Heading into his senior season for Desert Vista High’s football program, Miles LeBlanc knew that the rest of the offensive and defensive linemen would lean on him.
As one of the few returning starters from last year’s 11-2 team, he aimed to fill the shoes of last year’s senior class, including current Cal-Berkeley defensive tackle Brett Johnson.
“I learned a lot from Brett and the rest of those seniors,” LeBlanc said. “We would always run Thunder Hill together near Brett’s house. I just really liked how he trained and how he was a leader.”
It was common to see LeBlanc and the other Desert Vista linemen together early in the morning running Thunder Mountain, just northwest of the school’s campus.
They would end their workout session by having breakfast together, growing stronger bonds between each player. It’s the type of relationship they all had on last year’s team that LeBlanc has helped establish this season.
Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds hopes it will carry on from there.
“Last year’s seniors and even the ones before them did a great job leading by example and teaching the younger kids,” Hinds said. “I see this group doing the same. They’re teaching the juniors how to lead and hopefully it trickles down for years to come.”
LeBlanc is part of the football programs leadership team known as the Delta Force. Together, the group of seven seniors lead the team from within. They’re expected to look out after every one of their teammates as well as lead by example both on and off the field.
While only two games into the 2019 season, every member of the leadership group, including LeBlanc has done exactly that.
“Kids don’t like to be yelled at these days, nobody does,” Hinds said. “I see Miles talk to his teammates, talk to his brothers. He isn’t an outspoken guy at all, but he really leads by example.”
LeBlanc is one of several players that finds himself going both ways every night for the Thunder. On offense, Hinds knows they can rely on for his power and ability to clear a path for Desert Vista’s running backs or protect quarterback Parker Navarro in passing situations. LeBlanc aims to mirror his game after All-Pro center Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Meanwhile, on defense, LeBlanc tries to mimic All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams. Donald is perhaps one of the best to ever play at his position, and LeBlanc tries to mirror his game each time he steps out onto the field.
“I love his side swipe and all of his different moves,” LeBlanc said of Donald. “Just watching all of his different moves, he’s a dog.”
While he knows he still has work to do to reach the level of those he admires, he’s already begun making a significant impact this season for the Thunder.
LeBlanc and the rest of the offensive line have allowed the Desert Vista offense to accumulate 985 yards of total offense so far in two games this season. The 6-foot-2, 271-pound senior also helped Desert Vista’s defense fend off Palm Springs (Calif.) in the season opener, and was a questionable penalty away from knocking off Notre Dame from Sherman Oaks, Calif., one of the best teams in the state.
Starting both ways is never a small task, but its one LeBlanc and most of the other seniors have embraced since last year. The amount of playing time he has received at the varsity level since his sophomore year has helped him evolve into the player he is today.
LeBlanc admits he was timid as a sophomore, and often looked at the analytics side of the game rather than just trusting his instincts. But as he spent more time in the weight room and on the field with Desert Vista defensive line coach Derek Kennard Jr., the way he plays the game has changed.
“I was more of a thinker when I first started, that’s just my personality,” LeBlanc said. “I’ve started to become more instinctual. I stop thinking about everything and just go out and play football.”
LeBlanc hopes to make the most of his final season in a Thunder uniform. It won’t be his last playing football, as he has received interest from college programs, but he hopes to make it special for all of the players around him.
He is part of a Desert Vista team that returned nearly all of its starters from last season and is a favorite to be among the eight teams selected to take part in the Open Division championship tournament at the end of the season.
While the thought winning a state title is on his mind, he hopes he can do it while also setting up the younger players below him for success after he and the rest of the 2020 class is gone.
“We want a championship,” LeBlanc said. “I also want to help some of these juniors and sophomores so the Desert Vista football program will still be successful going forward.”