Orestimba's dynamic duo, wide receiver Tyler Vargas (left) and quarterback Jacob Bettencourt, earned all-Southern League first team honors.

'I put in the work and nobody could deny me.' Vargas tops list of Southern stars.

James Burns

NEWMAN — Tyler Vargas is aware of the company he keeps on the Sac-Joaquin Section leaderboard.

The Orestimba wide receiver led the section in receiving this season, finishing two places ahead of Folsom’s Joe Ngata, a Clemson commit and U.S. Army All-American.

Vargas had a career-high 1,458 yards on 87 receptions en route to the Southern League’s co-Offensive Player of the Year award and first-team selections on both sides of the ball. He also had 20 touchdown catches, second only to Ngata who played in four more games.

While it’s an unfair comparison, Vargas’ production and playmaking ability is undeniable, and his confidence is buoyed by the company.

“It means a lot, because I knew I’m a small guy. A lot of people don’t even give me a chance,” he said. “All offseason I put in the work and nobody could deny me that. I knew it would show in the season.”

Vargas, who will play at Modesto Junior College next fall, was one storyline in a banner season for the Southern League. 

Led by one of the section's top scoring defenses, Ripon Christian snapped Orestimba’s stronghold on the league crown with a come-from-behind 23-17 victory and clinched a berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI final. The Knights won a program record 12 games, including a victory over Trans-Valley League co-champion in the D-VI semifinal, and the league title was its first in five years.

Denair and its vaunted Wing-T offense dropped into the Division VII section tournament and rolled to section and CIF State championships.

Denair coach Anthony Armas (right) and his team hoist up the CIF State championship trophy following a victory over Satnee of Los Angeles. (James Burns)

“It was cool to see Ripon Christian go to sections,” Vargas said, “and Denair winning a state title, good for them. That was pretty cool.”

Here’s a look at the Southern League’s major award winners and all-league selections, as voted upon by the coaches:

Most Valuable Player: Drew Van Vliet, Ripon Christian

Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Leonard, Mariposa

Offensive Players of the Year: Michael Kamps, Ripon Christian; Tyler Vargas, Orestimba

Offensive Lineman of the Year: Carlo Morales, Denair

Defensive Linemen of the Year: Garrett Bryan, Ripon Christian; Scott Badal, Denair.

Ripon Christian running back Michael Kamps (right) was named the Southern League's co-Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year. (Wayne Thallander)

First Team: Carlo Morales, OL, Denair; Wyatt Van Vliet, OL, Ripon Christian; Kevin Bennett, OL, Orestimba; Genario Hernandez, OL, Gustine; Derek Starkey, OL, Denair; Michael Kamps, RB, Ripon Christian; Brandon Garbez, RB, Gustine; Tony Garcia, RB, Le Grand; Jacob Bettencourt, QB, Orestimba; Tyler Vargas, WR, Orestimba; Jacob Dominguez, WR, Orestimba; Austin Ries, TE, Ripon Christian; Hunter Musgrave, utility, Denair; Drew Van Vliet, DL, Ripon Christian; Maison Simas, DL, Orestimba; Alfonso Esquivez, DL, Gustine; Garrett Bryan, DL, Ripon Christian; Scott Badal, OLB, Denair; Declan Van Vuren, OLB, Ripon Christian; Tyler Vargas, DB, Orestimba; Sean McGovern, DB, Ripon Christian; Drew Pritchard, DB, Denair; Tyler Fuller, DB, Orestimba; Steffin Winston, utility, Denair.

Second Team: Gustavo Gonzalez, OL, Orestimba; Antonio Puente, OL, Le Grand; Joseph Quinn, OL, Mariposa; Jacob Levingston, OL, Gustine; Cameron West, OL, Waterford; Steffin Winston, RB, Denair; Max Steele, RB, Ripon Christian; Michael Vivo, QB, Waterford; Ricardo Ramirez, WR, Waterford; Michael Dinkins, WR, Le Grand; Will Knox, TE, Denair; Hector Esquivez, Gustine; Ulysses Madrigal, utility, Orestimba; Greg Borrego, DL, Le Grand; David Wilson, DL, Gustine; Gabe Katz, OLB, Mariposa; Solomon Bell, OLB, Orestimba; Dale Fisher, LB, Ripon Christian; Christian Obando, LB, Denair; Iran Fuentes, DB, Gustine; Michael Dinkins, DB, Le Grand; Ricardo Ramirez, DB, Waterford; Drake Nelson, DB, Ripon Christian; JC Davies, utility, Mariposa.

Follow James Burns on Twitter @jburns1980, or email him at frontrowpreps@gmail.com.