothing like ALS and is in the arthritis family. While the disease remains inside of me, it never controls me because I’ve learned how to combat it.

Clovis/Paso Robles was my first game since being diagnosed with Still’s. That game gave me the opportunity - and the honor - to help my colleagues at The Fresno Bee with providing updates. Plus that game got me to add new feature pieces to Cali Gold Mine. More important, the non-league battle was my first story in the aftermath of a national tragedy.

I don’t know anyone at WDBJ in Virginia. I didn’t know Alison Parker or Adam Ward. But I can relate to them. Alison and Adam were in the same field I’m in. Their job was to let their community know what’s going on. Their murders sent shockwaves across the nation, and I felt those waves. Alison and Adam were just doing their normal routine on the day they were taken away.

Their deaths could’ve scared off anyone in the media field and tell people no one is safe. But you know what? The football field and any sporting event will always be therapeutic for me. I did what millions of journalists did after the WDBJ tragedy: went to work and chased down stories, as a way to honor Alison and Adam plus prove that evil will never, ever prevail.



This industry isn’t an easy one regardless if you’re a freelance writer or TV personality. As it is, one of my friends in Fresno received a racist message recently. But I applaud him for shaking off that hater quickly and continued to share the news to his community. I’ve dealt with my share of unstable people; from coaches, parents trying to live through their kids, or hostile fans. But I remind myself that there’s no better feeling in the world than to put out a story or photo and see your name attached to it. Another awesome feeling is looking around at your association, and realize you’re surrounded by people who are on TV or writing for newspapers.

But what I love the most – now more than ever – is the praise I get from others. From Texas to California, I’m always honored when somebody shares my features and tells me that they admire my quality of work. You people help drive me every day to be the best version of myself. You’re the reason why CGM still exists and why I continue to press on in this evolving industry.

To everyone who has read my work over the years, I thank you. To everyone who has been supportive since day one, sometimes ‘Thank You’ isn’t enough and you deserve a hug from me.

A disease and a disturbed former news reporter didn’t stop me from doing what I love. And I’m glad the Virginia tragedy didn’t stop my media family.


Thanks and God bless!  

WEEK ZERO GOLD MINES

Romello Harris picked up from where he left out last season, as one of the top rushers in the Central Section toppled El Diamante (Visalia) with 333 rushing yards and five touchdowns (photo credit: The Fresno Bee). 
This week’s Gold mines from week zero:

SEAN KUENZINGER, QUARTERBACK, CLOVIS

The senior entered the game without his top running back (Samir Allen) and with zero scholarship offers. But he got CGM’s attention by sailing four touchdown passes against Paso Robles, a state playoff qualifier from one year ago.

TYLER COLLIER, OFFENSIVE GUARD, CLOVIS

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound junior spent his entire night dishing out more pancakes than Denny’s. Collier drove his blocking assignments to the ground and brought a nasty streak to a Cougar offensive line that gave up zero sacks to Paso.

ROMELLO HARRIS, RUNNING BACK, TULARE

If anyone lives in Tulare and gets bored on a Friday night, head out to Bob Mathias Stadium for a TUHS home game and watch Harris play. The illustrious Harris could go down as one of the greatest players the Central Section has ever seen, and he was off and running with 333 yards and five touchdowns against El Diamante on Thursday, Aug. 27.

LOGAN FOGG, LINEBACKER, BUCHANAN (CLOVIS) 

The “Fogg” rolled in and disrupted Edison’s game on Friday, Aug. 28, at Sunnyside High School. The linebacker – who rarely gets recognized because of the stellar play of fellow ‘backer Bryson Young – swooped up two fumbles and rumbled 60 yards for the touchdown on one recovery in the 16-14 stunner of the Tigers, the reigning Central Section D-I champs.

ELIJAH BENHAM, RUNNING BACK, DINUBA

Benham had to wait his turn at Dinuba as Michael Wright chased the school rushing record during an outstanding four-year varsity career. But on Aug. 28, the backfield role belonged to Benham, and the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder thundered to 146 yards in the Emperors’ road win over Mission Oak (Tulare).

JOE GUZMAN, RUNNING BACK, ST. JOSEPH (SANTA MARIA)

Guzman and the Knights traveled down to Santa Fe and stomped on the Chiefs. Guzman rushed for 200 yards on 20 carries and added a 95-yard kickoff return.

