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December 8, 2022

Scotts Valley football quartet verbally commits to play at next level

Falcons program has now produced a dozen college bound players 

Scotts Valley High senior Caden Stratton is the only Falcons football player in the program’s history to start four years on the varsity team.

He was also a stalwart as one of the leaders on the boys’ lacrosse team before it was disbanded this season due to lack of participation.

This upcoming fall, he’ll get a chance to extend both of his playing careers following his verbal commitment to compete at the College of Idaho. 

“This is what I’ve been wanting since I was a little kid,” Stratton said. “The dream was to play college sports whether it was lacrosse or football. I’m lucky enough I get to play both.”

Stratton, who was the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division’s co-Defensive Football Player of the Year, is one of four football players from Falcons who verbally committed to play at the collegiate level.

Scotts Valley High is one of the smallest public schools—777 students enrolled according to the U.S. News and World Report website—that competes in the Central Coast Section. The football program has now produced a dozen players who continued their careers in college. 

“This is a pretty amazing and great story,” Scotts Valley coach Louie Walters said. “Their dedication to the sport they love and getting it done on the field, and in the classroom, has opened doors to keep playing the great game of football and get an education.”

Stratton was set to attend Ottawa University in Kansas but he de-committed on April 21. Instead, he committed to play lacrosse and football in Idaho that same day.

He said being a lot closer to home played a major factor in his decision. Plus, he has family in the area.

“I’m really going into it feeling more comfortable than I would feeling like I’m going out into no man’s land in Kansas,” he said. “I feel like it will be a better experience”

The Yotes football program is part of the Cascade Collegiate Conference within the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

They finished ranked No. 25 in the NAIA Football FirstDown PlayBook Top 25 Poll with a 7-3 overall record in the Frontier Conference.

The Yotes lacrosse program currently owns an 8-0 record and are 3-0 in Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League play.

“The numbers show and I want to be with the better school, the better team,” Stratton said. 

Stratton, who is undecided on a major, said he will have at least $24,000 in scholarships. He hasn’t visited the campus but he’s taken plenty of virtual tours.

“It’s looking a lot bigger and a lot more luscious out there,” he said.

Former standout tight end Carson Spence currently plays at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas.  

Others on the list include former linebacker Will Schwartz to Missouri Western State University, offensive lineman Chris Shaw to McPherson College in Kansas and fullback Jordan Smith to Mount Marty University in Yankton South Dakota.

Senior running back Isaiah Velez, who was named this year’s PCAL Mission Division’s Offensive Player of the year, will play over the hill at San Jose City College. 

Former defensive lineman Andre Nice, who holds the single-season school record with 14 sacks, and punter Corbin Shaffer recently played for the Jaguars. 

Casey Collins and Jaden Meulman previously played at Cabrillo College, which will return to action for the first time since the program was placed on a two-year probation

PCAL Mission Division Lineman of the Year Matthew O’Brien-Rojo and co-Defensive Player of the Year Nolan Smith, will team up at the University of Redlands.

Smith introduced the University of Redlands, an NCAA Division III school, to O’Brien-Rojo, who then got in touch with the coaching staff. 

O’Brien-Rojo took a trip last month to Southern California where he got a chance to watch the Bulldogs football team practice. He met with some of the players and got a good feel for what the atmosphere was like.

“They have a really nice campus and they really welcomed me there,” he said. “I felt like they really wanted me and I’d be a good value to the team. That’s what kind of put the final nail on the coffin.”

Redlands last season finished with an 8-2 overall record and won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 6-0 record.   

O’Brien-Rojo will receive academic grants that will reduce the initial cost of tuition from $70,000 to $25,000.

He has his eyes set on a business major and one of his ideas is to open a gym, since he said he spends most of his time in one.

“I thought having one of my own one day would be pretty cool,” he said.  

O’Brien-Rojo said getting a chance to play with Smith was also part of his decision to play at Redlands. Both have been friends since the third grade.  

“Just to be able to have someone I’m really close with go to school with me and that I’ve played with for these four years, and have to play for another four years with him, it means a lot to me,” O’Brien-Rojo said. “I’m really happy about that.”

Stratton said there are a lot of strong and talented athletes that come out of Scotts Valley, especially with the football team and some of the other sports that have been looked down upon.

“I think this could be the start of maybe some athletes getting at it,” he said. “These past couple of years we’ve been producing good ones.” 

Juan Reyes
A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.

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