Matt Villasenor: Charging the Sonora Offense
By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
At Sonora High School, senior running back Matt Villasenor has continually proven the old saying that hard work pays off.
After missing time with an injury during his junior season, the speedy senior has returned with a vengeance especially in the Freeway League, scoring seven rushing touchdowns in four games.
Four of those seven scores came in a 35-14 victory over Sunny Hills last week, as Matt cruised to 126 yards on 19 carries and also broke the 1,000-yard mark (1,008) for the season with one regular season game left to play.
Sonora’s season will be extended as the Raiders have already clinched a playoff berth and at least a third-place finish in the Freeway League.
“I wanted to have a breakout season,” he said. “My goal is to help make this team better.”
Experience and hard work have been the two most dominant factors in Matt’s successful senior season to this point as his head coach Paul Chiotti believes he’s been one of the hardest workers in practice since his first year on the team as a sophomore.
“Matt’s a wonderful kid, he’s a hard worker in the weight room and in the offseason,” Chiotti said. “He’s the kind of kid you want your football players to be. He’s a man of few words, but he definitely rallies the kids with his work ethic.”
That season would play a big role as Sonora reached the CIF Southwest Division semifinals and played rival La Habra at Cal State Fullerton for a chance to play in the championship game at Angel Stadium.
Matt still has fond memories of that clash, despite his team falling a little short.
“It was crazy, one of the best games I ever played,” he said. “It was the biggest crowd, there was so much spotlight.”
That experience drives the senior to be a leader for his teammates and that leadership has helped his team get to a point where they could once again open some eyes.
Though he may be a big quiet, Matt’s leadership shows in the way he approaches each and every practice.
“We know the kids look up to him,” Chiotti said. “They know his talent and ability, but they also respect him for his work ethic and I think Matt’s done a great job of being a leader by example.”
Perhaps it’s that leadership and focus that has transferred on to his offensive linemen, which have opened the holes for him to have six 100-plus yard games and 14 touchdowns on the season. The senior has scored at least one touchdown in seven of the team’s nine games.
“He’s been very reliable and durable for us this year,” Chiotti said. “He’s carried the workload and taken some big hits. I think the offensive line enjoys blocking for him because they know how hard he works, so they aren’t afraid to get a little dirty knowing he’s pushing right behind them.”
Sonora and La Habra face off this week in the regular season finale and if Matt and the Raiders win, Sonora would clinch a share of the league crown with La Habra and possibly Troy.
“It’s very exciting for us,” Matt said. “I can’t wait to get out there on Friday night.”
In the classroom, Matt said his favorite subjects include world history and chemistry.
And it may be no surprise when it comes to his choice in athletic role model.
“I would say Reggie Bush,” he said. “He’s got a similar style as me at the position.”
When it comes to playing at the next level, Matt said he’s still weighing his options and finding the best fit for college, but for now, his focus is to finish strong during his senior season.
“I just want to leave a legacy,” he said. “I want to be a role model for the underclassmen, someone to look up to.”