JAKE CONSTANTINE, QUARTERBACK, CAMARILLO

Constantine dropped five touchdown passes and added one rushing touchdown against rival Rio Mesa (Oxnard), which had national recruit Jay Lenard on the opposite side of the field.

J.J. TAYLOR, RUNNING BACK, CENTENNIAL (CORONA)

The Arizona commit blazed to 136 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns, as the heavily hyped Huskies walloped Utah powerhouse East High School (Salt Lake City).

JU’WUANE HUGHES, ATHLETE, HANFORD

Hughes proved why he’s one of the most dangerous athletes in the Central Valley, as he had two long kickoff returns, one interception, and 79 yards of total offense in the Bullpups’ Aug. 27 rout of Kingsburg.

ADRIAN MARTINEZ, QUARTERBACK, CLOVIS WEST

He’s only a sophomore, plus he’s playing on a team with two national recruits in wide receiver Darian Owens and linebacker/tight end Caleb Kelly. But Martinez stole the show at Merced on Aug. 28, combining for 306 yards throwing and rushing and had four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) in the Golden Eagles’ opening victory against Merced High.

CHARLES WILLIAMS, RUNNING BACK, BULLARD

There’s no better way to celebrate your birthday than rushing for 249 yards and five touchdowns, which was what Williams did against Hoover. 

STONE SMARTT, QUARTERBACK, DEL ORO (LOOMIS)

Smartt threw three touchdowns - from 40, 39 and 65 yards - against Pleasant Grove, the No. 3 ranked team in the state of Utah.

ANTOINE CUSTER, RUNNING BACK, DE LA SALLE (CONCORD)

Despite the loss in the Lonestar state, Custer showed his versatility against Texas kingpin Trinity (Euless), as he scored on a 79-yard touchdown pass and added a late 81-yard scoring run. 


Saturday, August 29, 2015

GOLD MINE GALLERY: CLOVIS AT PASO ROBLES

PICTURES FROM THE COUGARS' 27-24 ROAD WIN (ALL PHOTOS BY LORENZO REYNA):





























CLOVIS COUGARS HOLD OFF DEFENDING CIF SOUTHERN SECTION CHAMPION

Clovis High's Josh Hokit (No. 11) wraps up the ball carrier while Peyton McNair closes in during the Cougars' 27-24 road victory against Paso Robles on Friday, Aug. 28 (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna). 
Clovis High’s pursuit of a CIF Central Section Division I title started with a seesaw battle down in the Central Coast on Friday, Aug. 28, as the Cougars won a back-and-forth contest against Paso Robles 27-24.

The Cougars’ defense struggled for three quarters with containing Paso’s monster running back Christian Erickson, who gashed Clovis with 33 carries, 167 yards and three rushing touchdowns. But in the final five minutes of the game, the Cougars forced two crucial turnovers to solidify the road win.

Jared Pereira intercepted a pass near the Paso 31 for the first turnover. Then, the Cougars pounced on a late Paso fumble on a punt that was recovered by Josh Hokit to help seal the win.

Offensively, Clovis High quarterback Sean Kuenzinger had a breakout evening of four touchdown passes against last season’s CIF Southern Section Northern Division champion and state playoff qualifier.

“It feels great. Coach (Rich) Hammond had some great play schemes and we went out and executed,” Kuenzinger said. “It was a team effort.”

Clovis started fast when Kuenzinger faked the handoff and found Coltin Velasquez on a 25-yard strike during the game’s opening play. Then, J.J. wills cut through the middle of Paso’s defense for a 27-yard score while facing a third-and-17 situation.

But after the touchdown, the shootout ensued.

Paso responded by attacking the middle of Clovis’ defense by pounding the ball to Erickson, who sealed the Bearcats’ second drive with a 27-yard scoring scamper, tying the game at 7-7.

Tyson Fraser then followed with a big play of his own on the next kickoff, returning the ball all the way to the Paso 38. From there, Wills added his second touchdown of the night on a 38-yard completion from Kuenzinger.

Paso nailed a field goal to end the half and cut the Clovis lead to 13-10. The Bearcats would then turn to their 220-pound workhorse Erickson to wear down the trenches and score on a 7-yard run, making it 17-13.

But then, Velasquez caught Paso’s secondary off guard, as he found himself all alone on the left hand corner of the end zone on his 9-yard touchdown strike, lifting CHS back in front 20-17.

