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.
"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.
Photos: Santa Ynez celebrates Homecoming
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Vote: Langley, Claborn, Valencia, Dickerson among eight up for Player of the Week
Malakai Langley, St. Joseph RB/DBUpdated
St. Joseph sophomore Malakai Langley set the tone for the Knights in their game at Arroyo Grande last Friday. He ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run on the game's very first play. St. Joseph raced out to a 21-0 lead about midway through the first quarter and never looked back in a 39-21 win.
Langley finished with 180 yards and two touchdowns on offense and also played defense and returned kicks for the Knights.
Malakai Langley, St. Joseph RB/DB: 18 carries, 180 yards, 2 TDs; four tackles in 39-21 win over Arroyo Grande.
Braden Claborn, Righetti QBUpdated
Righetti quarterback Braden Claborn didn't put up eye-popping stats Friday, but he delivered the type of performance his team sorely needed. Claborn accounted for two touchdowns in the 20-6 win over a tough Pioneer Valley defense to lead Righetti to its first win of the season against his former school.
Braden Claborn, Righetti QB: 129 passing yards, TD; 64 rushing yards, TD in 20-6 win over Pioneer Valley.
Leo Valencia, Santa Ynez KUpdated
Then there's Leonel Valencia, the junior kicker at Santa Ynez. Valencia had a huge night against Buena, making all four of his field goal attempts and a PAT. Valencia's late 25-yard field goal gave Santa Ynez a 19-18 lead, but Buena scored a last-second touchdown to win 25-19.
Valencia made all his kicks, with a long field goal of 36 yards.
Leo Valencia, Santa Ynez K: 4 for 4 on field goals, long of 36 yards, 1 for 1 on PATs, 13 kick points in 25-19 loss at Ventura Buena.
Damian Santos, Arroyo Grande TEUpdated
Arroyo Grande’s Damian Santos has transformed into one of the top tight ends in the area and he had himself a day against St. Joseph. He caught seven passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Knights.
Damian Santos, Arroyo Grande TE: 7 catches, 130 yards, TD in 39-21 loss to St. Joseph.
Leo Kemp, Paso Robles, RBUpdated
North County players aren't typically included in this contest, but Paso Robles running back Leo Kemp deserved a nod after his rugged performance against Nipomo. The Bearcats carried the ball 58 times in the 19-12 win over Nipomo and Kemp had 39 of those carries, gaining 203 yards and scoring all three of his team's touchdowns. The junior is certainly a bell-cow back.
Leo Kemp, Paso Robles, RB: 39 carries for 203 yards, 3 TDs.
Kyle Kuhn, Nipomo WRUpdated
For Nipomo, yards weren't easy to come by as the Titans mustered just 232 yards of offense against the Bearcats. Kyle Kuhn was responsible for a third of those yards on his own, catching three passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
Kyle Kuhn, Nipomo WR: 3 catches, 77 yards, TD; 1 tackle.
Deville Dickerson, Lompoc WR/DB/KRUpdated
Deville Dickerson is putting together one of the more remarkable individual seasons this area has ever seen.
The Lompoc senior scored for the seventh time on a kick/punt return in the loss to Rio Mesa. He also had nine catches for 135 yards and two plays that every coach should want a copy of for their film sessions.
Dickerson 'hawked' two Rio Mesa players, racing nearly the entire length of the field to track the ball-carrier down and prevent touchdowns. How do you spell max effort? Easy: J-O-K-E-R.
Deville Dickerson, Lompoc WR/DB/KR: 9 catches, 135 yards; KO return TD; 4.5 tackles, 1 TFL; 150 return yards.
🔥Vs Rio Mesa🔥— Deville “Djoker” Dickerson (@Deville2404) October 11, 2021
🔵KO Return TD (7th)
🔵2x METCALFs **
🔵9 Rec - 135 Yrds
🔵4.5 TKLs - 1 TFL
🔵+150 Return Yrds
** Both saved a TD@the_jonesy16 @tfordfsp1 @RFordFSP @BrandonHuffman @Hudl @dkm14 @CalHiSports @CIFSS @FootballRecruit @RyanClaryFSP pic.twitter.com/mmMsuHbzQZ
Jacob Sanders, VCA WR/DBUpdated
We can't forget about the 8-man realm either. VCA's Jacob Sanders, who's won the Player of the Week honor once already this year, had another big game, scoring twice on rushes, twice on interception returns and once more on a punt return.
Sanders has scored 17 times in four games this year for the 4-0 Lions.
Jacob Sanders, VCA WR/DB: 9 carries, 75 yards, 2 TDs; 2 INT returns for TDs; punt return TD; 5 tackles, 4 PBUs; forced fumble.