WELLS – In 2017, Wells quarterback Zane Rodriguez’s season ended two games into his junior campaign with a torn ACL.
Recovering and taking the snaps for the Leopards once again in 2018, all he did was shred the 1A Northern-East with ease and regularity.
While the league awards do not hand out a comeback player of the year honor, Rodriguez definitely staked claim to what was rightfully his – earning the League MVP award.
As a sophomore, he was named the League Offensive Player of the Year – upping the ante during his final season for Wells.
He led the Leopards to a 6-4 overall record and a 4-1 mark in league play, throwing for 2,079 yards and 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
On Sept. 14 against Excel Christian, in Sparks, Rodriguez led a come-from-behind, shootout victory for the Leopards – throwing for 294 yards and a career-best seven TDs, rushing for 132 yards and two scores – accounting for nine touchdowns in a 78-72 win.
On the road in Carlin for the regular-season finale, he completed 19-of-26 passes for a career-high 357 yards with four touchdowns, rushing for 63 yards with two TDs in a 60-22 victory.
Rodriguez began to run with regularity as he became more comfortable on his reconstructed knee – leading the Leopards and ranking third in the league with 815 rushing yards on 60 carries, averaging 13.6 yards per attempt.
His 14 rushing TDs tied for second in the 1A North, and he even spent time split out wide – catching six passes for 180 yards with two scores – also returning an interception to the house for a pick-six.
His 17-total TDs scored tied for second in the league, Rodriguez accounting for 43 touchdowns with his contributions through the air.
Defensively from his safety position, Rodriguez made 82 tackles (50 solo, 13 for losses), 2.5 sacks, recovered four fumbles, forced a fumble and intercepted two passes.
Carlin senior running back Eddie Gomez did all he could in his attempt to get the Railroaders back to the postseason after a two-year drought, which now stands at three.
The Railroaders closed the year with a 5-4 record and went 3-2 in league play, but he literally stamped his impression on opponents – earning the Offensive Player of the Year award.
Gomez led the 1A Northern-East with 1,093 rushing yards on 135 attempts for an average of 8.1 yards per tote, scoring 14 rushing touchdowns and tying Rodriguez for second place in the league.
Out of the backfield, he caught nine balls for 128 yards with two scores and he even ran the offense on occasion – completing 3-of-6 passes for 65 yards with two TDs.
In the return game, he took one kickoff to paydirt in a 48-6 win over Owyhee on Sept. 14.
With 17-total TDs scored, he tied Rodriguez for second place in the league rankings.
Defensively, he led Carlin with 72 tackles (42 solo), three-forced fumbles, three recoveries and notched a sack.
Wells senior Enrique Aguilar could have unknowingly had a book written about him long ago, probably titled “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper.
While he only stands about 5-foot-4, Aguilar is tougher than a $2 steak – a large reason he earned the Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Aguilar led the 1A Northern-East with 130 tackles (60 solo, eight for losses), topped the league with 11 fumble recoveries and snagged a league-best eight interceptions.
He turned five of his league-high 19 takeaways into points – returning four fumbles the distance and taking one interception to the house.
As incredible as Aguilar was on defense, he could have easily been named the Offensive Player of the Year as well.
He led the 1A Northern-East in every possible category for wide receivers with 35 catches for 910 yards with 14 touchdowns.
From the backfield, he racked up 466 rushing yards on 72 carries for a 6.5-yard average with six touchdowns.
Aguilar’s 25-total TDs led the league by eight touchdowns over the next-closest players.
Congratulations to Zane Rodriguez on his phenomenal comeback season to cap his career as the League MVP, Eddie Gomez for his Offensive Player of the Year honor in his final games with Carlin and Enrique Aguilar for going out as the leader in nearly every category imaginable on both sides of the ball en route to his Defensive Player of the Year award.
Look online at elkodaily.com/sports for the full list of athletes who earned recognition for their performances during the 2018 Division 1A Northern-East football season.