With 6:48 left in the game, Erickson pummeled through the CHS defense with a 4-yard run that made it 24-20 Paso. Clovis, though, got two big first down catches from Wills that combined for 25 yards. The drive culminated with Velasquez beating his defender in the end zone on a 29-yard bomb from Kuenzinger, putting Clovis ahead for good 27-24.

The Cougars (1-0) will return to Lamonica Stadium to take on Lemoore on Sept. 4. Paso Robles (0-1) travels down to Ventura County to take on Camarillo for its Sept. 4 contest.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

THE GOLD MINE GAME OF THE WEEK: CLOVIS AT PASO ROBLES

Paso Robles will hope to capture this scene again: winning the CIF Southern Section Northern Division title. Paso's pursuit of back-to-back titles has one major road block awaiting them on Friday, Aug. 28: the Clovis High Cougars. Clovis has been labeled one of the Central Section's heavy favorites to win the D-I crown (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna). 
One year ago, Paso Robles used an 18-point dismantling of Central Section power Clovis High to ignite a state playoff run.

Now, the Cougars have aspirations of chasing a state title. But it all starts with clearing the 805 hurdle known as the Paso Robles Bearcats, the team that stunned the Cougars 48-30 at Lamonica Stadium one year ago.

This rematch on the scenic Central Coast for Friday, Aug. 28, will pit the CIF Central Section semifinalist from last year versus the defending CIF Southern Section Northern Division champion.

Here’s a closer look:

ABOUT CLOVIS: The Cougars are entering 2015-16 as one of the heavy favorites to win the Central Section Division I championship. Clovis returns a plethora of stars and national recruits.

J.J. Wills leads the offense at wide receiver. The son of former UCLA running back Shawn Wills currently holds a University of Idaho offer. The returning senior caught seven passes for 148 yards and scored once in last year’s meeting with Paso. Playing opposite of him will be tall target Coltin Velasquez, who’s a 6-foot-2 possession weapon.

Defensively, linebacker Tanner Rice leads the Cougar roar. Rice pummels running backs from his inside linebacker spot. He’s drawn interest from Mountain West, Big Sky, Ivy League and PAC-12 schools.

Clovis High's Tanner Rice will lead the always hard-nosed Cougar defense into wine country on Aug. 28 as he and CHS take on 805 powerhouse Paso Robles (photo contributed). 


Josh Hokit will see action both ways after leading running back Samir Allen was lost for this game due to a knee injury. The strong safety averaged 6.3 tackles last season and will likely carry the ball for the Clovis ground attack.

ABOUT PASO ROBLES: Gone are Bailey Gaither, Jonathan Baldwin and Josh Oliver; all of whom will now continue their illustrious careers at the NCAA Division I level.

This now means lots of returning junior Christian Erickson and the Bearcat running game. Built like a Central Coast mountain lion at 6-foot-1, 220-pounds, Erickson will look to wear down the Cougar trenches with Paso likely lining up in double tight end and Power-I formations, which was its base offense toward the end of 2014-15. Erickson wasn’t on the field when Paso celebrated its first section title since 2000 because of an injury, but he’s back and ready to take the load.

Matt Keller could become the X-Factor for the Bearcats. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior is a ferocious hitter at linebacker. He could move to tight end with Baldwin gone.

KEY MATCHUP: Rice against Erickson. This battle could look like the high school version of Ray Lewis versus John Riggins.

DON'T SLEEP ON: Tyler Collier. The returning junior is a rugged pass blocker and down field blocker at offensive guard. Cougar fans probably remember No. 56 drilling his blocking assignments to the ground last year.  


GAME INFORMATION: Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UN-OFFERED GEMS - 23 HIDDEN FOOTBALL TREASURES IN THE GOLDEN STATE

Deshawn Collins has obliterated defenses at state powerhouse Grant High School in Sacramento, but the Pacers' star running back is yet to report his first official offer. He's among a list of underrated and un-offered talents in the Golden State (photo credit Max preps). 
They’re un-offered, but they’re unrelenting.

And they’ll likely use their zero scholarship offers as fuel to make opponents pay, plus try to get on a college football program’s last minute shopping list for the 2016 recruiting class.

These 23 athletes have drawn interest from different programs and got college coaches visiting them during the NCAA Spring Evaluation Period. A huge senior season from these prospects can increase their chances to land either their first or several scholarship pledges.

Players and parents stressing over no offers shouldn't fret. Kevin Scott of Salesian (Los Angeles) is an example of a late bloomer; whose 11 sacks last season got Texas, Ole Miss, Miami and Kansas State to offer him late before USC won the Scott sweepstakes.

