Travante Richard grew up watching some pretty good Merced High football players in Jarrett Sparks, Bernard Bolden and Stephon Mathis.
“They were heroes on the football field for me,” Richard said. “I couldn’t wait to be up there playing like them.”
It’s very possible there are little kids saying the same thing about Richard. The Merced receiver was named the Central California Conference’s Most Valuable Player by the conference coaches after helping lead the Bears to the league title.
“It means a lot,” Richard said. “I’ve seen a lot of MVPs come through Merced. It means a lot coming from Coach (Rob) Scheidt, too. He was the coach I always wanted to play for. I was shocked when he told me I won MVP.”
Richard caught 28 passes for 344 yards and five touchdowns in five CCC games. He was at his best in the biggest games, including catching 10 balls for 137 yards and two touchdowns against Pitman.
“Every coach in the league had him ranked No. 1 at his position,” said Scheidt. who was also named the CCC Coach of the Year. “That lets you know how they feel about your player. He did a lot of stuff behind the scenes for us, too. He was our punter, holder, he played corner, returned kicks and played on our punt return team, too.”
After an undefeated run through the CCC, the Bears swept the major awards. Quarterback Tyrone Williams was named the Best Offensive Player. Merced defensive tackle Jamell Bedford was picked as the Best Defensive Player and guard David Soriano was selected as the Lineman of the Year.
After struggling in non-conference games, Williams caught fire in CCC play. The junior quarterback completed 76 of 111 passes in league play for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions. Williams also ran for three touchdowns.
Bedford and Soriano dominated at their positions.
“Jamell stood out on any game tape,” Scheidt said. “He’s just unblockable. He freed us up to do some things on defense. He made things easier for our linebackers.
“David is one of the most devastating trap blockers we’ve ever had. He’s done that all year. He was solid throughout the year.”
The Bears also had eight other players named to the all-CCC first team, including running back Kris Turner-Jackson, defensive lineman Anthony Munoz, inside linebacker Jermon Cook and defensive back Jabari Byrd.
Atwater’s Isaiah Washington and Golden Valley’s Jashaan Wright were named to the first team on offense and defense at receiver and defensive back. The Falcons had four other players named to the first team in offensive lineman Ivan Martinez, defensive lineman Armando Gauger, inside linebacker JoJo Ochoa and punter Tony Romo, who was also a second-team linebacker.
Buhach Colony’s Marquez Harris and Golden Valley’s T.J. Moore also received first-team honors.