The biggest goal this season for Scotts Valley senior running back Isaiah Velez was to improve from last year’s performance, which earned him the Most Valuable Player in the “B” Division of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League.
“I did decently last year and I just want to get better from where I left off,” he said.
But what he did on the field last year was more than decent. Velez rushed for 971 yards and tallied 11 touchdowns in an abbreviated 2021 spring season that was six games long.
His performance on the defensive side was just as impressive, notching four interceptions including one he returned for a touchdown.
Velez is off to a spectacular start this season, racking up 659 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in four games. He also has two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown in last week’s win against Watsonville High.
“I think his better days are ahead of him,” Scotts Valley coach Louie Walters said.
Walters called his standout player a humble kid that praises everybody but himself and feeds off of other players’ energy.
“[Velez] works harder than anybody out there,” Walters said. “He’s going to outwork anybody, whether it’s wind sprints or whatever it is, he’ll work harder than anybody.”
He had a big performance in a 49-12 victory against the Wildcatz in the teams’ Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division opener on Sept. 24.
Velez zipped his way for 140 yards rushing and three touchdowns. His third score came midway in the first quarter to put the Falcons ahead 21-0.
“That’s kind of what I’ve been doing, but it’s our linemen that were on top of it all night long,” he said.
In the second quarter, Velez took a direct snap and pitched to Brock Siechen who took it for a 40-yard score.
Velez then recorded a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown that matched the school record.
“First game under the lights in my senior season, I felt like it was a perfect situation for that to happen,” he said.
Velez worked with defensive backs coach Reggie Stephens—a former Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College and NFL player—twice a week throughout the summer.
Some of the players worked on footwork and agility drills, and the lessons have paid off for them, especially for Velez.
“He did a football related thing every single day once the [spring] season ended,” Walters said.
Velez hit the weightroom to get bigger and he worked on some speed training with Alexis Stevens of the San Jose State University track and field team.
So far, it’s been working out.
During last week’s game, Stephens told Velez to keep outside leverage while playing defense because Watsonville’s receivers like to run the fade route. He watched the ball come his way and snatched it from the receiver.
“When I caught it, I honestly thought I was going to get tackled from behind and when I didn’t I just started sprinting as fast as I could,” Velez said.
Velez had help from Siechen, as he came in for one final block before he was home free for the score.
Caden Stratton scored a 62-yard touchdown just before halftime for Scotts Valley, which built a 42-0 lead going into halftime.
The Falcons have won two straight games since they came off the bye week and suffered a 35-6 loss against Santa Cruz High on Sept. 4 in non-league play.
Velez said that afternoon was a rude awakening for them and he feels like they’re back where they should be. For him, that means being mentally and physically prepared for the games.
“Getting better each week,” he said.
Velez emphasized the mental aspect of the game because he believes they weren’t ready to play in the beginning of the season. He said the short turnaround after the abbreviated 2021 spring season affected them, along with the fact that they finished with an unblemished 6-0 record.
“I feel like people let it get to their heads a little bit,” he said.
Walters said the loss against Santa Cruz humbled the team a little and they just needed to get back to working hard. They’ve had the best three weeks of practice since the defeat, Walters said.
“The goal is to get better each week and we’ve gotten better each week,” he said. “Our goal this week is to get better than what we were last week.”
Velez said the team goal for this season is still to capture the league title but right now the focus is on North Monterey County High.
The Falcons will visit the Condors in a battle of the birds in league play on Friday at 7:30pm.
“We just take it week by week and hopefully that gets us to the league championship,” Velez said.
Scotts Valley 49, Watsonville 12
Up next: at North Monterey County
When: Oct. 1 at 7:30pm
Coaches are encouraged to report scores and highlights at pajaronian.com/author/jreyes/.
You can also email Juan Reyes at [email protected] following games. Please include your name and contact information such as phone number and email address.