Senior running back carries leadership role for Falcons

October 20, 2022 — by Anika Kapasi
Photo by Lori Timmons
Senior Paolo Navarro looks to find an open lane while running the ball.
Senior Paolo Navarro discusses how his mindset has improved throughout high school to help him grow into a strong and crucial part of the team. 

Senior Paolo Navarro is a key starter for the Falcons on both sides of the ball, playing running back and defensive back.  

He started playing football his freshman year on the JV team. When JV and varsity merged in his sophomore year, through hard work, determination and a strong mentality, he quickly showed what he could do and secured the starting running back spot in his junior year. 

“I wasn’t a big kid so they originally had me at wide receiver, but when [the coaches] found I could move my legs well, they decided to put me at running back instead,” Navarro said.

 Throughout his first year, Navarro recalls being nervous at the number of people in the stands, especially at the game against Los Gatos. It was one of the best-attended games he had ever seen with both sides of the stands filled up. But this season as a senior, he says “doesn’t feel nervous at all” during games: “It just seemed like it was time to get back to business,” he said.

His attitude and mindset have considerably improved as he has gained experience playing the sport. This has resonated with him throughout his years playing, especially as the football program lost momentum after the pandemic and has struggled to find success. They are 0-4 in the Peninsula-Lake League as of Oct. 19.

“I’ve played soccer all my life, so I know how to handle wins and losses,” Navarro said. “[When it comes to football], I don’t think the sport is too mentally taxing on me.”

He added that he has been able to grow into a stronger player by focusing on upper body weightlifting and strengthening. Archie Ljepava, the assistant coach of the team, said Navarro’s admirable work ethic on the field and in the weight room helped him solidify his starting spot as running back. 

“Paolo is a very grown up and mature [student athlete],” Ljepava said. “He is a leader on the football field amongst the guys, keeping them in line. He is very disciplined about his school, his grades, making sure he’s on time and where he’s supposed to be.” 

Right now, Navarro said the team’s main goal is to win on senior night against Lynbrook on Nov. 4, especially with it representing a conclusion of sorts for his high school football career.

“I’ve done what I wanted to do in high school in terms of playing and competing in sports,” Navarro said. “So, for football, [after this season], it will be the end of the chapter for me.”

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