High School Football

A FRIEND INDEED

One of the truest measures of a man is the lengths he will go to help a friend.

It's not often you get to put your strength of conviction to the test, but Miquiyah Zamora, a Chiawana wide receiver and cornerback, got a chance to show his best friend, Riverhawks running back Jordan Downing, just how much he cares during a spring scrimmage.

Downing was brought down by the Hanford defense following a dive play up the gut. But one Falcons linebacker made the unwise move of spearing Downing, a 4A all-state running back in 2010, in the back after the play.

"Jordan's my boy. When somebody goes after him, I'm going to get his back," Zamora said.

On a videotape of the next play, the Hanford linebacker is seen lining up behind the left defensive end, while Zamora lines up just offscreen to the right in the slot position -- about 20 feet away from the offending player. Right from the snap, Zamora charged off the ball, locking in on the linebacker and making it to his inside shoulder.

After that, the Falcons defender had no chance.

"Miquiyah took him and drove him all the way across the field and then landed on him," said Chiawana coach Steve Graff, who has helped mentor Zamora for the last four seasons.

In fact, Zamora is one of just three players who has started for Graff from Day 1 as a freshman along with Downing and offensive tackle Ryan Tolar, who went on to play at the University of Washington.

Zamora's friendship with Downing was solidified by the experience of starting a new program with the Riverhawks in 2009. The team finished dead last in their division at 1-8, but it was a true bonding experience for the two all-league players.

"When people struggle together so much, it just brings you close," said Downing, who knows there isn't anything his teammate wouldn't do to help him on the field. "He's always known for that. If he's not catching the ball (on offense), he's looking to make a block."

Three months after leading Chiawana to its first league title in football, the pair helped the Riverhawks basketball team do the same thing.

Graff said Zamora's talent was evident as a freshman, but at first his attitide needed a little re-adjustment.

"He had a little bit of diva in him. He learned he can't get away with stuff in this program. We fixed that right out of the gate," said Graff, who coached Zamora in his freshman year at Pasco before they both made the move to Chiawana.

That first year with the Bulldogs was an invaluable chance to learn from many upperclassmen like Carlin Andrew and Sam Willhoite, who set a strong example for Zamora and taught him what it meant to be a leader. He gets to put those lessons into practice this season.

"We played with a chip on our shoulder last year. I think it was more embarrassment after 2009," said Zamora, who was a big reason the Riverhawks went 10-1 and earned their first state trip in 2010. "Now, nothing less is expected."

But no one could deny the immediate impact Zamora had on the CBBN. He was an all-CBBN cornerback in his first year, and opposing teams learned quickly not to test the young, athletic cornerback.

"Did they go at him as a freshman?" asked Graff of Dave Spray, his long-time offensive coordinator.

"About twice," Spray responded. "That was enough."

This year, Graff has been impressed that Zamora has stepped up into a leadership role, which could be even more critical this year with a much younger team.

"He's much better this year, because now he has to step up. Last year he didn't have to," Graff said. "He was pretty happy with a takl he gave the other day. He asked if I heard what he said, and I told him, 'Not bad.' "

The rap on some cornerbacks is that they're not good at 1-on-1 tackling, but Zamora combines great balance and speed with the tenacity of a linebacker, which makes for some terrific hits.

"He's pretty tenacious, and he likes to be physical. He'd rather hit you than tackle you," Graff said. "As a cover-2 corner, he's important in run support. He has to make sure nobody gets outside. But they don't block him very well."

He was the CBBN 4A's fourth-leading wide receiver last season with 27 catches for 431 yards and three touchdowns. He was also the league's top punt returner, averaging 14.6 yards a return on 14 kicks.

This year could be even better, numbers-wise. His cousin Joey Zamora -- a lanky 6-foot-3 sophomore with a solid throwing arm -- will inherit the starting quarterback job from Lucas Graff.

Nobody's happier than Miquiyah, who hasn't decided where he will play, but he is looking to play at the Division-I level.

"I'm psyched, my family is psyched. My grandpa, Jose, is so happy we'll be out there playing together," he said of his cousin, who he calls Jo-Jo. "The chemistry is good between me, Jo-Jo and (fellow receiver) C.J. (Edrington).

"With Jordan doing his thing on the ground, this should be a great year."

Defensive players beware, however. Whatever you dish out might be coming back your way, courtesy of Zamora.

  Comments