Every year, the Lee Central Coast News sports staff selects an All-Area MVP, a player we feel has provided his team with more value than any other player in the area.

Over the last several years, we've also asked our readers who they think is the area's top player.

And that's what this is. Your chance to pick your Player of the Year. 

We'll release our All-Area picks in a couple weeks, but until then, you can vote daily here across all three of our sites: santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com for the LCCN Player of the Year.

LCCN Player of the Year candidates

Blake Truhitte, Santa Maria, SR QB

David DuBransky
Santa Maria Saints tight end Gerardo Zul (81) and quarterback Blake Truhitte (2) celebrate after Truhitte's run into the end zone during Friday night's play-off game against Carpinteria.

Case for MVP

Truhitte took the next step in 2017, taking the Northern League by storm and then taking his game to yet another level in the playoffs.

The Santa Maria signal-caller was virtually unstoppable after the Sept. 29 loss at Santa Ynez. 

Truhitte accounted for 56 total touchdowns, throwing for 25 and rushing for 31. The senior also contributed on defense with 37 total tackles.

The poised quarterback also showed leadership abilities, lifting his team past a 2-4 start to reach the Division 12 title game, where the Saints fell to Big Bear 37-23. The Saints knocked off the ninth seed, the top seed and the No. 4 seed on their way to the title game, with Truhitte leading them to their first divisional championship since 1988.

No matter the situation, Truhitte always seemed to play the same way: Cool, calm and collected. At the same time, Truhitte was aggressive, never hesitating to go for the big play, throwing downfield to his top target John Ramos or racing past defenders for a big run. 

After what he did in 2017, Truhitte may go down as the best player to ever wear at Santa Maria uniform.

The Stats

Passing: 140 for 243 (58 percent), 2,348 yards, 25 TDs, 13 INTs.

Rushing: 225 carries, 2,026 yards (9.0 average), 31 TDs.

Total yards: 4,374.

Defense: 37 total tackles (26 solo), 5 passes defensed, 30 punts, 994 yards, 7 inside the 20.

Special teams: 157 kick returns yards, 99-yard kick TD.

Dino Maldonado, St. Joseph, SR QB

Len Wood, Staff
St. Joseph's Dino Maldonado passes against Lompoc.

Case for MVP

Maldonado was good as a junior leading St. Joseph's offense.

He was great in 2017. 

The senior threw 33 TDs and just 9 INTs while completing an absurd 69 percent of his passes as a senior.

Maldonado did all that against a stacked schedule, as the Knights played Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, St. Bonaventure, Arroyo Grande, Bishop Diego, Lompoc and Paraclete. 

Maldonado was helped by a great receiving corps and a rugged running back in Jayden Vargas and Maldonado did an amazing job spreading the ball around to all his receivers. 

Nate Guzman was his reliable and favorite target to move the chains. Joseph Miller was the big-play threat, who led the team with 14 TD catches. Vargas rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and hit the end zone 16 times.

All those pieces worked in unison, resulting in Maldonado's monster year leading the Knights' explosive offense. 

The Stats

Passing: 227 for 331 (69 percent), 3,125 yards, 33 TDs, 9 INTs. 

Rushing: 66 carries for 380 yards, 7 TDs.

Toa Taua, Lompoc, SR RB-LB

Len Wood Staff
Lompoc's Toa Taua carries the ball against Camarillo.

Case for MVP

Taua was the leader in the clubhouse for our All-Area MVP award until the end of the season.

The four-star recruit was unstoppable for much of the year, averaging over 15 yards per carry as he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.

But the Braves' season ended prematurely, with him sidelined by an injured foot.

Lompoc lost to El Toro in the Division 3 quarterfinals. Does the Braves losing in his absence increase his value in readers' minds? It sure looked like the Braves needed his reliable ball-carrying to help them keep El Toro's explosive offense off the field. 

Or does his injury hamper his Player of the Year chances? While he was out, other area players helped their teams advance in the postseason.

In the end, though, Taua had another remarkable season. He rushed for 1,673 yards on only 146 carries and hit paydirt 26 times. 

He was also a sound defensive player when the Braves need him on that side of the ball.

Taua will also be remembered as one of the greatest ever suit up as a Brave, something that is not to be taken lightly considering some of players who have worn the blue and white of Lompoc High.

The Stats

Rushing: 146 carries, 1,673 yards (11.5 average), 26 TDs.

Receiving: 2 catches, 10 yards.

Defense: 24 total tackles (17 solo), 2 QB hurries, 1 pass defensed. 

Shemar Savage, Lompoc, SR WR-DB

Jeff Antenore, Contributor
Lompoc wide receiver Shemar Savage breaks a tackle while carrying the ball during Friday's CIF Southern Section Division 3 quarterfinal game at El Toro High School.

Case for MVP

As reliable as Taua was running the ball, Savage was just as explosive at receiver.

The senior turned in another spectacular season for the Braves. 

Despite playing in a run-first, run-second and sometimes even run-it-again offense, Savage put up numbers of a true No. 1 receiver. He had 11 touchdown catches and averaged over 20 yards per catch.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound standout can turn a short tunnel screen into a highlight touchdown play. He can get past defenders for deep balls and consistently made defensive coaches look silly for assigning him one-on-one coverage. He's also pretty good on jump balls.

