'I believe I have the best player in the state'

'I believe I have the best player in the state'

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'I believe I have the best player in the state'

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Amos Lavela has the very rare opportunity to be a three-time all-state football player this fall. His coach already is out there waving the flag on his behalf, not that the rest of Class 4A isn’t aware of Lavela’s capabilities.

“I believe I have the best player in the state in Amos,” City High coach Dan Sabers said. “Obviously there are some coaches who would disagree and that’s fine, but that really gives you something to start from.

“Amos has worked so hard. He’s really accepted a leadership role this year, bringing guys up with him. He’s that kind of impact player. He’s also one of the hardest workers.”

Lavela earned post-season recognition as a nose guard, a guy who was listed at 5-foot-7, 194 pounds a year ago in City’s program (although in the all-MVC he’s listed at 5-9). Yes, he’s somewhat undersized at the position in terms of height, but City won a state title with mighty-mite (5-8, 158) Cam Tucker in that position.

What is it about Lavela that earned him that kind of attention so early in his career and has his coach raving about his contributions to his team?

“His motor is incredible,” Sabers said. “(Tim) Dwight had a tremendous motor. He’s close to Dwight. He was all-state as a sophomore because anybody that watches him says, ‘Gosh, he just plays so hard.’ He practices that hard. He’s worked hard in the weight room. Nobody plays harder. And of course he’s quick and explosive, but he’s tough.”

For anyone at City High to mention a player in the same breath as Dwight, particularly in terms of his competitive nature, makes you drop your coffee cup, stop and take notice.

Lavela rushed for 384 yards on 51 carries last season as a backup and with Ronald Thompson and Jasper Washington accounting for 2,619 yards. He led the team in tackles with 59 despite playing on the defensive line.

“Our team is really excited this year, it’s our last season, last year to try to get that goal of state champions,” Lavela said.

Lavela was born in Liberia and fled during the civil war with his family when he was a toddler. He didn’t start football until junior high when he went out to see what all the excitement was about. He dabbled in wrestling and track but said he grew out of those sports when he got heavier.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said of football. “It’s like a stress reliever. It’s the only sport where you can really take it out on somebody and not get in trouble.”

He doesn’t have a preference for offense or defense, although Sabers thinks his college future is at the tailback position. He has that enviable combination of speed, elusiveness and power. Over the last two seasons, he’s learned to read his blocking and sense escape routes when necessary, although he’s not afraid of confrontation.

“I’m more of a power back,” he insisted.

He’s not wrong, but when you think of a “power back” at City, the image of Ronald Thompson rumbling over would-be tacklers comes to mind. Thompson was one-of-a-kind and Lavela is, too, just a different kind.

His defensive theory is similar.

“Just go eat up blockers,” he said, smiling. That gives the linebackers the opportunities to tee off on the ballcarrier. His understanding of the game has developed with his experience. He reads plays like the veteran that he is.

He prepared for his senior season with summer workouts in the weight room and by “keeping everybody positive. I’m still getting used to it,” he said of the added responsibilities of team leadership.

Lavela is confident in his abilities and doesn’t back away from Sabers’ declaration. It’s just the way he’s wired.

“I’m a go guy,” he said. “I can’t take failure.”

Tim Dwight can relate.

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