|Yamanoha shines at camps
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an athlete in Rohnert Park, Cotati or Penngrove who has had a busier spring and summer than Chris Taylor-Yamanoha.
From early March through July, Yamanoha participated in 12 football camps of varying degrees of difficulty. Most of those camps were in California, but one – the Top Prospect Camp at the Oklahoma University in Norman, Okla. – may have helped the Rancho Cotate High School football standout become a known quantity not only in California but nationwide.
Tough Oklahoma camp
The Oklahoma camp featured some of the top underclassmen football players in the country. The camp participants were divided by their grade level.
Yamanoha, who started at wide receiver and cornerback for Rancho Cotate as a freshman, graded out as the No. 2 receiver of all sophomores at the camp. His performance there allowed him to be invited to a prestigious football camp in South Carolina in December.
More than anything, this camp lifted the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Yamanoha’s confidence.
“It was the best competition and the most fun,” Yamanoha said. “It’s a lot different…just the overall speed of the guys there. I got to see that I can compete with all these kids, help Rancho out and show what I have to offer.”
Countless hours on the road
Yamanoha and his father, Rudy, spent countless hours driving from one camp to another. The entry fees for the camps were not expensive, but the gas and lodging did put a dent in the Yamanoha’s finances. But Rudy, who coaches the Rohnert Park Warriors Pee Wee team, knows his son has been blessed with a lot of athletic talent and feels he’d be remiss if he didn’t do everything he can to allow his son to be the best player he can be.
“It was quite a bill but the way we look at it is we’re investing in him now because we know eventually this could land him a scholarship where we don’t have to look at paying a large tuition,” Rudy said. “This can help him get a scholarship.”
Rudy said he’s seen a change in his son as the camps have played out. He saw his son gain a sense of knowing he belonged with the top players.
“I wanted him to see and believe that it’s no fluke the coach brought him up as a freshman,” Rudy said. “God’s given him this gift, and now it’s up to you to take this gift and do something with it. Now, this year, I can see where his confidence has grown and it’s not like, ‘I’m the young kid on the team. But I have grown in high strides because of this camp.’”
Time to consider colleges
Chris has three more seasons at Rancho Cotate before it’s time to even consider a college, but he’s already gotten some feelers from UC Berkeley, Fresno State and Michigan.
“Schools have sent stuff to (Rancho Cotate head coach Ed) Conroy, and he’s given me their letters,” Chris said. “It was surprising.”
While his father can advise him on the things he does right or wrong on the football field, his mother, Rachael makes sure he doesn’t eliminate himself from scholarship consideration by making sure he’s paying attention to his academics.
“He works with a tutor, and we make sure he’s maintaining his grades because now that he’s a sophomore, he can’t afford a D in any subject or it’ll be really hard to get a scholarship,” Rachael said.
By the time you’ve gotten to this sentence, Chris and his teammates at Rancho Cotate have completed their first week of the dreaded double days, where teams practice once in the morning and later in the afternoon. Double days are an important part of a football team bonding because those who really don’t want to be out there usually pack it in. And those who stay form a tighter unit.
Yamanoha was younger than the core players who helped the Cougars reach the North Coast Section Div. II title game. He understands this year’s team is young, and it may take longer for this team to truly come together than last year’s senior-laden squad.
“We all jelled together and everyone was real tight last year,” Chris said. “This year, it’s not as tight, but if we put in enough work, I think we can be just as good. It’s really a matter of how we want it to be.”
Yamanoha also understands that even though he’ll be only a sophomore, he’ll be counted on to provide leadership, as will all the players returning from last year’s squad who were heartbroken after their 35-7 loss to Clayton Valley in the championship game.
“I’m just used to everything and know what to expect…I’m ready for that,” Chris said. “I was really disappointed about losing that last game, but that drives me more to come back and win for them (last year’s seniors), too.”