The stars usually reach the end zone and lead the chest-bump celebration.
But sometimes it's the unsung performers who prove most valuable.
In El Dorado Hills, Jacob Sipes plays many roles for Oak Ridge High School wide receiver, safety and punter. The senior can play quarterback, too; he won a 2011 playoff game in relief.
Over the summer, Sipes competed for the quarterback job, but it went to sophomore Ian Book, who passed for three touchdowns Friday in a rousing varsity debut, a 38-0 win over Vista del Lago.
He was elated, because the young man understands the concept of team and sacrifice. Oh, and he caught five passes for 73 yards, made two tackles and had a 46-yard punt, so he did his part in the victory.
"I couldn't be more proud or pleased with how Jacob handled all of this," said Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere, whose team went 12-2 last season and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final. "For him to see the big picture, it means everything."
Said Sipes: "Anything to help us win."
In Orangevale, the unsung leader is Mark Nichols, who played linebacker last season as a junior for Casa Roble. Now he's at left guard, because he knows the Rams need some muscle to protect their offensive weapons.
Casa Roble used 17 offensive linemen last season, and that played a big role in its 1-9 record.
"I told Mark last winter, 'I need an offensive lineman,' and he said, 'I'm fine with it, and I'll lead,' " Casa Roble coach Norm Ryan said. "He figured out it was best for the team. Defense is all he's ever played, and he's not just playing guard but leading the offense, calling guys out with our quarterback, Peyton Wilfley. It's a very unselfish move."
The Rams opened with a 35-10 victory over Rio Americano on Saturday, and Nichols was involved from the start.
"We ran behind him anytime we needed a play," Ryan said. "We know if Casa is to come back, if we want to be .500 or better and be one of the better Division III teams, he'll be a big reason."
Washington's Shaq Thompson (Grant) had nine tackles and seemingly looked NFL-ready from his linebacking spot in the Huskies' 38-6 romp over Boise State, the worst loss in coach Chris Petersen's eight years with the Broncos. Said Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick of Thompson: "I think he's the best player on their team."
UCLA's Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer) had six tackles in his defensive-line debut in the Bruins' 58-20 rout of Nevada. Was UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt surprised? "No. You should have seen him in practice," Zumwalt said.
Nevada's Don Jackson (Laguna Creek) urged his coaches to start teammate Kendall Brock at running back instead of himself against UCLA because Brock missed no practice time. Jackson missed some summer sessions because of an injury. Each carried 12 times for a combined 67 yards.
Cal Poly's Willie Tucker (Oak Ridge), who missed some summer workouts because of a sore foot, caught a 74-yard pass from Vince Moraga in the Mustangs' 38-16 win over San Diego. Moraga beat out Folsom graduates Dano Graves and Tanner Tro- sin for the quarterback job.