ATWATER — Bob Green created the North/South Rotary All-Star Football Game with boys like Estevon Herrera in mind.
He wanted the small-school players with big-school talent to have the same opportunities to showcase their abilities as everyone else. He was inspired after one of his players was passed over during his time as an assistant coach at Avenal High School. The schools don’t get much smaller than the two Herrera is associated with.
The graduated senior attended Harvest Christian School (a school with less than 60 students) and played his football at Stone Ridge Christian (127) through an agreement between the two schools. He rushed for a team-high 1,621 yards on 179 carries, 20 touchdowns and had 106 tackles at linebacker to help lead the Knights to their first playoff appearance.
Herrera will conclude a banner final campaign when he becomes the North’s first Stone Ridge Christian representative in Friday night’s 29th North/South Rotary All-Star Football Game. Kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m. at Veterans Stadium.
“I’m honored to be here, knowing the school has never had anyone play in this game before,” Herrera said. “There’s definitely some pressure that comes from being the first, but I can’t worry about that. I’m just going to go out and play to the best of my ability and try to have some fun.
“I know the talent level is more of a challenge, but I’m ready for it.”
In addition to being Stone Ridge’s first representative, Herrera gets the bonus of finally getting to play for Merced head coach Rob Scheidt, who will be leading the North.
Herrera was a freshman at Merced High, but said he went to a weekend camp at Harvest Christian and knew it was the place for him.
“Estevon is just a great kid,” Scheidt said. “When he was a freshman, he and his dad would come in for the morning weight lifting. His dad would bring coffee and we’d just sit and chat. I was a little broken up when he transferred away.
“Back when he was playing Pop Warner, I think he was always the biggest kid on the field. That’s obviously changed a bit, but he’s always been tough.”
With too many players already in a loaded South backfield, Herrera will just be playing linebacker on Friday night. He doesn’t mind. Rather than having to learn a new offense and defense, he can focus on one job.
At 5 feet, 6 inches and 155 pounds, he’s not the prototypical player for the position, but a low center of gravity coupled with a nose for sniffing out the play have made him quite effective there.
He showed it at practice on Monday, seemingly hiding from blockers in the crowd before popping out to make a play.
“Big things come in small packages,” Herrera said with a grin. “I’m pretty quick and my balance is good, so I’m not easy for the blockers to get a hold of. I’ll give them a little shoulder dip if I have to.
“I know this is the best of the best, but I feel like I belong out here. I’m going to give it my all and we’ll see what happens.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.