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PREP FOOTBALL '97: GARDEN GROVE LEAGUE

Vaqueros Return With One-Two Punch

County's leading rusher Kosi has graduated, but Vickers and Blanco are ready to step in to pick up slack for Rancho Alamitos.

September 09, 1997|MELANIE NEFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GARDEN GROVE — Rancho Alamitos running back Leo Kosi is gone. He's at West Point now, showing his best moves to fellow cadets. The Times player of the year, who led the county in rushing last season with 2,446 yards, has graduated and left what some feel is a gaping hole in the Vaqueros backfield.

But Coach Doug Case would disagree. He believes he is in an enviable position. He has not only one replacement for Kosi, but two: David Vickers and Alex Blanco. And Case, who plans to give both equal duty at tailback, is eagerly awaiting this season, when he can put his new backfield in action and lead his team to the Division VIII title it narrowly missed last season.

Vickers, originally slated at fullback, moved into the tailback slot with Kosi after Blanco, who was sharing duties with Kosi, tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in the third game of the season. Although neither had the opportunity to shine at running back, fans caught glimpses of greatness from both.

Vickers, 6 feet, 200 pounds, the Vaqueros' highest recruited player, is known for his defense. An all-Southern Section and second-team all-county selection at linebacker, Vickers saw limited time at tailback last season, yet broke a school record averaging 10.46 yards per carry. Spelling Kosi, Vickers finished the season with 680 yards and six touchdowns in 65 attempts.

"David is an outstanding runner in his own right," Case said. "He hasn't had a chance to showcase his stuff at tailback. This year he has that chance."

Blanco, 5-11, 185, who is also a starting defensive back, gave fans a taste of what's to come this season in the second game last year against Saddleback. He rushed for over 200 yards and scored five touchdowns.

"Alex is back 100%," Case said. "He is good on either side of the ball. He is just an extremely talented athlete."

Case's confidence in both athletes is evident when speaking of Kosi and 'what ifs'.

"If [Kosi] were here, I would go back to the way we started last year," Case said. "Vickers would be my starting fullback and Blanco and Kosi would split equal time at tailback. I wouldn't give anyone the edge."

For the past 10 years Rancho Alamitos has produced some of the best rushers in the county, boasting five of the top 25 single-season best.

Before Kosi, who ranks fourth in the county in career rushing yards with 4,873, there was Jeff Byrd, who holds the county's single-season rushing title with 2,596 yards in 1992. Byrd is seventh in career rushing with 4,459 yards. In 1990, Ulysses Trammell recorded 1,998 yards, in 1989 Dana Riddle had 1,993 and in 1987, Sean Cheatham had 1,906.

Case is confident Vickers and Blanco can keep the tradition of "Tailback High" alive.

"This is a great opportunity for either one to be Orange County's leading rusher," Case said. "We are going to run the ball 40 to 50 times a game. If I had to pick a starter, I couldn't. They are both equal and they are both going to get the ball."

Vickers doesn't agree. He thinks Blanco has the edge on him.

"I think [Blanco] will get the ball more than me," said Vickers, who prefers his linebacker spot to running back. "But it doesn't matter to me. I just want to do my best, win the championship and be league MVP."

But Vickers still plans to reach his goal of rushing for more than 1,000 yards despite platooning with Blanco.

"Kosi is a tough one to replace, but if anyone can step into his shoes, it's the two guys I have," Case said. "If I had to pick a starter, I couldn't. They are both equal."

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