As the 2015-16 season approaches, here’s some un-offered gems in the Golden State:

JAKE CONSTANTINE, CAMARILLO 

All he’s done in Ventura County is shred some of the top defenses in the 805 with his right arm and speedy legs. He’s one of the toughest quarterbacks to game plan against in Southern California, because he’ll destroy a defensive scheme through the air or ground. Constantine has had coaches from Washington, Boise State, Fresno State, Sacramento State, Eastern Washington and the Ivy Leagues chatting with him.



DESHAWN COLLINS, GRANT (SACRAMENTO)

It’s perplexing to see a 2,000-yard rusher at a state powerhouse currently hold no offers. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Collins has to be one of the top sleepers in the state. He gashed defenses to the tune of 2,231 yards and runs like a young Andre Ellington of the Arizona Cardinals. Collins has gotten Ivy League teams, Mountain West Conference, Big Sky and some PAC-12 schools showing him love.



TANNER RICE, CLOVIS

Think of a provoked Tasmanian devil in the middle of the field. That’s what you get with the 6-foot, 215-pound Rice, who attacks and destroys. He’s the latest defender who's carrying on the lineage of past defensive greats at Clovis High. Big Sky, MWC, Ivy League and PAC-12 coaches have become interested in the inside linebacker.


ISAAC LEPPKE, DINUBA

The Emperors are planning to utilize some read option schemes this fall, which means an increased load for Leppke, who showed cool moxie while going against some of the top heavyweights in Tulare County last fall. Leppke threw the ball in front of Mountain West, Ivy League and Iowa State coaches during the evaluation period.



BRENT PEUS, SANTA BARBARA

Peus has impressed Ivy League teams with his academics (held a 4.6 grade point average), size (6-foot-3) and precision passing (completed 64.9% of his throws last year). All he needs to do is get the Dons to break into the playoffs, which they fell short of last year.



ZACH BURG, RIGHETTI (SANTA MARIA)

Burg is Mr. Do-Everything for the Warriors. Coaches have asked him to play fullback, defensive end and linebacker – and Burg doesn’t disappoint. His astonishing 4.8 GPA allows him to adapt right away to new roles on the field. Burg told us on Aug. 21 that Ivy League programs are interested in what he does at linebacker.

TROY ARTOPOEUS, RIGHETTI

With top receiver Steve Spadarotto gone, look for the big 6-foot-5, 220-pound Artopoeus to get an increased role in the air attack. He’s a reliable red zone threat and possession target who’s bounced between tight end and receiver. The returning senior has San Diego State, Northern Arizona, Cal Poly and Arizona State eyeing him.



LAVANTE BUSHNELL, STAGG (STOCKTON)

Bushnell doesn’t come off the field for Stagg, as he lines up at quarterback, slot receiver, cornerback and safety. Defense might be his calling at the next level, though, because of his fluid backpedal and recovery speed. Bushnell had Big Sky, MWC and PAC-12 coaches swinging by to talk to him this past spring.



BRAD MICKEY, ARROYO GRANDE

The only bad mistake Mickey made last season was missing his tackle on Paso Robles’ Bailey Gaither last season, who hurdled over Mickey to score the final touchdown of that playoff game. But outside of that, Mickey was dynamic with 10 interceptions for the always competitive Eagles. Mickey took an April trip to Boise State and liked what he saw out there. He’s at the same high school that recently sent Seth Jacobs to Oklahoma State.

MARC MARTIN, ATASCADERO

He’s a mammoth, 6-foot, 220-pound tumbling rock who punishes defenders and has some surprising lateral agility for a big back. He’ll be the go-to back for a Greyhounds team who caused a logjam at the top of the PAC-5 last season.

KRIS BUENO, MADERA

The Coyotes aren’t known for beating teams through the pass, but the 6-foot-3 Bueno is the one guy Madera looks to if they need an aerial highlight. The fast and tall target has Fresno State, UNLV, UTEP and Norte Dame interested in him.

TREVON CUMMINGS, BUCHANAN (CLOVIS)

The Bears had one of the best defenses in the Central Section last season and Cummings emerged as their top cover cornerback. Cummings – despite his 5-foot-8 frame – can lock up wide receivers in the press game. He can bench press 300 pounds according to his Hudl account. He’s had DII powerhouse Azusa Pacific taking a close look at him.

