Valder­rama mak­ing his mom — and team — proud

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Keith Groller Keith Groller can be reached at 610-820-6740 or at [email protected]

“I keep a piece of pa­per with her name on it in my hel­met. Ev­ery game I ded­i­cate to her.” —Dieruff ’s Ale­jan­dro Valder­rama

What’s the key to re­turn­ing kick­offs for touch­downs?

For Dieruff High se­nior Ale­jan­dro Valder­rama, it takes block­ing, speed, in­stincts, a seam and per­haps a piece of pa­per in his hel­met.

Valder­rama had two 85-yard kick­off re­turns in a win over Pleas­ant Val­ley and added a 75-yard score against East Strouds­burg North. He was the key to the Huskies’ wins the past two weeks af­ter they started 0-4.

“I play for my mother and the rest of the guys know that,” Valder­rama said. “I keep a piece of pa­per with her name on it in my hel­met. Ev­ery game I ded­i­cate to her.

“When we go on spe­cial teams, I grab my block­ers and tell them I need them. I tell them if you block for me, I’ll make you look pretty.”

Valder­rama said his mother, El­iz­a­beth Rivera, is sick and has had sev­eral seizures. She tries to make the Huskies’ home games.

“She wants me to be a good stu­dent too,” Valder­rama said. “I at­tend the Ex­ec­u­tive Academy Char­ter School, and they’re big on be­ing a good stu­dent and get­ting my work done. They sup­port me too.”

Rivera couldn’t make the game at Pleas­ant Val­ley, but she was in her son’s heart as he had his first big mo­ment.

“Coach [Dave] Lutte told me to play for my mom and had me write down her name, put it in my hel­met and think about that pa­per,” Valder­rama said. “So PV had just scored and there was 35 sec­onds left in the first half, and I said to my­self that I was go­ing to bring the kick back for my mom and [I] did a lit­tle prayer in my head.”

Valder­rama said he was look­ing at the blocks and saw a lit­tle seam.

“I took it, and as I’m run­ning down the side­line I was think­ing ‘This is for my mom,’ ” Valder­rama said. “I got into the end zone and my first thought was, ‘Damn, if only my mom was here.’ But she was at the North game, and at the end she came out and hugged me and was cry­ing.

“For me, it was the best feel­ing. She’s been go­ing through a tough time and it hurts. But I do it for her and ev­ery­one else who sup­ports us.”

Lutte, in his first sea­son as Dieruff’s head coach, said Valder­rama’s re­turns have given the team a lift.

“I had one of those coach’s mo­ments in the Pleas­ant Val­ley game when he was sup­posed to go up the mid­dle and he took it to the out­side,” Lutte said. “I started yelling ‘No, no, no … fol­low your block­ers!’

“And the next [thing] you know he was gone, [so] I just shut up.”

Lutte, whose team will go for its third straight win at Po­cono Moun­tain West on Satur­day af­ter­noon, said of Valder­rama: “You win with kids like this.”

Valder­rama, who is 5-foot-11 and 167 pounds, wants to play col­lege foot­ball. He plays run­ning back on of­fense and out­side line­backer on de­fense for Dieruff.

Valder­rama wants to share his suc­cess with his team­mates, coaches — es­pe­cially spe­cial teams coach Rocky Wil­son — and the rest of the Dieruff foot­ball fam­ily.

Most of all, though, he wants to share it with his mother.

“She’s here for me, she’s here for the team, she brings wa­ter and snacks and ev­ery­thing she can,” Valder­rama said. “She does so much. Un­for­tu­nately, she’s sick.”

KEITH GROLLER/THE MORN­ING CALL

Dieruff se­nior Ale­jan­dro Valder­rama has re­turned three kick­offs for touch­downs in the last two games.

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