“Next man up.”
Meaning–if one of our guys goes down, we have someone right there right behind him that we believe in to get the job done.
It is a saying commonly used in sports media and by coaches around the world. It is a saying that hits close to home this year for an Imperial Tiger squad that lost arguably the Valley’s best playmaker on both sides of the ball early in the season in Senior David Savage.Â This is where sophomore receiver Santiago De La Torre stepped in and gave a shining example of the definition of “next man up.”
“I didn’t expect to play much, especially coming off a freshman season where I broke my collarbone, but I just tried my best to work hard during the offseason, doing my best to make varsity,” said De La Torre, of his early expectations of the season.
Spectators and fans did not expect much from a first-time varsity sophomore. Upper class men already had filled all the varsity positions and De La Torre was coming off an injury from the previous year. Nevertheless, Imperial head coach Kerry Legarra and his staff knew there was something a little different about this sophomore.
“We knew Santi was going to be a major contributor to our program once we started spring ball,” said Legarra.Â “He is a very gifted young man with a tremendous work ethic.”
And after the injury to Savage, de la Torre was called step up into starting wide receiver position. Big play after big play, De La Torre stepped up early and often in pressure situations helping the Tigers to a 4-1 league record falling just short of an IVL championship.
“I didn’t expect to play too much, but they needed a wide receiver so I came in and tried to do whatever I could to contribute to the team,” said De La Torre.
His two most impressive outings were two of the biggest games of the season, and with two different signal callers under center for the Tigers. His first big play was at Christian High where he caught five passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, the touchdown coming on the Tiger first play from scrimmage for 76 yards on a pass from sophomore quarterback Wyatt Rodriguez. The second came against IVL rival Brawley High where he caught nine passes for 125 yards and two highlight reel catches, this time thrown by senior quarterback Pete Sanchez.Â On top of playing receiver, De La Torre also performed kicking and punting duties, showing just how diverse the young man’s skill-set is.
With an impressive sophomore campaign, De La Torre is hoping to come back even stronger in 2017 season, but with his team still as the main focus.
“I really want to improve, get more receptions and contribute to the team as much as possible.”