DOWNEY - Jesse this. Jesse that. Jesse, Jesse, Jesse.
When it comes to the football team at Warren High, that's just about all anybody talks about - star running back Jesse Callier. And for good reason, as Callier has put up the best rushing numbers in the area over the past two seasons.
But one thing is for sure, Callier and the Bears (10-1) wouldn't have had the success they've had without a group of unsung heroes, namely the offensive line that blows open holes for him to run through and a quarterback and receiver who have put aside individual agendas for the good of the team.
"The team orientation, the team aspect has played a big part," second-year Warren coach Chris Benadom said. "The kids all seem to be close friends ... and that's been a huge part of our success. They're like, `Let's play together, let's get it done together."'
Callier rushed for a school-record 2,466 yards and 30 touchdowns last season with an experienced offensive line leading the way. This year, however, the offensive line was new, with the exception of three-year tight end Aguafa Vaaulu.
Benadom knew how good Callier was and he also knew that Callier might struggle a bit behind the newbie blockers. It was certainly an area of concern, especially when it comes to the bread and butter of the team.
"Coming into the year, I didn't know what to expect from the guys (on the offensive line). They were all new, never varsity starting guys," Benadom said. "We all know that Jesse is an athletic kid, but lots of kids who are athletic don't run for as many yards if they have nowhere to run. ... But they've opened up holes and let Jesse do his job."
Do his job and then some.
With junior Eddie Gutierrez (5-foot-11, 235 pounds) at left tackle, junior Ben Palma (5-9, 240) at left guard, junior Ruben Iosefa (5-10, 260) at center, senior Elizandro Beltran (5-8, 250) at right guard, junior Eddie Posadas (6-2, 255) at right tackle and senior Vaaulu (6-3, 280) at tight end, Callier has flourished even more this season.
Callier brings 2,874 yards rushing and 43 touchdowns (45 total) into Friday's CIF Southern Section Western Division quarterfinal playoff game against visiting Alemany (8-3). His yardage total is tops in the state and sixth in the nation.
Even with teams keying on the running game, the offensive line has done the job.
"They are putting eight, nine guys in the box (to defend us)," Benadom said. "But we are opening up holes just enough for Jesse to do his thing."
One of the biggest surprises on the line has been Beltran, who started two years on the JV level.
"We didn't know what he would develop into," Benadom said. "He's a late bloomer. He took it upon himself to work hard in the offseason ... and he's developed into the guy we thought he could be all along. He's gone up and beyond our expectations and the kid has blocked his butt off, as they all have."
Gutierrez moved from the right side, where the Bears like to run, to the left side to protect the backside. Posadas was plugged into the right side because of his size and demeanor.
"He's more of a finesse guy," Benadom said of Gutierrez. "(Posadas) is a little bigger, a little stronger and has that raw, savage football in him."
With Vaaulu next to Posadas, defensive linemen are often times smashed out of the play.
"He is able to dominate most guys in front of him," Benadom said of Vaaulu, who is being recruited. "When we run power, the tight end is very important. He washes guys into the stands. That's been his job for three years."
Palma is a strong player with quick feet who often pulls to the right side, and Iosefa is the mainstay in the middle of the line.
"When (Palma) pulls, he blows up the middle linebacker," Benadom said. "Ruben is our field general."
There's no doubt that junior quarterback Sam Bettencourt would like to throw the ball more than the 107 times he's done so this year.
And senior receiver Bailey Cowins, who has 26 catches for 505 yards and seven TDs, would likely be a star on a team that throws the ball more often.
Bettencourt and Cowins have been invaluable at keeping opponents as honest as possible, and, at times, they have been downright lethal.
Benadom believes Cowins would be a 70- to 80-catch, 1,300-yard receiver on a passing-friendly team like Gahr.
But the fact is that Callier is the focal point, accounting for 57 percent of the touches on offense. And everyone seems to be OK with it and their roles.
"Obviously, we give the ball to Jesse," Benadom said. "I have not heard a complaint about not getting the ball more. These guys are giving up bigger numbers for the good of the team."