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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vista Murrieta junior Su'a Cravens is the 2011 HSGameTime Football Player of the Year

Where’s Su’a?
That had to be the most frequent question high school football coaches were asking when playing Vista Murrieta. Locating where Su’a Cravens was on the field became a game within a game. There was Cravens lining up in the backfield on one play and at receiver the very next play. On defense, Cravens could be a havoc-causing linebacker or a ball-hawking safety.
So, there’s an easy answer to the question: Su’a was everywhere.
Cravens, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior, contributed in many ways, and his versatility is a big reason the Broncos broke through and captured an elusive CIF-Southern Section title. And it’s also the reason Cravens was a runaway selection as the Football Player of the Year.
Some of Cravens’ numbers don’t necessarily scream out Player of the Year. Cravens did tie for the team lead with 11 sacks, but his 98 tackles and three interceptions ranked only fifth and third, respectively. Offensively, Cravens had 1,016 total yards and scored 18 touchdowns.
None of those numbers are jaw-dropping, but Cravens was a prime example of the whole being worth far more than any individual part.
Cravens, 16, already has nearly two dozen scholarship offers. Most coaches want him for defense, but a few others are looking at him as an offensive player.
“They always ask me what position I see Su’a playing at the next level,” Vista Murrieta coach Coley Candaele said. “My response to them always is, ‘Well, where do you want him to play?’ He can pretty much do it all.”
Cravens showed his offensive versatility during the Inland Division playoffs. In the quarterfinal against Riverside North, Cravens rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Cravens carried the ball only three times the following week against Upland, but he hauled in three key catches for first downs.
Cravens had only eight touches in the championship game against Corona Centennial, but he made a couple of those really count. Cravens hauled in 7-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and later broke free for a 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“He’s a difference-maker,” Centennial coach Matt Logan said following the game. “You have to know when he’s on the field and where he’s at on every single play.”
But it’s no surprise Cravens made his biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m a defensive player at heart,” Cravens said. “Playing all of those other positions was a lot of fun, but I definitely felt most comfortable when I was playing linebacker.”
Cravens was a disruptive force in the postseason, averaging nine tackles and recording eight sacks in the Inland Division playoffs. He made game-changing defensive plays against Upland, with all three of his sacks coming on third downs.
While athleticism and instincts are great assets for Cravens, Candaele pointed to something else that made Cravens such a dominating presence on defense.
“Patience was something he learned as the season went along,” Candaele said. “At the beginning of the year, he wanted to make every single play and teams took advantage of that aggressiveness. The patience he showed put him in better positions to make plays.”
Cravens helped the Broncos achieve the ultimate goal Candaele set when he started the program nine years ago. Cravens said a greater goal exists for the 2012 season.
“I want to repeat and go to state next year,” Cravens said, referring to the state bowl games that the Broncos missed out on this season. “If we win again, I don’t think there’s any way they can leave us out again.”

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