Santa Ynez placekicker Leo Valencia received some good news when he really, really needed it.

The senior was named the Cal-Hi Sports Special Teams Player of the Week for Southern California on Tuesday.

Valencia went 4 for 4 on field goals in the Oct. 8 game against Ventura Buena. He also hit his only point-after try, finishing the night with 13 points. 

Valencia's 25-yard field goal gave the Pirates a late 19-18 lead. But Buena scored in the game's final seconds for a 25-19 win.

So, receiving individual recognition from a statewide publication helped ease the sting of a loss that coach Josh McClurg called one of the most difficult in his coaching career.

Valencia, though, had much bigger problems than that devastating loss to Buena. He had to worry about his family's home being affected by the Alisal Fire spreading in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Valencia lives with his family on a ranch in Refugio Canyon and he and his family had to evacuate that home. 

"He has not missed practice all week," McClurg said Tuesday.

"It's been rough not knowing what could happen, and just looking toward the mountains where my house is and wondering if everything is OK," Valencia said Wednesday night. 

The kicker said when he went to school on Monday it was just a normal day. During practice, he found out that he wouldn't be able to go home.

"I've been staying at a friend's house," Valencia said. "I haven't seen my parents since Monday morning when I left for school.”

He said he had to purchase clothes because he hasn't been able to return to his home since he left for school Monday morning. 

"It's especially tough since from the football field I can see all the smoke above the area where my house is, so it's just a constant reminder every time I look over," Valencia said.

Valencia says it hasn’t shaken his focus on the field. 

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"I'm still 100% ready and looking forward to Friday night," he said. 

Santa Ynez is scheduled to host Ventura in a crucial Pacific View League game at 7 p.m. Friday. 

Valencia’s place-kicking career began earlier this year. He played soccer growing up and will play his senior season at Santa Ynez this winter.  

This fall, Valencia leads the football team with 33 points on the season. He also occasionally plays on offense and defense and has hit nine touchbacks on kickoffs this year. He's a perfect 6 for 6 on field goal tries with a long of 36. He's 15 for 19 on PATs. 

Cal-Hi Sports, a long-running media institution in the state, named him the SoCal Special Teams Player of the Week. 

"It felt great because I wasn't expecting it and honestly was really glad my team was able to help me achieve this," Valencia said. "It's always great putting points on the board at the end of the drive, even though we all would have preferred getting the ball in the end zone." 

When asked how long he's been kicking, Valencia said "only a couple of months."

Valencia said his snapper, Owen Hunt, and his holder, Tyler Gregg, have made the process pretty easy. 

"I don't get nervous because I know that the line, my snapper and holder will put me in the position to be successful," Valencia said.


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