Seniors from Vista Murrieta, Heritage are Offensive, Defensive players of the yearVista Murrieta’s Su’a Cravens and Heritage’s Jamal Morrow were marked targets entering their senior seasons on the high school gridiron.
As juniors, the two garnered an esteemed reputation around the Valley by virtue of their highlight-reel-quality touchdowns, multiple postseason accolades and gaudy statistical lines.
Not only did Morrow and Cravens deal with being the focal point of their opponents’ game plans in 2012, but they were also playing with the added scrutiny of having verbal commitments to Pac-12 schools.
Neither player skipped a beat. Now they are in a class by themselves.
Morrow is a repeat recipient of The Californian’s All-Valley Offensive Player of the Year after compiling 2,092 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
Cravens, too, is a repeat honoree as he earned Defensive Player of the Year for his game-changing play as Broncos safety.
Since splitting into an offensive and defensive award in 1998, there has never been a repeat winner of either honor, which is voted on by local coaches and sportswriters.
Cravens, a blue-chip prospect, was highly sought-after on the college recruiting scene between his junior and senior seasons.
Cravens, the No. 5 overall senior prospect in the nation according to rivals.com, verbally committed to USC last June. The national attention made him a target of crazed college football fans on social networking sites.
“I have had people try to attack me on Facebook saying I was the worst player,” Cravens said. “I was a disgrace to mankind. I have had people on Twitter saying I (wasn’t good) because I didn’t commit here and there.”
Nothing could faze Cravens as he helped the Broncos achieve a 13-1 record and reach the CIF Southern Section Inland Division title game for the fourth straight season.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior excelled in a handful of different roles.
Cravens scored 18 touchdowns, which included six rushing scores, eight receiving TDs, two interception returns, a blocked punt returned for a TD and a punt return.
“He’s the type of kid who can play multiple positions because he is very, very football smart and savvy,” Broncos defensive backs coach Howie Nelson said. “If you put him at quarterback, I think he could do just fine there, too.”
Cravens was a handful for opposing defenses whenever the Broncos inserted him on offense, overpowering cornerbacks on the outside with his size and showing elusiveness while running in the open field as a tailback. But his full-time role was playing safety on a stingy defense that allowed an average of just 11.2 points per game.
Cravens recorded 96 total tackles, five sacks, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered and three blocked punts.
His play was universally recognized, too, as Gatorade named him the California player of the year and USA Today honored him with its national defensive player of the year award.
Cravens was also selected to participate in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio on Jan. 5. He may not play, though, because of a shoulder injury.
Now Cravens is preparing for living on his own even though he just turned a ripe 17 years old. Cravens graduated from Vista Murrieta last Friday and has enrolled at USC, where he begins classes Jan. 14.
“One thing with Su’a, he had a plan,” Broncos coach Coley Candaele said. “This was in his plan from probably when he was 8 years old. He had this mapped out. He was going to 3½ years (at high school) and go to ’SC.”
Cravens plans to major in business management with a possible minor in communications. Although he is often tagged with the safety label, it’s anyone’s guess how the Trojans will utilize the jack-of-all-trades.
“It’s my new life, my new beginning,” Cravens said. “I am just going there to work, not going in there to step on anybody’s toes or saying I am going to do this and that. If you talk, you just put more pressure on yourself. I am just going in there, learn from the older guys and hopefully they take me under their wing, get me in the flow of things.”