Portola High running back Nova Kebeli led the county in rushing with 1,060 yards through the first six games.

The county’s leading rusher

by Tim Burt

It didn’t take long for Portola High School’s star running back, Nova Kebeli, to make an impact this season.

Kebeli rushed for a school-record 258 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to a 35-9 victory over Woodbridge in the opening game. Kebeli also had a school-record 97-yard touchdown run.

“It was just amazing breaking a school record,” the 5-foot-10-inch, 190-pound senior says. “It wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for our offensive line and tight ends. They did all the work for me, and I just followed them.”

Through six games, Kebeli rushed for 1,060 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, leading the Bulldogs to a 6-0 record. He was the leading rusher in Orange County. He has also played linebacker for the first time in high school this year and had an interception return for a touchdown against Cerritos.

“He puts his head down and goes to work every day, every play. Whatever college lands number 22 will surely be getting a dude who’s ready for whatever challenge is put in front of him.” – Portola Coach Peter Abe

“I’m rotating in with some of the guys because I’m trying to stay fresh for offense but also get out there and hit some people on defense,” Kebeli says.

Kebeli has been the league offensive MVP the last two seasons and was an All-CIF player in 2019. He helped Portola win the outright Pacific Coast League title in 2019, the first for the school.

In the spring, Kebeli was a key player for the Bulldogs when they won a share of the Pacific Hills League crown. He rushed for 816 yards and averaged 136 yards a game, scoring eight touchdowns in the shortened season.

Kebeli was named the offensive MVP of the Pacific Coast League in each of the last two seasons.

Kebeli started playing football in kindergarten. “My dad just signed me up, and ever since then, I fell in love with the sport,” he says. “I just love hitting people.”

Portola Coach Peter Abe says Kebeli leads by example.

“He puts his head down and goes to work every day, every play. Whatever college lands number 22 will surely be getting a dude who’s ready for whatever challenge is put in front of him.”