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Jefferson High’s Angelo Velez runs for record books, title

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Jefferson High School running back Angelo Velez, center, bolts past San Mateo High School defenders on Sept. 29. (Courtesy Keanu Tafeamalii)
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Life is pretty good right now for Angelo Velez. The Jefferson High School senior has rushed for 1,111 yards in just six games as his Grizzlies have stormed into the PAL Lake title race.

In last week’s 48-14 drubbing of Mills, Velez ran for another two touchdowns and was rested for the second half as the game was finished with a running clock due to the lopsided score. His 84-yard output was his lowest of the entire season, and he easily would’ve broken the century mark for the sixth time in as many games had he played the full game.

Head coach Will Maddox took the opportunity to rest Velez and most of the starters in advance of Jefferson’s showdown with Carlmont (7-0, 3-0) on Friday, a game that should decide the PAL Lake title and determine the fate of both teams’ seasons. Typically, only the league champion reaches the playoffs.

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While pundits expected Carlmont and San Mateo to contend for the league title — with perhaps Capuchino as a third contender — Jefferson has stormed its way into the title discussion as Velez has raced past opposing defenses.

As a junior, Velez totaled just 89 carries as a rotational running back in a system headlined by fellow junior Daniel Benjamin. Before his senior year, Benjamin approached Maddox about transitioning to wide receiver. With Benjamin’s skills at receiver and junior Joaquin Alvarez’s arm at quarterback, Velez completed Jefferson’s three-headed monster.

In six games in 2017, Velez has already carried the ball 100 times and found the end zone on 16 runs. Perhaps most impressive is his growth in yards per carry. As a junior, he averaged an impressive 7.2 yards per run, but that number has grown to 11.1 this year, even as opponents specifically tailor gameplans to stop him.

Velez has had three four-touchdown games this year, including back-to-back wins over Tennyson and Soquel. He ran for 263 yards in a 38-29 victory over Tennyson, highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown run. At Soquel, he amassed a career-high 276 yards as the offense put up 66 points.

“Those games opened my eyes, and I think it opened his eyes to see just how good he really is,” Maddox said.

It’s no surprise that Velez is a track star as well. In the spring, he finished fourth in the PAL in the 100-meter dash and third in the 200.

“If he gets in the secondary, you can pretty much wave goodbye,” Maddox said. Speed isn’t all Velez has, though. He can lower his shoulder to power through tacklers and drag defenders for extra yards.

Best of all, though, is the brain he has under his long head of hair. “He has great football IQ, and his awareness is just remarkable for his age,” Maddox said. “There are so many times where he’ll go through the hole and see a cutback lane across the field.”

Velez also starts at safety on a defense that has allowed just 17 points in its last two games.

“His defensive skills are getting overshadowed by how well he’s doing on offense,” Maddox said. “He’s probably one of our best defensive players.”

Jefferson lost its opener to Mission but has won six straight, including one by forfeit. The offense has scored a minimum of 31 points in each of the five on-field wins.

“Our loss to Mission was a wake-up call. After that game, practices got a lot more serious,” Velez said. “Our team chemistry has snowballed from that game.”

This Friday, Jefferson will travel to a face a Carlmont team with its own star running back, Demarii Blanks. Velez will certainly be ready.

“I’m focused on resting up and preparing so that I’m good to go mentally and physically,” said the senior. “We’re thoroughly watching film to see what they do and we’re watching film from last year because we’ve beaten them the last three years we’ve played them.”

Velez has had a profound impact on Jefferson’s season. If the Grizzlies are to beat Carlmont on Friday, he’ll certainly be at the forefront of those efforts.

TURKEY DAY GAME
The Academic Athletic Association has elected to extend its season to make up the games from the week of Oct. 13 that were postponed due to smoke from the North Bay fires. Those games will be played Nov. 18. The semifinals are now scheduled for Nov. 24, and the championship game is set for Dec. 2. The location of those games is to be determined. The scheduling changes mean the CIF will not be able to assign a San Francisco champion to an out-bracket regional play-in game. It is still likely that the AAA champion will be assigned to one of the smallest divisions.

SACRED HEART-MITTY RESCHEDULE
The rescheduled game between Sacred Heart Cathedral and Mitty set for Nov. 10 will not be played at Kezar Stadium, due to scheduling conflicts. The game will be played at Jefferson.

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