Glendale High has a running back who is the talk of the Pacific League this season.
The player has contributed so much to Glendale's unbeaten season, Crescenta Valley Coach Jim Beckenhauer calls him "the key for their offense . . . who could well be their MVP."
No, this is not a story about Pathon Rucker, the junior tailback who has rushed for 1,557 yards and scored 29 touchdowns.
The most intriguing chapter of what has thus far been a storybook season for the 9-0 Dynamiters belongs, perhaps, to Hector Maya.
The 5-9, 200-pound Maya, a senior, can rarely be spotted along the Glendale sideline.
On offense, Maya is part of backfield that has helped the run-oriented Dynamiters average 365.6 yards a game.
On defense, Maya plays inside linebacker for an often-overlooked unit that has limited opponents to 182 yards a game.
He also plays on most of the Dynamiters' special teams.
Maya's development from last season has coincided with that of the entire Glendale team.
Last season, Maya gained 202 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Dynamiters finished 4-6.
This year, Maya has already rushed for 565 yards and six touchdowns. Glendale has won every game in impressive fashion, including a a 23-8 victory over perennial power Muir two weeks ago.
"Last year, Hector was a decent running back; this year he is a weapon," Glendale Coach Don Shoemaker said. "He is the most-improved player on our team.
"He's also responsible for a lot of the yardage that Pathon has gotten. He's by far the best blocking fullback I have ever coached."
Maya, who runs primarily inside, is averaging 6.3 yards a carry.
Offensive lineman Albert Ocon and other teammates recognize Maya's contributions.
"He's become more of a leader," Ocon said, "and he's become a better player because of it."
Said Rucker: "Last year, Hector just tried to go straight through people. This year, he makes moves and, surprisingly, people miss him."
The elusive Rucker, too, has accelerated Maya's ascent simply by occupying the same backfield. Opponents have geared themselves so much toward stopping Rucker, they have allowed Maya to flourish.
"It's like trying to stop Magic Johnson, but then everybody else gets the points," Hoover Coach Dennis Hughes said. "You know Rucker is going to get the yards. It's Maya who will kill you."
Hoover will try to stop the Glendale juggernaut Friday in the 62nd meeting between the schools. Glendale leads the series, which began in 1930, 32-27-2.
Hoover (2-7), which has lost seven consecutive games, is averaging 178.3 yards a game on offense and surrendering 314 yards on defense.
Glendale is assured of at least a share of the Pacific League championship and the league's top seeding in the Southern Section Division II playoffs.
If the Dynamiters defeat Hoover, they will win outright their first Pacific League championship.
Maya said Glendale players had three goals when the season began: finish the preleague schedule 5-0; win the Pacific League, and win a Southern Section championship.
Now, a perfect season is also within the Dynamiters' reach.
And Maya, like Rucker, figures to be instrumental in that push toward perfection.