2015-11-20 / Sports

The interceptor

Vukobradovich returns three interceptions for three TDs in Grace Brethren football’s playoff opener
By Jonathan Andrade


BALL HAWK—Darrius Vukobradovich is a senior safety for the undefeated Grace Brethren High football team. Vukobradovich, a Division I prospect, leads the Lancers with eight interceptions this season. 
JOAN PAHOYO/Acorn Newspapers BALL HAWK—Darrius Vukobradovich is a senior safety for the undefeated Grace Brethren High football team. Vukobradovich, a Division I prospect, leads the Lancers with eight interceptions this season. JOAN PAHOYO/Acorn Newspapers Darrius Vukobradovich wasn’t just in the right place at the right time. He was in the right place at the right time for three monumental plays.

The Grace Brethren High senior hit the equivalent of football’s Powerball in the Lancers’ 61-7 first-round playoff victory against Mary Star of the Sea on Nov. 13 in the CIF-Southern Section East Valley Division.

Three times the senior safety dropped back into coverage. Three times Vukobradovich got a great read on the ball and made a move toward the intended target. Three times the 18-yearold intercepted the pass and ran it to the opposite end zone for touchdowns. Three pick-sixes on Friday the 13th? Houdini couldn’t pull off that miracle.


GOOD TIMES—Grace Brethren’s Josh Ramson, right, celebrates his touchdown with teammate Karl Kniseley, No. 5, on Nov. 13. 
Courtesy of Barry Ziehl GOOD TIMES—Grace Brethren’s Josh Ramson, right, celebrates his touchdown with teammate Karl Kniseley, No. 5, on Nov. 13. Courtesy of Barry Ziehl “You can’t imagine that type of performance,” Grace Brethren head coach Josh Henderson said. “We thought he’d have a good shot at making plays, but we didn’t anticipate that. It was a spectacular performance.”

Three trips into the end zone in one game for a safety is an unprecedented feat. It just doesn’t happen—unless you’re a ball hawk like Vukobradovich.

“I’ve just been reading the quarterbacks to see where their eye progression is at,” he said. “A lot of the plays were the same plays. My teammates pressured the QB, so he just threw it up.”

Vukobradovich and the Lancers (11-0) play at 7:30 tonight at Moorpark College against Desert (8-3) in the East Valley Division quarterfinals. Grace Brethren defeated Desert 41-0 earlier this season.

The senior, who previously played at Oaks Christian, Crespi and Calabasas, is reaping the benefits of hard work. He attributes his eight interceptions this season to the extra hours he put in working out with assistant coach Awan Diles.

“I trained with him pretty much every day after the offseason getting my footwork right, and it’s paid off,” Vukobradovich said.

The record-setting performance wasn’t the only time the senior rewrote the Lancer history book. He set a school record with a 98-yard touchdown run against Desert on Sept. 25.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Vukobradovich, who has 69 tackles, is one of the most versatile student-athletes in the area. He’s garnered interest from Division I college football programs, including the University of Utah, the University of Nevada, New Mexico State, Oregon State and Arizona State.


GET PHYSICAL— Grace Brethren’s Darrius Vukobradovich, left, works out at practice this week. Vukobradovich and the Lancers play at 7:30 tonight at Moorpark College against Desert in the playoff quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section East Valley Division bracket. GET PHYSICAL— Grace Brethren’s Darrius Vukobradovich, left, works out at practice this week. Vukobradovich and the Lancers play at 7:30 tonight at Moorpark College against Desert in the playoff quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section East Valley Division bracket. Vukobradovich appreciates the attention. He’s even more thrilled when people spell and pronounce his last name correctly.

“My last name’s super long,” he said. “Everyone asks me how to say it and how many letters are in it. I get a whole bunch of things. Everybody pronounces it a bunch of crazy ways. It’s not that hard. It sounds exactly how it’s spelled.”

It’s simple, but teammates still choose to call him “Vuko.”

He wouldn’t be the first to don “Vukobradovich” on the back of a college jersey. His father, Jason Vukobradovich, played outside linebacker at Chico State.

The Lancer has family ties to many athletes that competed at the next level.

His cousin Lucky Radley, a former Agoura High player, starred at running back for Utah and San Diego State. His uncles Jason Mitchell and Brandon Browner have NFL experience. Mitchell suited up at wide receiver with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Browner, a New Orleans Saints cornerback, won Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 and the New England Patriots in February.

Darrius Vukobradovich, who started playing football at age 4, said his dream is to continue playing the sport in college, where he wants to study business marketing and sports medicine.

Right now, the senior has his heart set on a capturing a section crown.

“We’re having a great season so far,” he said. “We’re hoping to win a CIF championship.”

Senior running back Zikel Reddick said Vukobradovich has become a member of the Grace Brethren community.

“He came from different schools with different cultures, and he embraced the culture at Grace Brethren,” Reddick said. “I think he’s fit in really nice.”

Henderson said he expects Vukobradovich to continue leading a defense that’s shut out seven opponents this season.

“He’s one of the primary catalysts for this defense,” the coach said. “He’s an extremely physical player, and he’s come up with the big hits and big plays.”

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