CONCORD -- In another state championship season for the De La Salle High football team, Michael Hutchings delivered highlight-reel plays on a regular basis.
The heart of the defense and a third-year starting linebacker, Hutchings said he didn't always hit this hard.
"I got really comfortable on the field as a senior and just let myself play loose," said Hutchings, who is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
Hutchings lived up to the expectations that come with being a four-star recruit who has made an oral commitment to USC. And he didn't allow all the recognition, including an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, to go to his head.
"I really appreciated the way he took all the attention in stride," said Terry Eidson, De La Salle's defensive coordinator. "His No. 1 concern was always winning state and being the best player he could be."
Hutchings, the top player on arguably the state's best defense, can now add Bay Area News Group East Bay Defensive Player of the Year to his list of accolades.
The punishing blows were just a small part of what Hutchings meant to the defense. As De La Salle completed a 15-0 season with its fourth consecutive Open Division state title, his versatility and leadership were crucial.
"He became the unquestioned leader of our defense," Eidson said. "He was the one guy we could least afford to lose."
Manning the middle of the field, Hutchings was a student of the game and saved some of his best performances for the Spartans' playoff run. He had an early interception that helped set the tone in De La Salle's NorCal Regional victory over Folsom, then provided 10 tackles in the state championship win over Centennial-Corona.
He finished the year with 113 tackles, tops on the team by a wide margin. The more impressive statistic: He helped the Spartans go 42-1 in three years as a varsity starter.
"It's a great feeling, knowing the guys around you put in work each week and every Friday night you see the work pay off," Hutchings said. "Senior year was just seeing the final product of everything I've put in the past few years."