The 49ers High School Player of the Week Award for week 3 goes to Anthony Cantrell of Pajaro Valley High School in Watsonville.
An ordinary kid has become an extraordinary leader in the spotlight at Pajaro Valley High School. Last year, Anthony Cantrell realized he wanted better for his team, and his future, but needed somewhere to start. Coach Joe Gregorio remembers sitting down with then sophomore, Anthony Cantrell, and knowing this young athlete was unique—he had the drive, he had the skill, and he was hungrier than anybody to be successful in all aspects of life.
"Anthony is one of those special kids," said Coach Gregorio, "He stands out and everyone is drawn to him. I feel privileged to coach him, and am honored to be a part of his life."
Last Friday, junior running back Anthony Cantrell showed just how special he is on the field as he carried the Pajaro Valley Grizzlies to a 34-7 victory over the Gonzales Spartans. The victory marked the end of an 11-game losing streak for the Grizzlies, and Cantrell's first victory of his high school football career. What better way to claim your first victory than by breaking the County single-game rushing record? Cantrell ran 362 yards on 25 carries, and broke a school record by scoring five touchdowns.
"I didn't know until there were only 2 minutes left in the fourth," said a modest Cantrell on breaking the record, "I am proud of it, but it's time to push through, keep getting better, and break the next record."
The first half of the game was an equal level of competition, and the teams went into the third tied at 7-7. However, the new Pajaro squad did not grow tired, and Anthony promised his line that he would continue making plays if they continued blocking. That they did, allowing their all-star running back to accumulate and outstanding 316 yards and 4 touchdowns in the second half.
The Pajaro Valley defense prevented Gonzales from entering the red zone in the second half. With eight interceptions on the Spartans quarterback, Anthony Cantrell had two as he expressed his talent on the defensive side as safety. The game concluded with a Grizzlies 34-7 victory over the Spartans, marking a milestone not only in their season, but in the history of Pajaro Valley Football.
The pressure of playing every second of the game does not tire Cantrell out, or slow down his game. With heroes like Joe Staley and LaMichael James, there is no question as to what mind-set Anthony approaches every play with.
"I go out there and play. I am a captain, and I aim to lead by example. I can't stop because I want to push everyone else to keep going."
Pajaro's football program has been a struggling entity in previous years, however with the right coach, and strong leaders, the team is moving in a positive direction. Coach Gregorio is reforming the program to allow his team to feel like they do belong at Pajaro Valley, and that they will be taken care of. A remodeled weight room, new equipment, their first set of goal posts, and now a victory, has caused a contagious sense of pride among the Pajaro Valley varsity team. With 18 juniors on the roster this year, including Anthony and his comrade quarterback, Eddie Medina, the goal-seeking squad has a couple of promising seasons ahead of them.
Anthony has high hopes for his team and his future. "Our line, our receivers, our tight ends—everyone is out there doing their job. Without them I would not have broken a record, and I would never have big plays. We are playing as a competitive team," said the junior who hopes to someday play at the University of Oregon.
"I want to break the school record for total yards rushed in a season, and at the same time I want to meet my academic goals so I am not just a football player."
Anthony Cantrell has been balancing football with academics, as he currently holds above a 3.0 GPA. He is on the right track to breaking the school record as well, with 669 yards on the season, with 68 carries. Next week, Anthony and the Pajaro Valley Grizzlies will strive to start a winning streak as they take on the 0-3 Gilroy Mustangs.
As the home school of 49ers High School Player of the Week, Pajaro Valley High School will receive a $500 grant for their football program. Cantrell will receive a 49ers hat and t-shirt, a certificate signed by 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh, two tickets to a 49ers home game and recognition on 49ers.com. At the end of the season, Anthony will be invited to the 49ers Training Facility in Santa Clara, CA to accept a trophy recognizing his achievements.