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Shasta County Sports 2021 Spring Defensive MVP: Michael Traylor | Shasta

Shasta linebacker was ‘linchpin’ for 5-1 Wolves

Shasta High senior linebacker Michael Traylor is the Shasta County Sports Defensive Most Valuable Player for the 2021 spring season. (Photos by Mike Daly, illustration by Aaron Williams/Shasta County Sports)

Michael Traylor sat down after the season-opening, 20-19 loss to West Valley and had a talk with himself.

The Shasta linebacker, while grateful to be playing football after endless COVID delays, realized he had five games remaining in his high school career.

“With all that went on, I had no expectations coming into the season,” Traylor said. “I came into the West Valley game just wanting to have fun.

“But losing was such a sour taste and I knew I needed to do something to help change that.”

All Traylor did was put on a defensive clinic for the next five weeks en route to being named the Shasta County Sports Defensive MVP, presented by Tri Counties Bank.

“He did a great job for them,” said Foothill head coach Joey Brown. “Coming in he didn’t get a lot of publicity. He was the linchpin (for Shasta’s defense).”

Taking the sting of the loss to the Eagles, Traylor redoubled his work with first-year defensive coordinator Jim Schuette, taking to heart the time spent in film sessions.

“Hands down, one of my all-time favorite coaches,” Traylor said of the instant chemistry.

That synchronicity translated into one of the most dominant stretches from a defensive player in years.

Over the course of the next four games, Traylor scored three times, blocked a punt and intercepted two passes. This in addition to leading a total domination of rival Enterprise in Week 2 – the first game after the West Valley loss.

“The River Bowl is something special and I’m honored to play in a rivalry that big,” Traylor said. “Honestly, it was the worst time for them to be playing us.

“We wanted to make a point that we weren’t to be messed with and West Valley was a fluke.”

He points to the fact that Shasta didn’t have a preseason scrimmage prior to West Valley, but Traylor adds, no one cared and that made the following five games that much more important.

“Michael was really able to take what we were talking about on the board and in film and put it into action,” Schuette said.

Traylor’s defense held the Hornets to under 50 yards of total offense, while the senior linebacker picked up a Mason Stankey-caused fumble and rumbled 12 yards into the end zone. The first of his three scores on the season.

“All throughout the season, Mike never panicked and never got rattled,” Schuette said. “Every time he’d come off ‘What did we do right, wrong, what can we expect?’ ”

The following week – against an upstart Red Bluff program that gave many teams a tougher challenge than expected – the Wolves were in a battle until a fourth-down TD pass from Layton Dunlap to Jack Reindel gave the visitor’s breathing room. But the “exhale moment” came on a botched Red Bluff punt deep in their own territory. The Spartan punter tried to recover the wayward ball only to have Antonio Mazorra bearing down and gave up the chase allowing Traylor to recover the ball in the end zone.

“The thing with me and football is that it’s 100 percent a team sport,” Traylor said. “Some in the stands might not know, but my teammates know and believe. I don’t need the glory.”

A blocked punt a week later, in a rout of Foothill, added to Traylor’s quickly growing resume – “That blocked punt, (coach) Tim (Naylor) wrote it up for me. He wanted me to come off the edge.”

And while the previous three weeks put Traylor into the MVP conversation, it was the second Enterprise game that sealed the deal on his credentials.

After being humbled in the first contest, Enterprise, at home, came out on its opening drive and chewed both yards and clock behind the power run game of Eli Cortinas. The Hornets had a 7-0 lead, momentum and a chip.

Traylor, however, had an answer.

The Hornets, deep in their own territory, tried to get an out-route pass from David Sheffer to DeMarreya Lewis-Cooper, but Traylor sat in the flat waiting on the ball. It led to a Bryson Kimp score and 7-all tie.

On the ensuing Enterprise drive, Traylor changed the trajectory of the game simply because of time spent not in the weight room, but film room.

With Enterprise facing a third-and-12, the Hornets called a screen pass they’d sprung for an 80-yard TD against Red Bluff.

“I remember seeing that play on film and told Schuette that they might pull it out again,” Traylor said.

When Sheffer dropped back and the linemen started heading downfield, Traylor recognized the play and where the ball was headed. He just the route, snatched the rock from Cortinas and raced 16 yards into the end zone.

“The coaching staff was great at breaking down film and getting us notes,” he said. “Me and Bladen (Stankey) would just sit in my car and watch film, preparing for what might come.”

The score turned the tide and sparked the Shasta offense as Hunter Pinkston took over in the second half with three touchdowns on three straight carries.

“Was Michael the most physically imposing player on the field? No,” Schuette said. “But it didn’t make a difference because Michael is a student of the game and benefited from that. If he’s able to put on 20-25 pounds of muscle he has what it takes to play at that next level.”

It’s something he’s thought about.

“It would be surreal … I’ve only ever worn purple,” Traylor said of playing for the Wolves and the Jr. Wolves in youth football.

And if high school was the end for Traylor, he can walk out with the knowledge that he left it all out there with a dominating senior season.

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for more than two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High.

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