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Tulare CounTy FooTball Preview 11 into next week, instead, it was a play that led to a win. Midway through their 2016 slate of eyl games, the Tribe was squaring off against the Delano Tigers. with a minute left to go and the Tigers getting ready to pounce on the lead on fourth down, ruelas made his presence known at the most pivotal point of the game. when Delano's quarterback was rolling out for a pass trying to find a receiver, their quarterback could almost feel the 5-foot-10, 195-pound andrew ruelas shedding blocks and ripping through the line. Just a second later, he ac- tually felt ruelas' hands pulling him to the ground. Knowing he couldn't take a sack, the quarterback threw the ball early and in the waiting hands of a Tulare union defender. The interception preserved the Tribe's win and their eventual outright league title going 5-0 in eyl play. "andrew is a great football player, because you never have to worry about him. He's going to give you 100% at whatever it is he's doing, classroom, weight room, practice field. i've never seen andrew not give 100% — never. and that's an impressive thing to say," head coach Dar- ren bennett said about his senior linebacker. Some might say that great linebackers are made, but ruelas may have been born to play to the position. after dipping his toe on offense at tight end and then playing a little bit of defensive end, ruelas found a natural fit in the middle of the defense, crushing people who dared go over the middle. and since ruelas has gotten comfortable heading up the 10 other guys on his half of the field, he's relished in every opportu- nity to bring the defense together. "it's more exciting on defense. you're playing with each other and its more of a unit…i rely on my teammates, i push them and they push me to get assign- ments done…you know everyone is a crucial part of the team," ruelas said. but the big hits or impactful plays that this year's linebackers remember are only a fraction of their talent. any linebacker can find themselves in the right place at the right time to serve a crushing blow. what truly sets them apart is the work they put in all year long. each linebacker on the cover works hard and leads his defense at every practice, in every game and on every play. and that proof is in the numbers. linares was the third top performing junior linebacker in Tulare County in 2016 according to MaxPreps. last season, he totaled 84 tackles; 67 were on his own while running down the quarterback twice for a sack. Summers was the second best performing junior in Tulare County at the position amassing 126 total tackles, and 4 pass deflections and aver- aged 10.5 tackles per game. ruelas can proudly tout his 132 eyl leading tackles, 12 tackles per game average and two sack performance in 2016 on his way to his senior season. but walking off the field with those type of numbers is not just hard work, it is passion. ruelas, Summers and linares each have their own motivations as to why they love the position. Summers says that he likes to command the de- fensive aspect of the game; ruelas loves the versatility of stopping the run and the pass and being the "brains of the defense"; while linares found that he had a knack for seeking out the ball like a laser-guided missile. and these brutes in the middle don't apologize for perfecting their craft. when they lay the big hit, or make the play that wins the game, they celebrate with their team, walk off the field and wait for their next chance to put the hurt on who ever thinks they are up to chal- lenge to score on them. That is why these Tulare County linebackers encapsulate the meaning of stone cold defense. Tulare CounTy FooTball Preview 11

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