Los Angeles Preps: Hunter Winans

Ventura RB finds opening to Cornell

November, 16, 2011
The Ventura football team does not have a pipeline to USC, Texas or LSU. The team’s top recruit is being sought after by Utah. Some of the best players on the team will not have a football future beyond high school.

But it looks like a couple of the Ventura football players are creating a Cornell connection and coach Brad Steward couldn’t be happier.

Running back Conner Armstrong made a verbal commitment to Cornell University last week. Hunter Winans might be following his teammate to the New York campus and the Ivy League, Steward said. The Ventura coach is counting on his heady players to lead his team in the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs.

Ventura, the fourth-seeded team in the Western Division, opens playoffs against Dominguez on Friday night at Ventura High School. The Cougars, ranked No. 25 in the ESPN Los Angeles high school football poll, are 10-0 entering playoffs and won the Channel League championship for the first time in five years.

Armstrong leads the team in rushing with 1,264 yards and touchdowns with 20. He is a generous 5-foot-7, 170-pound running back who has been carrying the football since his first years in Pop Warner. Armstrong is not going intimidate any team with his size, but his heart and his vision have carried Ventura through an unblemished season so far.

“He is on the small side, so he hides behind those linemen and then darts into openings,” Steward said. “He’s one of the best running backs we’ve had here in a long, long time.”

He has six 100-yard rushing games this season. He rushed for 266 and two touchdowns against Santa Barbara three weeks ago.

“His mom’s father was a football coach,” Steward said. “Football has been important to their family his whole life. He played tailback in youth football. He’s just had a million reps just running the ball. He’s just got great instincts, great vision. I think it’s from all those reps he got throughout the years. People don’t really get a good lick on him.”

Every year, Ventura High School selects a senior scholar athlete who demonstrates strong character. Armstrong’s name came up when he was a junior, Steward said.

“When we were voting on that last year, everybody said can we just vote for next year’s right now,” he said. “That’s just the character, the leadership that the kid’s got. He’s just an awesome kid.”

Winans, Ventura’s leading receiver with 51 catches for 692 yards and five touchdowns, attended a football camp at Cornell over the summer. Steward said the Cornell coaches were impressed with Winans as well.

“He went to their camp and they said he was by far the best receiver at their camp,” Steward said.

Dominguez (7-3) is a tough first round matchup for Ventura. The Dons finished in a three-way tie for first place with Downey and Paramount in the San Gabriel Valley League standings. Dominguez has won seven of its past eight games, the only loss coming to Downey, 36-35, two weeks ago.

“If you read about them, they were expected to win the league running away,” Steward said. “It wound up a three-way tie and they wound up getting the third-place bid. For us, really for a fourth-seeded team, it’s an awfully tough draw.”

Dominguez has five offensive linemen listed at more than 300 pounds. Running back Michael Garrison has benefited behind that huge offensive line.

“They’re very, very large,” Steward said. “Great big players, very athletic players, good running backs, play great defense. They’re going to be a formidable opponent.”

Ventura 42, Oxnard 7

October, 8, 2011

VENTURA -- It has been nearly a month since Oxnard linebacker Adrian Padilla stepped on a football field.

He suffered a concussion in a game against San Luis Obispo in the second week of the season. Padilla needed brain surgery to reduce the swelling in his head and spent nearly three weeks in a hospital recovering.

He was released Monday and was an honorary captain for the Oxnard football team Friday night in his team’s game against Ventura.

Ventura won the game, 42-7, to keep its undefeated record in tact.

The Oxnard players, coaches and fans, meanwhile, reveled in Padilla’s return. The Oxnard players have patches on their helmets with the initials A.P. and the No. 25, the number Padilla wears. Half the money raised from the 50-50 raffle at the game on Friday night was donated to the Padilla family to help pay for medical bills.

Once the game started, however, Ventura (6-0) took control and rolled to its sixth win in a row.

Ventura quarterback Rodney Stanley threw for 217 yards and four touchdowns. Leo Camacho was his favorite receiver, hauling in four passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

Hunter Winans made a juggling catch in the third quarter and turned it into a 68-yard touchdown.

Nick Januska returned an interception 88 yards in the fourth quarter to give Ventura a 35-7 lead.

Running back Conner Armstrong capped the night for Ventura with a 21-yard touchdown run with 2:40 to play.

Ventura coach Brad Steward called his quarterback’s performance “workmanlike.”

“He did a nice job of taking what they gave us,” Steward said. “They didn’t have an answer for our pass game.”

