Rio Hondo Prep remained the top dog in the Prep League football hierarchy this season, but the biggest challenge to the Kares' alpha status came from Flintridge Prep.
The Rebels defeated every team in league except Rio Hondo, which is set to play for the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division championship on Friday, to finish 3-1 for second place, the team's best showing in four years.
Considering it came on the heels of a winless league campaign last season, the Rebels' performance this season was all the more impressive and drew plenty of recognition in the recently released all-league voting.
Topping the list on offense were the Rebels' two backfield workhorses, junior Stefan Smith and senior Kurt Kozacik, whose complementary running styles added up to over 2,600 yards.
"They were our running attack," Rebels third-year Coach Antonio Harrison said. "We were able to get Stefan out on the edge, have Kurt come up the middle. They're both great running backs with two different styles and we were able to utilize both of those. When people stopped our sweep, we were able to go to Kurt up the middle and when people stuffed the middle, we were able to go to Stefan on the outside."
Smith led the team in rushing yards with 1,480 in 148 carries and in rushing touchdowns with 23. He also caught 15 passes for 228 yards and three more touchdowns.
Kozacik rushed for 1,144 yards and nine touchdowns in 152 carries.
"It was a great tandem that they had together and it showed with both of them going over 1,000 yards this year," Harrison said.
Another huge part of the Rebels' success on the ground was its offensive line, of which three members made the all-league squad, starting with senior Tucker Chemel on the first team.
"He slid right over into center, learned everything he needed to learn and he was the main guy on our line who was the driving force for all of those yards," Harrison said of Chemel, who was supposed to start at guard, but was moved to center over the summer to fill in for the injured Cory Witter. " I wanted to make sure he was honored by the league for what he had done.
"He went against hard-nosed guys every week and he never complained, he did what was asked of him."
The Rebels (6-5) had three more first-teamers on defense in seniors Dylan Colliflower and Chadd Cosse and junior Brian Heintz.
"Dylan was the backbone of our defense, he's a real football player," Harrison said of Colliflower, who recorded 54 1/2 tackles, six for a loss, and forced six fumbles, including a crucial one in the third quarter of the Rebels' 46-33 league win over archrival Pasadena Poly on Oct. 13. "Any time I needed the ball back, he would come up with some big play.
"He's our best linebacker hands down and I just hope he gets to play at the next level."
Cosse led the team in tackles with 67 1/2 and tackles for a loss with 12. He recorded 2 1/2 sacks to go with a forced fumble and an interception.
"Chadd made people change their game plan," Harrison said. "They saw his size and his speed and his willingness to make tackles and they would have to run away from Chadd in order to be successful, but when they did they ran right into Dylan."
Heintz finished with 19 1/2 tackles, 4 1/2 for a loss, including three sacks, and also forced a fumble.
"Brian Heintz is a guy who missed most of last year, but he came in this year ready to work," Harrison said. "We moved him around quite a bit, he was really our specialist."
The Rebels' two defensive first-teamers were junior safety Kyle Hamane and junior linebacker Thomas Turchan.
Turchan had 30 tackles, including six for a loss, and a forced fumble. He came up with a huge fourth-down-forcing tackle late in the team's 34-28 win over Ribet in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 9
"He had a tremendous season, especially for someone who was in his first year on varsity," Harrison said. "He came up with some big plays."
Hamane, who also rushed for 437 yards and six touchdowns in 57 carries as the team's third running back, finished with 20 tackles, an interception and seven pass break-ups.
"He played great as our safety," Harrison said. "We got picked on a little bit in the air, but it was always going away from Kyle. If it wasn't for Kyle, who knows what happens in the air against us this year."
Making second team offensive line were juniors Augustin Acosta-Ghioldi and West Nowotny.
"Auggie was one of our most consistent guys and West was a great help, too, on the end, especially for the little bit of passing that we did do," Harrison said. "It was great to see that our [offensive] line was up there. If it wasn't for our line, we wouldn't have two 1,000-yard rushers."