FOOTBALL: Senior fullback Mbonu is Sobrato’s top dog

Senior fullback Obi Mbonu has had a Heisman Trophy-winner's

His last name means

heart of God.

Which seems fitting, considering how Sobrato fullback Obi Mbonu
has struck the fear of the Almighty into opposing defenses since
his first varsity football game.
MORGAN HILL

His last name means “heart of God.” Which seems fitting, considering how Sobrato fullback Obi Mbonu has struck the fear of the Almighty into opposing defenses since his first varsity football game.

It was a 21-14 victory over Gunderson on Sept. 11, 2009. And Mbonu, then a sophomore coming off his only year of competitive ball at the Pop Warner level, highlighted it with an 80-yard run that would have been for a touchdown had the ball not been stripped from him as he bore down on the goal line.

The play provided two lessons for Mbonu: He could “do something big,” and that there is always room for improvement.

“You can never let yourself quit or be complacent,” he said. “You just have to keep pushing yourself no matter what the circumstance.”

Two years after breaking onto the scene as the Bulldogs’ second-leading rusher behind Ralph Jackson, now with San Jose State, Mbonu is poised to cement himself among the all-time great running backs in Morgan Hill history. The ripply 5-foot-8, 195-pound senior led the team in scoring and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2010, earning the Santa Teresa Division Junior of the Year award, despite splitting carries with the Bulldogs’ other three rushing threats, quarterback Jerry Jacob, tailback Drew Glines, wingback Derrick Taylor.

If that’s not staggering enough, listen to Nick Borello’s forecast for Mbonu this fall.

“We might see him be more effective,” the fourth-year coach said. “His vision’s better. His balance is better. His running is better. Most important, his patience is better. He has all the skills you would love in a running back.”

All the pieces are in place for Mbonu to be one of the leading rushers in the Central Coast Section. He has a veteran offensive line in front of him — “I couldn’t do anything without them,” Mbonu said — but he usually needs only a small crease to break loose.

“It’s not hard blocking for him,” senior guard Jacob Sanchez said. “He’ll find a way to get through.”

Mbonu health shouldn’t be a concern thanks to an improved running style. Mbonu will rely more on his quickness and 4.5-second 40-yard dash speed as opposed to his punishing strength, not that that won’t be on display.

Offensive coordinator Rick Dukes plans to allot equal carries for the speedy Glines and the reliable Taylor.

“This is the best offense I’ve been a part of, the best team I’ve been on,” Mbonu said before being asked about his individual goals. “I’d like to get 1,500-plus, but I just want to do my best. I’m more excited to see what Drew and Derrick will do.”

Regardless of how Mbonu’s senior year pans out, he can already be regarded as transcendent, given his impact on the Sobrato program.

“We’re certainly a more lively bunch,” Borello said. “Everyone’s just learned to dance with to his tune. He’s a great teammate.”

Mbonu’s infectious energy made offseason conditioning fun for the Bulldogs. At one point during a practice in mid-August, Mbonu got his teammates’ juices flowing when, in full pads, he did a “kip up after a play, jumping to his feet with his back to the ground.

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“If you’re going to work, might as well have some enthusiasm at it,” Mbonu said.

It’s no wonder why Jacob called Mbonu “the hardest worker in everything” the Bulldogs do.

Senior wideout/defensive back Anthony Villareal added: “Obi makes us want to pump everyone up and do our best in every way. He makes us better players.”

As a sophomore, Glines fed off Mbonu’s intensity in 2010 on the way to earning first-team all-league honors.

“We make each other compete more,” Glines said. “That’s always good, having someone like that pushing you.”

Mbonu tends to inspire even his opponents, who search him out after games to shake hands and share a laugh. That persona, combined with his athletic prowess and dedication — Mbonu has a 3.6 cumulative grade-point average — have made him an attractive prospect for several FCS college programs and a few FBS ones.

But next year is too far away for Mbonu to think about right now. He has his mind set on achieving his full potential and that of the Bulldogs, who are out to challenge for a Santa Teresa Division title and tack on the first playoff wins in program history.

“We know we have the chance to have a great season, and we’re all working hard for it,” Mbonu said. “Everybody’s motivated me, and I’m glad I’ve motivated them.”

ACORNS’ BEARDEN NEXT IN LINE

Rarely has a player with one game of high school experience generated as much excitement as Live Oak’s Trevor Bearden.

The 6-foot, 185-pound sophomore carried just six times for 26 yards (4.3 yards per carry) in last year’s 42-28 loss to Monterey in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs, but he displayed all the physical tools needed to develop into a premiere back this offseason.

He has done just that.

“He’ll be one of the best backs in the next three years,” first-year Acorns coach Mike Gemo said. “He’s just got all the natural ability in the world. Now it’s a matter of him developing it and getting to that next level.”

A star in his Pop Warner career, Bearden is projected to shoulder 70 percent of the carries this year, Gemo said. Teammates wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Bearden’s really fast and a good hitter,” senior offensive/defensive lineman Derek Satterlee said. “He doesn’t take plays off. He knows what he’s supposed to do. Even when he’s not getting the ball, he does whatever he can to help out.”

Senior wideout/linebacker Austin Carvalho summed it up best.

“He’s a sophomore, and he’s already a great player.”

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