Cefalu’s stellar season earns offensive MVP | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Cefalu’s stellar season earns offensive MVP

Becky Regan

Becky Regan / Tahoe Daily Tribune Quarterback John Cefalu buys himself some time before finding Kyle Moreno with the pass in the second quarter of the Vikings win against Spring Creek on Oct. 19 at South Tahoe High School. Cefalu led Nevada in passing during the regular season, was nationally ranked and recently named Offensive Player of the Year.

Halfway through the Vikings’ football season, it was no mystery that John Cefalu was going to throw the ball.

Every coach, every player and every spectator knew what was coming. Still, no team could shut Cefalu down.

When it came time to pick Offensive Player of the Year, Cefalu unanimously stood out among some heavy competition. The quarterback picked up the prestigious All-League honor and was one vote away from collecting overall MVP.

“These teams knew we were going to throw and they still couldn’t stop it,” offensive coordinator Todd McIntyre said. “That’s a real testament to John, and I think it makes John stand out above these other quarterbacks.”

Cefalu obliterated the South Tahoe record book this season, and led the state of Nevada in passing until last weekend. The 33 touchdowns and 3,235 yards he threw were all compiled in regular season.

“To throw for 3,000 yards that’s hard to do,” head coach Kevin Hennessee said, “and he’s the No. 1 kid in Northern Nevada. You look at these other kids and they played 12 or 13 games and he did this in 10 games.”

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Weeding through Cefalu’s long list of season highlights digs up plenty of standout moments. The senior led not just the league, but the state, with passing numbers that looked more like college stats. He did it all without the luxury of playoffs and an extended season.

“This offseason, I really put my whole heart into football and it paid off,” Cefalu said.

The offseason work helped him read complex defenses and adjust on the line. He led his team to a 5-4 record and carried South Tahoe to the brink of playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

“Most guys are worried about how hard they can throw or how much they can lift and that’s important, but I spent a lot of time with Coach (Eric) Beavers and Coach Mac looking at defenses and learning how to read them so I throw the ball in the open gaps instead of trying to force it through,” Cefalu said. “I worked so much on my throwing technique that I didn’t have to worry about that during the game and I just focused on what the defense was doing.”

Each of the 10-out-of-10 coaches who voted Cefalu as Offensive Player of the Year had seen it firsthand.

“I think as coaches tried to defend us they realized that John was calling plays on the line of scrimmage and finding ways to counter what they were doing,” Hennessee said. “He was doing that on the line of scrimmage in a matter of 25 seconds.”

Cefalu saw it all this season. Each week opponents brought a different equation in hopes of shutting Cefalu down. The result was always the same – Cefalu connected.

“They showed every single coverage and defense that I think even college kids would struggle with, and John was able to figure it out,” McIntyre said.

Cefalu read defensive with an understanding beyond his years. His quick decisions to change plays were successful, and the South Tahoe coaches were listening.

“It’s easy to listen to a kid when he’s right or when he knows what he’s talking about,” Hennessee said.

The Vikings played their final game against a soon-to-be state championship team, Truckee. The Wolverines have an unbreakable defense that had its own version of stopping Cefalu. The senior found a way through for a 62-yard touchdown pass.

“Every team had a different idea of how to defend it and none of them were successful, including Truckee,” McIntyre said. “They take a lot of pride in not letting you score. We couldn’t stop them, but it probably frustrated them because they thought they had us figured out.”

Truckee got the win, but Cefalu and the Vikings managed to put up more points against the Wolverines than any other team this season. Cefalu did it all in the first half too. He threw for four touchdowns and 321 yards against the best high school program in the state.

“As a coordinator, I didn’t know what they were going to run or who was going to blitz who where, and John had to figure that all out on the line of scrimmage,” McIntyre said.

Perhaps Cefalu’s most impressive stat of all this year is the 323 yards per game that he averaged. High school quarterbacks usually see 300-plus yard game once or maybe twice a season. Those games were common place for Cefalu and interceptions were not.

Cefalu capped his interceptions at five this season. He connected on 204-of-341 passes.

“He doesn’t think about decisions he just makes them and he is able to get the ball where it needs to be,” Hennessee said. “I’ve got to believe when the All-State comes out he’ll be on that list.”

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