One of the first things Merced High School football coach Rob Scheidt noticed about John Becerra was his motor. He was a relentless player – all-out at all times.
That’s what convinced Scheidt that Becerra belonged at the varsity level as a sophomore three years ago.
“When he first got to us, he was one-dimensional, but he played so hard he became a great asset,” Scheidt said. “Not everyone on our staff felt he was ready to move up as a sophomore. But I told our guys, ‘Just watch him play. He’s going to play hard. He’s going to make mistakes, but he’s going to be OK.’ ”
This season, Becerra became one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the Central California Conference as he racked up 94 tackles and 12 sacks.
After his stellar year, Becerra is the Sun-Star Football Defensive Player of the Year.
A lot of Becerra’s success on the football field has come from his dedication in the weight room and his disgust of losing.
Whether it’s tic-tac-toe, video games or football – that competitive drive pushes him to be the player he is.
Just ask Becerra why he thinks he’s so tough to block.
“I think it’s my relentless aggression toward the offensive line,” he said. “I’m not willing to lose, and that makes me want to keep going. I’m never going to stop when I’m out there.”
Becerra became a disruptive nightmare for opposing offenses. If he wasn’t racking up sacks, he was constantly pressuring quarterbacks and causing havoc in the backfield.
His speed makes him a tough matchup for any offensive tackle. He’s added strength the past two seasons to make him tougher to block when tackles get their hands on him.
“Just a huge motor that allowed him to make huge plays for us for three years,” Scheidt said. “His work ethic and character resulted in some great plays for him. It was great to be able to be his coach and watch him mature as a person.
“He’s athletic. If you watched us during the spring and summer, we lined him up at receiver and he did a good job. He just plays so hard from snap to whistle that we felt it wasn’t best for him to play both ways.”
Becerra was at his best during the Bears’ playoff run.
He opened the postseason with four sacks in a 44-22 win over Beyer. He followed that with 11 tackles and one sack in a 41-32 win over Del Campo. In Merced’s 35-21 semifinal loss to Oakdale, Becerra had 12 tackles and one sack.
In three playoff games, Becerra totaled 32 tackles and six sacks.
“Sacks are such a blessing,” Becerra said. “It’s like having all your hard work you put in the whole week fulfilled in one single moment.”
All season, Becerra and teammate David Perales pushed each other competitively. Perales had a great season on his own and was selected first-team CCC on offensive and defensive line. Perales finished the season with 93 tackles and six sacks.
“We’re great friends,” Becerra said. “We like to challenge ourselves, whether it’s for better stats or who gets to sack the quarterback. It makes us both better.”
If Perales recorded a sack earlier in a game, Becerra would try to match him. If Becerra made a big hit on a running back, Perales looked to do the same.
“Obviously, they are great friends, they’re great players and great people,” Scheidt said. “It was fun watching them both. David is such a great technician. He looked to John for competition and he also looked to him to uphold his end of the bargain to make our defensive line great.”