The inscription on his headband spoke volumes.
The performance on the football field screamed decibels louder.
By the time sophomore running back Yaiden Ochoa finished his historic rushing effort for the Hillcrest Christian (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) football team last Saturday night in the Saints’ 68-32 wipeout of Lancaster Christian (Calif.) at Fillmore High, the respect, honor, deference and, yes, down-to-the-heartstrings hurt had roared like a freight train.
“I wanted to do something,” said Ochoa. “The whole team did.”
The 10th-grader measures in at a mere 5-foot-8, 135 pounds, but turned in a night’s work that was Jim Brown-sized. He piled up 404 yards and six touchdowns, including scores of 75, 72 and 66 yards, amid Hillcrest Christian’s decisive victory in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 8-man playoffs.
The Thousand Oaks resident was powerfully motivated.
Longtime family friend Blake Dingman was among the 12 victims who died in the tragic shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks last Wednesday.
For his game, Ochoa wore a head band with “Blake Dingman” written in large, black letters on the side. The Saints all included decals with the No. 12 — in reference to the 12 lives lost — on their helmets. Most also tattooed “12” on their arms.
The 15-year-old Ochoa fondly remembers his friend.
“He’s been a family friend like forever,” said Ochoa. “He went to school with my brother (Logan). They played baseball together. When we heard what had happened, it was shocking. It’s one of those things you can’t believe is true.”
Dingman also had ties to Hillcrest Christian. He attended the Thousand Oaks school as a freshman and played on the baseball team. Logan, who is now at Grand Canyon University, was a high school teammate.
“He was a funny guy, just fun to be around,” said Ochoa. “He was always getting in trouble, but I mean that in a good way. He liked to have fun. If you were with him, you also had fun.”
Ochoa said Dingman had a passion for car, motorcycles and motorsports.
“He was always talking about racing and riding,” said Ochoa. “He really enjoyed that.”
Hillcrest Christian coach Christian Dearborn said the game-time tribute to Dingman and the tragedy’s victims provided an emotional evening for the entire school.
“They players talked about doing something to honor the victims,” said Dearborn. “I couldn’t be prouder of what they did. It was a tough week for the team and everybody in the community. They paid a nice tribute.”