League coaches honored him as Defensive Player of the Year
Paco Silva has been around both good and bad football, so he knows talent when he sees it.
“Maximus Susi can play Division I football because he’s a Division I football player right now,” said Silva of the strong safety who played for Silva at Eastlake after head coach John McFadden was placed on leave the second half of the season.
“He will finally get a challenge when he plays against other Division I players at the next level.
“The thing is, he is a well-rounded football player. He’d win the battle before the game even started by studying film. He was always in the right place at the right time, and he would make the tackle every time. He’ll get bigger and faster and stronger. There is no doubt he can play Division I. He was the anchor to our defense.”
The Metro Mesa League coaches certainly didn’t argue as they named him the Defensive Player of the Year. He earned second team All-CIF honors and was the South MVP in the Alex Spanos All-Star game last weekend.
He had a ready explanation why the team went 1-5 to start the season.
“We played one of the toughest schedules in the county,” said Susi who is called Max by most but prefers Maximus, a name his mom gave him after seeing the film, “The Gladiators.”
Steele Canyon, St. Augustine, Lincoln, Cathedral Catholic and El Camino — all teams that went deep into the playoffs or in El Camino’s case, all the way to the state finals — were the five losses.
After Silva took over, the team won the Mesa League with a 4-0 record but drew eventual Division I champion Oceanside in the first round of the playoffs.
With Susi leading the way, the defense did its part, holding the Pirates to just 10 points, but the offense could not get on the scoreboard, ending the Titans’ season.
“That was pretty frustrating for us,” Susi said. “I think we did the best we could considering.”
He wouldn’t say it but the Titans struggled after quarterback Richard Colmenero III, who was being groomed for this year and next, transferred to St. Augustine before the start of the season.
Eastlake even put Susi in at running back on some short yardage plays this year, and while he scored a touchdown, they didn’t want to lessen his influence on defense by playing him too much on the other side of the ball.
The coaching change didn’t help, either.
“It had a big impact on our lives because Coach Mac had been our coach for two years,” Susi said. “The thing with Coach Paco is he was already an assistant coach so that helped. We didn’t change a lot of things, we just worked harder.
“When we started 1-5, we knew it would help toughen us up for league. Coach Mac was around long enough to encourage us to keep working hard, that we’d still be a good team.”
The district last week announced that it was opening the head coaching position at Eastlake. Applications are being accepted and interviews will begin in mid-January.
The individual highlight for Susi was actually a play that was one of the finalists for the KUSI Play of the Year.
“It was like a movie watching that play,” said Susi. “A teammate, Matt Zaravia, caught a pass and just as he was going out of bounds, he flipped the ball to me. I caught it and gained a few more yards. It was a last-second thing. We’re taught to be ready for anything.”
Susi is looking ahead, not backward.
“I don’t know where I’ll be going, I’ve had some interest,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, but I really want to go to college for my family. They’ve been there for me, and I want to eventually support them.”
If he needs a reference, Paco Silva would be happy to oblige.
Steve Brand is a freelance writer.