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L.A. North: Five things from the weekend

October, 3, 2011
  1. The Ventura football team ran its record to 5-0 with a convincing 27-0 win over Camarillo in one of the longest rivalries in Ventura County. The two teams met for the 30th time on Friday night. The game didn’t quite live up to expectations, though. Camarillo receiver Jake Maulhardt was coming off a state-record performance against Canyon. He caught 28 passes to set the new state mark with 347 receiving yards and scored three touchdowns. Against Ventura, he caught only eight passes for 72 yards. Still a good night, but it pales in comparison to the previous game. Ventura receiver Hunter Winans outplayed Maulhardt with seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. He has 30 catches for 438 yards and two touchdowns in five games. Nobody expected Ventura to shut out Camarillo, which came into the game averaging 23 points. Ventura moved up to No. 7 in the latest CIF-Southern Section Western Division polls The Cougars were ranked 10th last week. St. Paul from the Mission League is ranked No. 1 in the Western Division, followed by Mission League rival Chaminade at No. 2.
  2. The Paraclete football team set a school record with 86 points against Pasadena Marshall. The Spirits won the game, 86-0, playing second and third stringers in the second half. There is a CIF rule to use a running clock when a team is up by more than 30 points, but the Paraclete coaches said Marshall refused to use a running clock. “We asked for it after the first half,” the Paraclete coaches said on Twitter. “We have nothing but respect for Coach [James] Zall and his squad. He’s building something special.” Paraclete was up 37-0 after the first quarter and 65-0 at halftime. The Spirits gained 547 yards of total offense and Anton Hutcherson scored three touchdowns. The Spirits forced five turnovers and held Marshall to minus-9 yards of offense.
  3. Arleta’s Dejon Coleman recorded his first seven-touchdown game and third six-touchdown game of the season in a 68-0 win over Monroe in the East Valley League opener. What is more impressive is that he scored his six rushing touchdowns in only nine carries in the game. He scored on runs of 73, 60, 35, 72, 47 and 19 yards and gained 320 yards in nine carries. For those keeping score at home, that’s 35.5 yards per carry. He also scored on a 72-yard kickoff return in the second half. That gives him 20 touchdowns in four games.
  4. Canyon receiver Drew Wolitarsky caught two touchdown passes in his team’s 56-6 win over Beverly Hills. He set the school record with 26 career receiving touchdowns on Friday night. For good measure, he scored a touchdown on a 66-yard punt return in the second quarter. Wolitarsky caught five passes for 101 yards and had scoring catches of 33 and 29 yards from quarterback Jonathan Jerozal. Wolitarsky has caught 24 passes for 491 yards and six touchdowns in four games. He is averaging 20.4 yards per catch and 122.8 receiving yards per game.
  5. The Downey girls' volleyball team was the surprise winner in the 28-team Royal Classic over the weekend in Simi Valley. Downey beat Ayala, 25-22, in the championship match and knocked off reigning Royal Classic champion Notre Dame Academy, 25-23, 29-27, in the semifinals. Host Royal lost in the quarterfinals of the gold division playoffs to Downey, 25-23, 25-22. El Camino Real won the silver division championship, 25-23, 25-18, over Granada Hills.

Football: Ventura 27, Camarillo 0

October, 1, 2011
CAMARILLO -- The game between Ventura and Camarillo was supposed to be a matchup of two of the best receivers in the state.

But it was an unheralded receiver from Ventura who stole the show.

Hunter Winans caught seven passes for 107 yards and scored a touchdown in Ventura’s 27-0 nonleague shutout against Camarillo on Friday night.

While Winans shined against Camarillo, Ventura coach Brad Steward was not surprised by his performance.

“It was another good game for Hunter,” Steward said.

The senior receiver has been playing in the shadow of Nick Rudolph, who was selected to the MaxPreps preseason All-American team as a tight end. But Rudolph missed the last two games because of a separated shoulder.

Rudolph made his return against Camarillo (1-3) and caught five passes for 51 yards. He caught two critical passes on Ventura’s second scoring drive and helped set up a Conner Armstrong touchdown run in the first quarter.

On the other side of the field, Camarillo receiver Jake Maulhardt was coming off a state-record performance against Canyon last week. He caught 28 passes to break the state record and scored three touchdowns.

Maulhardt wasn’t nearly as effective against Ventura, catching eight passes for 72 yards and no touchdowns. Six of his catches came in the second half.

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