- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
It was a solid debut for Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian, which roughed up a capable program in Loomis (Calif.) Del Oro in the season opener, 40-0. But it was a phenomenal start for 2015 linebacker Andre Chevalier Jr., a 5-foot-10, 205-pound middle linebacker who made his first appearance with the Lions.
“Going into it, I was a little anxious to play,” Chevalier said. “Coach told us the difference between being anxious and nervous, but I think I was a little bit of both. But I played my heart out today.”
There were great defensive performances turned in by senior linebacker Cameron Judge, a UCLA commit who returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown, as well as junior cornerback Malik Cyphers, who made an athletic interception along the sideline and a tough, open field tackle to save a touchdown. But it was Chevalier who stole the show.
While Del Oro’s big back, Brandon Monroe, a San Jose State commit, tested the Oaks Christian defense over and over, it was Chevalier largely called upon to plug the middle.
“I think it went well,” Chevalier said of his first big test. “I missed a couple of tackles and could have made a couple more, but I think I did pretty well for a first time.”
He made eight tackles, but one stop in particular allowed Chevalier to make his mark on the game. With Oaks Christian leading 23-0 in the third quarter, Monroe came up with a big interception near midfield that appeared to breathe some life into the Del Oro sideline. But on the ensuing play, Chevalier shot a gap and put a punishing hit on Monroe, forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
“I saw an open hole,” Chevalier said. “He was running to me and I just gave it my all. I hit him as hard as I could.
“I can’t dwell on it too long, because we have a long season. But I can enjoy it tonight. It was a good hit.”
Because he is so young, Chevalier’s name hasn’t been batted around much in recruiting circles. But Oaks Christian coaches know they have a good one in the young linebacker, and that it’s only a matter of time before college coaches come calling.
“It’s a dream of mine to play at the next level, and then hopefully the NFL,” Chevalier said. “I’m going to work hard to get to the next level.
Chevalier said USC is his dream school, but also said he really likes Oregon as well.
“I still have a long time to decide,” he said. “So I don’t really know about that yet.”