This much became clear over the course of the 2017 football season – there was not a player in the North Coast Section which meant as much to the performance of his football team as John Torchio did to Campolindo.
Consider this simple fact – despite amassing 4,075 yards and 48 touchdowns from scrimmage offensively, Torchio was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the Diablo Athletic League’s Foothill Division. And by the way, he led his Cougars to their fourth straight NCS title – the first program other than De La Salle to ever win four straight section crowns.
“I can’t imagine there is a high school kid who did as much for their team as John did for us,” said Campolindo coach Kevin Macy. “We could not pull him off the field at all. We just couldn’t figure out how to give him a break.”
Having entered the year with plenty of recruiting interest as a defensive back, Torchio took the reins at quarterback for the Cougars, bringing a new dimension to the position with his ability to run the ball. He flashed that ability early on, dashing for 109 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in a non-league win over St. Ignatius, and showcased his legs again late in the year, facing Milpitas in the CIF North 4-A regional final, when he ran for 111 yards and a score.
For the season, Torchio accumulated 761 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, but don’t think for a second that he didn’t guide Campolindo’s offense with his arm. To the contrary, the dual-threat displayed accuracy and arm strength, completing 64 percent of his passes for 3,314 yards and 37 touchdowns. And he was at his best in the post-season, completing 70 percent of his throws with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Even in the regional final loss to Milpitas, Torchio could not be stopped. In addition to his season-high yardage total on the ground, he also threw for 352 yards and four scores, keeping the Cougars in the game against a one-loss opponent. For good measure, he added 16 tackles on defense, in one of the top all-around performances this year.
While thriving offensively, Torchio’s role also never changed in other aspects of the game. Despite looking for ways to rest the standout senior, there was never a solution which allowed him to see the sideline, and he was fine with that.
“I loved never coming off the field. Some people would ask if I got tired, but honestly I found myself just wanting more and more,” Torchio said. “I think it is just due to my passion for football.”
It seemed implausible after last year that Torchio would be able to replicate his defensive performance while playing full-time at the key position on the offensive side, but he did that and then some. He matched his seven interception from the previous season, finishing with 15 picks in three years, and was a playmaker everywhere on the field, adding 98 tackles, nine pass break-ups, two sacks, and a pair of fumble recoveries, as Campolindo searched for ways to maximize his defensive impact.
“Blitzing is honestly the most fun thing I did all season,” Torchio commented. “The ability to come free off an edge and have freedom to not worry about anything but getting a sack was awesome.”
The Cougars debuted that wrinkle in an NCS semifinal win over Windsor, when Torchio came up with a key sack to stall a Jaguars’ drive in the first half. He added another sack in the championship game against Granada the following week.
With most two-way standouts, the logical move would be to then rest those athletes on special teams. This was not the case with Torchio, who also served as the team’s punter and as a lethal punt returner. In a close game with rival Miramonte, it was his 67-yard punt return less than four minutes into the third quarter which placed momentum firmly on the Cougars’ side in a 38-20 Homecoming victory. And he averaged nearly 34 yards per punt, placing eight of his 23 kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Due to all of Torchio’s efforts, Campolindo was able to battle through a grueling slate in the DAL-Foothill, and a non-league schedule which included a date with eventual NCS Division III champion Marin Catholic. Along the way, his role expanded as the games became more important, and it became clear that he needed to be in a position to make plays at all times.
“We didn’t have the same pieces around him this year,” Macy added. “He had to do everything for us. He’s a heckuva player anywhere on the field.”
The Cougars’ fan base certainly got to witness all of Torchio’s special talents. His junior year, with Jacob Westphal holding things down at quarterback, he got to focus on his play at defensive back and at receiver, where he had 43 catches for 664 yards and seven touchdowns, and was the team’s leader in both punt and kickoff returns.
Now, with his senior year behind him, Torchio has been able to reflect on special moments over the last year, and what the coming years might hold for a student-athlete who is not only excellent on the field, but carries a 3.87 GPA in the classroom.
“I’ll never forget the scene from our locker room after we won NCS this year,” Torchio said. “We were dancing and there was Christmas music on a speaker because Coach Macy loves it. That will always be a top memory.”
Football certainly seems to also be in his future, as Torchio now holds offers from Rice, Air Force, Army, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the University of San Diego.
For now, we are pleased to recognize Torchio as our Prep2Prep North Coast Section Player of the Year.
Others players considered include: Bishop O’Dowd’s Jevon Holland, Marin Catholic’s Spencer Petras, and De La Salle’s Henry To’oto’o.