NICK COLE, BULLARD (FRESNO)

Cole is a hard-nosed safety who has Northern Arizona, Montana and Penn taking interest. He’s also a former quarterback. If he shows his ball-hawking skills this fall, he could sneak in some late offers.

QUINCY JOUNTII, LIBERTY (BAKERSFIELD)

Jountii is a Shane Vereen-type for the explosive Patriot offense. He can bulldoze defenders at running back and add a receiving element. Jountii says Sacramento State has shown the most interest.



MATT HUBBLE, LIBERTY

Hubble, like Jountii, is another versatile chess piece for the talented Pats. He too adds that runner/receiver dynamic. Hubble is also a linebacker for Liberty, which is where he’s being projected to play at in college. Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington and UTEP have shown interest in him on defense.



BLAKE WALKER, CENTRAL VALLEY CHRISTIAN (VISALIA)

Mt. Walker towers at 6-foot-7 and will enter his senior year with a thinner frame, which he hopes will make his feet quicker in the passing game as the Cavaliers – the Central Section D-IV runner-up – plan to spread the ball out this year. Walker has Football Championship Subdivision and MWC coaches intrigued.

BRAD TAYLOR, CENTRAL VALLEY CHRISTIAN

Taylor is the Kam Chancellor of the CVC defense, as the 6-foot-3, 195-pound safety doubles as interception king and ferocious hitter. Ivy League teams have looked at him closely.

CURTIS JACKSON, IRVINE

Jackson – who gets called “Young 50” because he shares the same first and last name with famous musician/actor 50 Cent – was a fierce enforcer at safety for Irvine in 2014-15. The 6-foot, 170-pound Jackson, however, wants to become a better ball hawk as his senior year approaches. San Diego State and San Jose State have been the most interested schools.



MATT KELLER, PASO ROBLES

The Bearcats will have to replace three NCAA DI guys in Gaither, Josh Oliver and Jonathan Baldwin this fall, but count on the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Keller to pick up what the trio left behind. Keller is a bruising linebacker who knocks the wind out of people. With Baldwin gone, Keller could see action at tight end as well.

KYLE MACAULEY, BELLARMINE (SAN JOSE)

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound receiver and track star is an animal in the deep game. He’s burned defensive backs on streak and post patterns in the Silicon Valley. He had a productive offseason by earning the Passing Down Best of the West Most Valuable Player award in April 2015.

MARQEL MCCOY, CONCORD

An underrated big target in the Bay Area. The 6-foot-3 McCoy can haul down the tough sideline and red zone catches. Army has shown the most interest in the 3.6 GPA student.

MICHAEL LOWE, GLENDORA

While the buzz at Glendora has been USC quarterback commit Matt Fink, it's Lowe who's put together a productive and impressive offseason. He's shown his versatility as a wide receiver and cornerback and the returning senior could breakout as Fink's top target on offense this fall. Lowe has had mid-major programs examine him closely.



JACE ALCAZAR, BUHACH COLONY (ATWATER)

He may be undersized and has seen limited action, but Alcazar is a hard-nosed playmaker at linebacker and tight end for the Thunder. He's had mid-major schools and neighboring MWC university Fresno State taking a look at him. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

AIM HIGH - FUTURE AIR FORCE FALCON MOTIVATED BY ACADEMICS AND TRADITION AT BULLARD

Bullard High School (Fresno) center Connor Vikupitz went from being labeled as a Division III or DII college football player to verbally accepting a full ride opportunity from the Air Force Academy on Aug. 15. Vikupitz is among four incoming seniors on the Knights' roster who have received NCAA DI interest (photo contributed). 
Once the college football recruiting process kicked off for Connor Vikupitz, the Bullard High School (Fresno) Class of 2016 center was originally told that he would be no better than a NCAA Division II football player.

However, the spring evaluation period and the summer camp season changed the attitudes of the people who gave him that critique.

Vikupitz - through work ethic, a 4.3 grade point average and a hunger to become better than yesterday – became a person of interest for numerous NCAA DI schools during the offseason and now, the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder is Air Force Academy bound after he turns in his Bullard uniform.

His Aug. 15 verbal commitment to the prestigious Mountain West Conference service academy added him to Bullard’s inflating list of DI prospects. Along with Vikupitz, running back Charles Williams, tight end/defensive end Cvaughn Stewart and safety Nick Cole have gotten college coaches scrutinizing them closely.

