Ruiz brothers form opportunistic secondary for Monarchs

Joseph Ruiz (pictured) picks up and returns a stripped ball, courtesy of brother Ruben Ruiz (not pictured).(Kenny Goodman)

Ruben and Joseph Ruiz lead a formidable defense for the 9-1 Exeter Monarchs; Joseph is having a great sophomore season as he leads the state with eight interceptions

EXETER – It has been a special season for Exeter football, off to a 9-1 start for the first time since 2008. A sturdy defense has been key to the Monarchs’ success this season, especially the secondary anchored by the brotherly duo of Ruben and Joseph Ruiz. As they have helped the defense shut down opponents, the brothers have enjoyed getting to do it together as family.

“It’s definitely special. Especially with us getting to share the field together with him playing free safety and me playing strong safety,” Ruben said. “It’s really special, especially with us having a good season. It makes it even better.”

“It’s really cool ,” Joseph said. “These past few years, it’s been really fun with him as we’ve made some memories together.”

Ruben is the senior and older brother to Joseph, and has had a strong career for the Monarchs. Last season, he was named the defensive player of the year in the Tri-County Sequoia League. Despite missing several games this season, Ruben has played well in his final year with three interceptions, 23 total tackles and a blocked field goal.

When Joseph came into varsity his freshman year, he was excited to play football with his brother. But with Ruben’s success over the years, Joseph was worried about living up to his legacy.

“It’s nice having a family member but it also adds some pressure since he was already pretty good before I got into high school,” Joseph said. “The pressure added to the expectations of what I was supposed to be.”

But Joseph has lived up to the family name and then some. On the strong Exeter defense this season, Joseph leads the team, as well as the state, with eight interceptions. He also has 57 total tackles and 4.0 tackles for loss this fall. As he has broken out as one of the best defensive players in the Central Valley, Joseph credits most of his success to his coaching staff.

“I’ve been so successful because of the coaches giving us a game plan,” Joseph said. “They spend lots of time on film and players spend lots of time on film to put us into the right positions and know our reads.”

Joseph’s success also comes from his relationship with his older brother. When Ruben was injured this season and had to miss several games, he had to watch Joseph and the rest of the defense from the sideline. While he wanted to be out there with his teammates, Ruben used that opportunity to focus on helping his brother.

“Missing those games really helped me coach him,” Ruben said. “I’ve been trying to get him to watch film, understand his reads, understand his concepts and then relay over the game.”

Once Ruben got back on the field with Joseph, they excelled together in the secondary. Throughout the season, the Exeter defense has been strong allowing 15.8 points a game. Ruben’s favorite game this year was Exeter’s 37-15 win over Washington Union. In that game, the brothers grabbed five interceptions as Ruben grabbed three and Joseph picked off two passes.

The Ruiz brothers’ play in the secondary and the overall play of the defense helped the Monarchs finish the regular season with a 9-1 record and finish first in the Tri-County Sequoia League. As the Monarchs have steadily improved throughout his high school career, Ruben is happy to see the Monarchs have a fantastic season during his final year in the program.

“It’s actually good progress all throughout the years. It’s finally showing and paying off for our seniors,” Ruben said. “Hopefully we keep it going and can get a Central Valley championship.”

Football is the only sport that the Ruiz brothers play together, so this will be the last time they play together in high school. Once Ruben graduates from high school, Joseph will miss his older brother’s presence in the football program.

“I’ll probably miss the memories the most,” Joseph said. “We’ve been together for such a long time. I’m not used to not having him here, not being able to talk to him or play with him.”

Before Ruben moves on from the program, he and his brother still have the postseason to compete in. This Friday, the Exeter Monarchs will host Highland in the Division 4 Central Section Playoffs. As the Ruiz brothers head into their final postseason run, they hope they can make one more family memory together.

“I think this year, we’ll be able to go far,” Joseph said. “I’m hoping that we can win something big together.”

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