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Yoshida doesn’t let size hamper production

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Two-way lineman Hart Yoshida anchors Ripon High in the trenches despite his small stature. The Indians are off to a surprising 4-1 start and will head to Hughson to open Trans Valley League action ...


POSTED October 15, 2009 2:04 a.m.
RIPON — There are two sides to Ripon High senior Hart Yoshida.

There’s the gentle side that loves to smile and helps others do the same. Ripon football head coach Chris Johnson said, “He’s kind of a class clown, but a real nice kid.”

On Friday nights, that smile fades into a scowl. Mr. Happy Go Lucky is suddenly temperamental and tenacious.

The Indians, who are 4-1 going into their Trans Valley League opener at Hughson Friday, find inspiration from their smallest lineman. At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he finds ways to stand out.

“When it’s time to play, it’s time to play. He has that ability to flip the switch,” Johnson said. “Hart’s a great leader and is one of most respected guys on team.”

Yoshida had to earn that respect last season, first from the coaching staff.

He hardly played during the first three weeks of non-league play. In his first start, he produced four tackles in a 42-7 preseason victory over Bret Harte. In Week 5, he recorded a season-high eight tackles against Calaveras.

By the end of the season, Yoshida had earned the respect of the teams Ripon faced. He finished with a team-high six sacks, all recorded during league, with 37 tackles, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, blocked punt and safety.

His terrific five-game effort in league earned him the co-Defensive Lineman of the Year honor.

“I was really excited about that, really proud,” Hart said. “I was actually pretty surprised, but it was a good feeling. It’s a huge thing to get that kind of respect from the other coaches, because that means they took notice of my level of play.”

So far, Yoshida is on pace to surpass last year’s numbers with 18 tackles, five sacks and two fumble recoveries.

One of those recoveries was returned 6 yards for a touchdown in Ripon’s 14-10 come-from-behind victory against Calaveras last Friday. The Indians hadn’t beaten Calaveras for over a decade, and it seemed like that streak would continue after falling behind 10-0 by halftime.

“Hart has a motor that never quits, and that really epitomizes who we are this year,” Johnson said. “We’ve been down two scores three different times but fought back, and Hart is the lynchpin to the whole thing.”

The guys lining up next to Yoshida in Ripon’s 3-5 defense are Andy Bunting and team captain Anthony Meneses. The three line up at different spots at scrimmage to give opposing teams new looks, and they complement each other well.

Yoshida’s explosiveness off the snap and general speed are his assets. Bunting, at 6-2, 265 pounds, is a bruiser, and Meneses is technically sound.

With the likes of standout middle linebacker Nick Curtice and defensive back Jared Macedo behind them, Ripon’s defensive unit has been the team’s bread and butter so far.

But Yoshida said the team’s chemistry is what has Ripon off to its surprising start.

“Everybody on this team is so close, a lot of us have played together for nine years since our Ripon Chiefs (youth football) days,” Yoshida said. “We’re brothers. We’re playing for the person next to us, not just ourselves.”
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