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PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Gerhart Gets a Rush Out of Norco's Title

January 03, 2006|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

On the day Norco's Toby Gerhart learned he was the Glenn Davis Award winner as The Times' outstanding football player, he took batting practice for scouts of the Kansas City Royals.

In June, he could be a high-round selection in Major League Baseball's amateur draft as well as his school's valedictorian. He had a 4.6 grade-point average at the beginning of the year.

He narrowed his college choices, if he chooses to go, to Stanford or UCLA because they will let him play both sports.

Life is good for the unassuming 6-foot-1, 228-pound tailback and center fielder, who has a penchant for rising to the occasion.

He led the state this season with 3,233 yards. He averaged 10.7 yards a carry, scored 39 touchdowns and led Norco (13-1) to the Southern Section Division V title, its first since 1992. He carried 27 times for 251 yards and four touchdowns to beat Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon, 28-14, in the final.

"My high school career would have felt incomplete, and not entirely successful, if we didn't walk away with the championship," said Gerhart, who had lost in the title game the previous two seasons.

If he walks away with any regrets, it's that he didn't play defense. A punishing runner with speed to blaze past defenders, he daydreamed about being a free safety or linebacker.

"I wonder what would have happened if they had let me go both ways," said Gerhart, who was selected state player of the year by Gatorade and Cal-Hi Sports as well as a Parade All-American. "Even when you talk about other players around the state or the country, you'd like to see how you compare to them."

Gerhart has always downplayed personal achievement for the sake of his team. Still, he had a state-record 9,662 yards in 1,049 carries, and scored 108 touchdowns. It's the third-highest career rushing total in the nation, and could have been higher.

Injured each of his four varsity seasons, he sat out six games because of a pulled hamstring, hip flexor and sprained right ankle.

His father and coach, Todd Gerhart, conspired with offensive coordinator Alan Krueger to protect Toby for the playoffs.

"They wanted me to have 15 carries a game in preseason, 20-25 carries in league, and then let me run 30-35 times in the playoffs," Toby said. He actually carried less.

Through the first nine games, Gerhart carried more than 18 times only once -- 39 times for 441 yards and six touchdowns in a 42-21 victory over Mountain View League rival Corona Centennial.

He averaged only 26 carries over the last five games, including 44 for 458 yards and six touchdowns to help Norco beat Riverside La Sierra in a semifinal, 43-36.

His amazing numbers came without exploiting overmatched opponents. For example, in four one-sided victories, he carried only 39 times for 796 yards.

"It wasn't like when I was a freshman I said that I'm going to break the state rushing record," Gerhart said.

"I just played football."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Glenn Davis Award winners

A look at The Times' list of the Southland's outstanding high school football players:

*--* Yr. Player, School Pos. '04 DeSean Jackson, Long Beach Poly WR '03 Brigham Harwell, Los Altos DL/FB '02 Whitney Lewis, St. Bonaventure WR '01 Hershel Dennis, Long Beach Poly RB '00 Tyler Ebell, Ventura RB '99 Matt Grootegoed, Mater Dei RB/LB '98 Chris Lewis, Long Beach Poly QB '97 DeShaun Foster, Tustin RB/DB '96 Antoine Harris, Loyola TE/DE '95 Chris Claiborne, Riverside North LB/RB '94 Daylon McCutcheon, Bishop Amat RB/DB '93 Glenn Thompkins, Eisenhower QB '92 Travis Kirschke, Esperanza DL '91 Billy Blanton, Mater Dei QB '90 John Walsh, Carson QB '89 Kevin Copeland, Dorsey WR '88 Derek Brown, Servite RB '87 Russell White, Crespi RB

*--*

THE GLENN DAVIS AWARD

The award is named after the 1946 Heisman Trophy winner from Army who passed away earlier this year. He starred at La Verne Bonita, where he led the Bearcats to a 39-6 victory over Newport Harbor in the 1942 Southern Section final by scoring five touchdowns.

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