Los Gatos High senior Emiliano Mejia tapes up his cleats prior to the team's Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division game against Palo Alto on Oct. 6. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

One of the key statistics that measures a true value of an offensive football player is YAC, which stands for yards after catch for a player after the catch.

A more advanced stat for a running back is YCO/A, which measures the rushing yards gained after contact divided by the number of rush attempts by a ball carrier. If every team in the Central Coast Section kept track of YCO/A yards, Emiliano Mejia would most likely be at the top of the list.

The Los Gatos High senior running back rarely goes down on first contact even though he collides with bigger defenders. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder credits his work ethic and mentality as keys to his physical running style. 

“It’s my attitude and I live in the weight room,” he said. “I’m there everyday. That’s really why I play bigger than I am because I put in so much work and it shows on game day.”

Does it ever. Through six games this season, Mejia is averaging a robust 8.8-yards per carry and has scored nine touchdowns. Even though he takes and gives out punishment in equal proportion, Mejia’s ability to change directions instantaneously plays a major factor in his ability to break off long gains. 

But it all starts pre-snap, when Mejia scans the defense. 

“It’s mostly reading the linebackers and defensive line and seeing how they align,” he said. “And then from the snap, I’m still looking at them making sure they’re all flowing, and if I see a comeback lane or if I see a hole open up, then I’ll make my move and get upfield.”

In the Wildcats’ last game, a 42-20 win over Palo Alto on Oct. 6, Mejia rushed for 88 yards on 11 carries and had four receptions for 34 yards in just over one quarter of action. One can only imagine the numbers he could’ve put up had it been a competitive game and he played the entire way. 

But that’s been typical for Mejia this season. Each of the Wildcats’ four wins have come via blowout, and there’s been only one game in which he’s had 15-plus rushing attempts, when he gained 94 yards on 16 carries in the team’s 10-7 loss to Sacred Heart Prep on Sept. 23. 

Mejia credits the offensive line of center Will Cohen, right guard Kevin Rogers, left guards Weston Heard and Gavin Burtis, right tackle Ryan Vernale and left tackle Richard Papapietro as vital in his and the team’s success. 

The offensive line has had its ups and downs this season, but Mejia said they’re continuing to improve which makes all the difference. 

“From the first game to now, it’s been a really big difference so I think coach (David) Orvick and coach (Mark) Krail, they’ve made a really good game plan and I’m just doing my job,” Mejia said. “The offensive line, they’re doing what they need to do and I’ll do the rest. I think that’s how we’ve been able to achieve our success as of late with the run game.”

Mejia said Cohen has been a leader with his play and determination. 

“He’s really the heart of our offensive line,” Mejia said. “He’s driving guys back and he’s picking up the whole offensive line. I think when we have struggles and we’re down, he’s the one that’s giving them a little boost. But all of our offensive line is really taking leadership. I really love those guys.”

Mejia also loves the team’s defense, which hands down has been the team’s best unit throughout the season. Henry Wong had a huge game against Palo Alto. On one of the Vikings’ second-quarter possessions, Wong had a tackle and back-to-back sacks which led to a Palo Alto punt that teammate Jaylen Thomas returned 60 yards for a touchdown and a 28-0 lead. 

Thomas is the team’s premier two-way threat. He totaled three touchdowns, including a 12-yard reception from Jake Boyd that made it 35-0 going into halftime. Thomas has also been a standout defensively along with Nicolas Ramos—just to name a few. 

“Our defense really has been lights-out the whole season,” Mejia said. “Our offense really just needs to catch up with our defense and when they do, we get results like that in the first half (against Palo Alto).”

Mejia was slowed by a hamstring injury in the off-season, but he still put in a lot of work to get stronger and develop his football skills. On double days in the off-season, Mejia will have two separate workout sessions, a combination of lifting and on-field activities. 

“I’m trying to get stronger but also getting faster and better at football because you don’t just want to get big and get strong and not get any better at football,” he said. 

Mejia grew up playing flag football before transitioning to tackle, and many of his current teammates are the same ones who started with him on the Los Gatos-Cambrian Pop Warner youth football team while they were still in grade school. 

“A lot of us have been playing together for a while so it’s been awesome,” he said. NOTES: Los Gatos improved to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in SCVAL De Anza Division with the win over Palo Alto. Next up is a game at Homestead on Oct. 14. AJ Minyard made his first-ever varsity start at quarterback and performed well, finishing 7-of-11 for 76 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Jaylen Thomas has been outstanding on both sides of the ball all season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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