Most high school football players get emotionally psyched when someone tells them they’re not good enough for the DI level. Some will etch that motivation in writing and paste the paper on their locker room wall, or remember what was said and leave it embedded in their mind before taking the field.

But not Vikupitz. He calmly went about his business with the hope one university would give him a chance.

“Motivation wise, I was just trying my best to impress whoever I could no matter what division,” Vikupitz said. “At camps over the summer, no matter what school was watching, I knew I had to make an impression.”

Vikupitz said that his size caused people around him to believe that his collegiate career was going to be played outside of the Football Bowl Subdivision circle. But he hides his size flaw with his mean streak.

It’s No. 71 who’s the first to get unleashed on defensive linemen like a wild tiger charging into a coliseum. Vikupitz fastens his palms inside a defenders’ chest and drills him to the grass.



The Knights, who have legendary Central Section head coach Don Arax roaming the sidelines, have always preferred to take the ground-and-pound approach; lining up in a variety of double tight end and power formations to take the oxygen away from defenses. Most BHS running plays smash through the middle of the field – the area where Vikupitz sets up his blocks.

While the BHS linemen plow the roads for Williams, the trench warriors don’t command the spotlight compared to the running backs. Knight backfield stars have not only left a revered legacy at the North Palm Avenue campus, but they’re usually the recipient of newspaper honors and scholarship offers from PAC-12, Mountain West and Big Sky universities. Vikupitz wants the guys up front to get similar recognition.

“I believe behind every great running back is a great line,” Vikupitz said. “I’m sure even the best running backs would have a difficult time running against 11 other defenders.”

Vikupitz prepares to snap the ball and unleash a trench fury for the Knights. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Vikupitz is the Knights' go-to-guy for a run block (photo contributed). 


He knows that the expectations at BHS are through the ceiling. Most followers of the Central Section football scene have penciled the Knights as one of the top 10 teams in the area. Bullard is also searching for its first section championship since 2009, when that Knight team finished a flawless 13-0.

“Bullard is definitely one of the toughest programs around,” Vikupitz said. “The coaches will push you to your limits everyday both in the weight room and at practice. We train in order to out-hustle our opponents and I believe the coaching staff does a great job of preparing us.”

Even though Vikupitz sets the tone with his nasty demeanor, he doesn’t come off as a rabid, loquacious player who tries to get under his opponents’ skin with words. He prefers to be even keeled.

“I try my best to keep my cool in order to be mentally prepared,” Vikupitz said. “Offensive line is a lot more technical than what people think and getting to the point where I can't concentrate would definitely hurt me in games.”

One way Vikupitz stays mentally sharp is by watching his favorite player on his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers: perennial Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey. Vikupitz adds that he’ll dust off old Bullard film and watch highlights of past BHS linemen greats like Chris Chavez, who coached him last year.

Vikupitz doesn’t just take on blocking challenges. He embraces academic ones too. Football wasn’t the only thing that drew Vikupitz into the Air Force Academy. The strict academic culture was another deciding factor.

“The place just spoke to me. I was always interested in an academy. I knew regular college wasn't right for me and I wouldn't function too well at a typical University,” Vikupitz said. “I feel this way because I am more of a structured person. I like to be busy and I think the structured system of an academy is something I will enjoy unlike most other people. I wouldn't know what to do with so much free time.  I also did want a school that was very prestigious in its academics.”

He comes from a military family, which he said was another reason why he committed early to Air Force.

“My mother's uncle was an Air Force pilot and other distant relatives have been in the military, but none in my immediate family. Their input on the idea of me attending an academy definitely swayed my decision,” Vikupitz said.

He credits his parents, coaches and friends for assisting him in his recruiting process, regardless if any of them said that he wasn’t DI material.

He’s overcome his lack of size with his verbal pledge to the Falcons. Now comes his next obstacle: helping Bullard add another section football crown.


“I may not show it much, but I do have a very competitive side to me. This drives me along with just representing the school and our tradition,” Vikupitz said. “Arax talks a lot about the great teams he's had and I've always wanted to be a part of one of the great teams he talks about in the future, and one that will go down in Bullard football lore. Yes we’ve had some bumps, but we’ve gotten through them with great leadership and help from the coaching staff. 

"Towards the end of the season everyone gets tired and that's what our downfall was last year," Vikupitz continued. "Staying focused and strong throughout the entire season, including the postseason, is how we'll win the title.”