Savage was also a quality defender this season, usually setting the tone physically on the defensive side of the ball, showing no fear in coverage or in tackling ball-carriers. 

Savage's value was apparent to the Los Padres League: He was named co-MVP along with Taua.

The Stats

Rushing: 7 carries, 138 yard, 2 TDs

Receiving: 37 catches, 795 yards (21.5 average) 11 TDs.

All-purpose: 1,135 yards (138 rushing, 795 receiving, 154 kick return, 8 punt return, 40 int. return). 88-yard kick return TD. 

Defense: 28 total tackles (24 solo), 1 sack, 3 INTs, 1 fumble recovery.

Dustin Gregg, Santa Ynez, SR QB-DB

David DuBransky
Santa Ynez quarterback Dustin Gregg looks for an open man during Friday night's game against St. Joe's.

Case for MVP

There may not have been a more prolific passer in the area during the regular season. Gregg threw 35 touchdowns while he shattered school records.

When you look at Gregg's numbers, they definitely stand out.

But, still, you have to wonder what could've been. Gregg put up those numbers in just 10 games as the Pirates didn't make the playoffs, where he could've added to his numbers.

Gregg had a great MVP case through nine games but likely got docked for his performance in the season finale, when he threw five first-half interceptions in a tough loss to St. Joseph by a score of 20-14.

Still, Gregg wound up with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 35 to 8. It was 35 to 3 before the St. Joseph game. 

It was still a tremendous season for Gregg, who also plays stout defense at safety for Santa Ynez and can run the ball from his quarterback position. 

The Stats

Passing: 149 for 227 (66 percent), 2,566 yards, 35 TDs, 8 INTs.

Rushing: 72 carries, 333 yards, (4.6 average), 4 TDs. 

Defense: 37 total tackles (13 solo), 2 INTs, 7 passes defensed. 

Gabe Prendergast, Santa Ynez, SR WR-DB

David DuBransky
Pirates wide receiver Gabe Prendergast gets tackled by Knights cornerback Justin Maldonado during Friday night's game.

Case for MVP

Gregg had one primary target on offense: Prendergast. 

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound senior had another huge year, breaking just about every school career receiving record in the process. He caught 14 touchdowns and topped the 1,000-yard mark easily, similar to the number he put up as a junior.

Prendergast scored 19 times, adding two rushing TDs, two interception return TDs and another on a kick return. 

But Prendergast was also a key contributor on defense, with three INTs on the year and 37 tackles, usually covering the opposing team's best WR. 

Prendergast is surely the greatest receiver in his school's history.

The Stats

Rushing: 16 carries, 198 yards, 2 TDs.

Receiving: 58 catches, 1,105 yards (19.1 average), 14 TDs.

All-purpose: 1,653 yards (198 rush, 1,105 receiving, 147 kick return, 108 punt return, 95 int. return). 19 total TDs (2 rush, 14 receiving, 2 int. returns, 1 kick return).

Defense: 37 total tackles (26 solo), 2.5 TFLs, 1 sack, 3 INTs, 15 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble.

Darin Miller, Orcutt Academy, SR QB

David DuBransky
Orcutt Academy quarterback Darin Miller is tackled by Faith Baptist's Andrew Ramsussen and Christopher Larson during Saturday night's semifinal game.

Case for MVP

Miller may be a controversial candidate to some due to the fact that he played 8-man football, but there's no question he would put up similar numbers in the LPL or Northern League.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound quarterback scored 38 rushing touchdowns as the Spartans made it to the Division 1 semifinals. He also threw 17 TD passes and played a little bit of defense. 

Miller appears to check all the boxes in what coach Doug May wanted from his quarterback: Leadership, poise, intelligence and talent. 

Miller will likely be remembered as the greatest 8-man player the area has ever seen. 

The Stats

Passing: 66 for 139 (47.5 percent), 1,070 yards, 17 TDs, 4 INTs.

Rushing: 201 carries, 1,574 yards (7.8 average), 38 TDs.

Defense: 16 total tackles (10 solo), 1 pass defensed, 1 forced fumble.

Caleb Thomas, Righetti, JR TE-DL

Peter Klein, Contributor
Righetti junior Caleb Thomas, right, halts the progress of an Atascadero ball-carrier during the teams' game on Oct. 13. Thomas, who played on the offensive and defensive lines while also catching passes at tight end, was named the PAC 5 League MVP on Thursday.

Case for MVP

Simply put, Thomas was a monster.

Returning from a broken leg that robbed him of nearly all of his sophomore season, Thomas hit the gridiron with a vengeance in 2017.

Easily the best defensive lineman in the area, Thomas was so dominant that he won the PAC 5 MVP award, practically unheard of for a junior defensive player on the league's third-place team. 

Thomas finished with 17 tackles-for-loss, likely one of the best totals in the area. Thomas added seven sacks and 61 total tackles, a very high number for a 6-foot-3, 250-pound lineman. 

But he also played some offensive line at the start of the year and shifted to tight end, where he actually became a reliable pass-catcher for quarterback Brandon Giddings. 

Thomas should become even more of a force as a senior in 2018.

The Stats

Offense: 5 catches, 43 yards.

Defense: 61 total tackles, (45 solo), 17 TFLs, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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