Players to Watch: Tokay at Bear Creek

Bear Creek football wide receiver Darius Livingston is a key player in the Bruins' home game against Tokay at 7:15 p.m. Friday. RECORD FILE PHOTO

Friday is a night of firsts.

If all goes to plan, it’ll be the debut of the refurbished Podesto Field, Bear Creek’s home for football and soccer which features a brand-new, state-of-the-art surface from the company “Field Turf.”



For Tokay and first-year coach Michael Holst, it’s their new leader’s debut in the area. The Tigers opened with a 34-23 win over Churchill County (Fallon, Nev.) at South Tahoe High, where former Tokay coach Louis Franklin now works.

This is The Record’s Prep Football Game of the Week, and for now, here are a couple Players to Watch:


Fleming burst onto the scene for 2015, with a 65-yard touchdown run for the Tigers’ first points of the season, and a 50-yard TD reception from junior quarterback Jared Zermeno.

Bear Creek has an impressive defense again, which makes sense, given its fifth-year coach Reggie Camp played six NFL seasons as a defensive lineman. So Fleming needs to keep the big plays coming to give Tokay some space early on and ward off what should be an excited home crowd.


Despite an opening 17-7 loss against Lodi, Camp was very pleased with his inside linebacker play. That includes Whitfield and fellow junior Robert Moreno.

But Whitfield was key on both sides of the ball. He scored the Bruins’ lone touchdown on a 26-yard cutback play, as quarterback Adam Feingold delivered a nice fake, according to Lodi News-Sentinel sports reporter David Witte.

Whitfield has to help bottle up Fleming and fellow senior Jeff Evans.


Zermeno delivered for the Tigers in his starting debut, with three touchdown passes in the victory. If he plays smart football in this intra-district game, Tokay has a great chance of starting 2-0 under Holst.


Livingston was pinpointed as the defensive leader and captain by Camp during the preseason. Where the Bruins need him even more this time, though, is on offense, after being held to single digits. If Feingold can find Livingston in space and let him make a play, that’s good news for Bear Creek.


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Stats and Breakdown: Lincoln skunks Stagg

Lincoln junior wide receiver Izaiah Celestine, right, catches a 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth down against Stagg's Kevin Johnson Friday at Coaches Stadium in Stockton. The Trojans won 29-0. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

What a difference a year can make.

The first time I saw Ronald “June” Walker, Lincoln’s senior running back, was his junior-year debut at by FlashMall” href=”#65022947″> home against Stagg. He was very, very good in the Trojans’ 34-14 win, as he took 19 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. Yet, everything about him is improved as a senior.

Walker is bigger, faster, stronger and smarter. He uses his blockers masterfully, has patience before he makes his cuts and has a flair for the dramatic now. Walker showed all of that in Friday’s bizarre 29-0, controversy- and commotion-shortened win, taking nine carries for 124 yards (that’s 14 yards per touch) with a cinematic 35-yard TD run.

He highlighted the statistical performances for the evening, and I have the rest for you right here in their entirety. Well, uh, their one-half entirety.



Colby Dickson: 6 of 11, 61 yards, TD

Aaron Thomas: 3 of 8, 69 yards


Ronald Walker: 9 rush, 124 yards, TD

Justin Watson: 2 rush, 9 yards

Aaron Thomas: 3 rush, 5 yards, TD

Colby Dickson: 1 rush, 3 yards

Rueben Lee: 1 rush, 3 yards

Izaiah Celestine: 1 rush, -7 yards


Izaiah Celestine: 3 rec., 60 yards , TD

Ronald Walker: 2 rec., 39 yards

Cameron Crump: 2 rec., 36 yards

Rueben Lee: 1 rec., 3 yards

Demond Short: 1 rec., -2 yards

TOTALS: Rushing – 137, Passing – 130 (Total 267)



Lavante Bushnell: 9 of 22, 107 yards, 2 INT


Maurell Robinson: 3 rush, 4 yards

Malik Pruitt: 1 rush, -2 yards

Eric Kranh: 2 rush, -2 yards

Franklin Reeves: 1 rush, -9 yards

Lavante Bushnell: 6 rush, -26 yards


Cutrell Haywood: 4 rec., 59 yards

Michael Thompson: 1 rec., 33 yards

Daniel Raya-Ruiz: 1 rec., 5 yards

Malik Pruitt: 1 rec., 3 yards

Hassani Zachary: 1 rec., 2 yards

Maurell Robinson: 1 rec., 2 yards

TOTALS: Rushing – -33 yards, Passing – 107 yards (Total 74 yards)


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Prep Football Power Rankings: Week 1

St. Mary's football players, from left, Brandon Sanders, Popo Aumavae, Dewey Cotton, Keaton Hampton and Ontario Johnson are ready to defend their Tri-City Athletic League title. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

Conjuring up rankings for a high school football area is difficult enough late in the season. After all, there are only so many head-to-head matchups to help.

So when I do them after one week of football, yes, it’s still plenty of guesswork. But it sure is fun, and for the teams who feel slighted, it certainly gives them plenty of motivation.

My weekly Prep Football Power Rankings return, including squads in The Record’s coverage area: the entire SJAA and TCAL, most of the VOL and two teams each from the TVL and MLL.

These teams are ranked 1 through 5, with school name and record.

1. ST. MARY’S (0-0)

The Rams, the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division II runners-up, haven’t played a snap yet. So for the teams on this list who’ve already done battle, I know it’s frustrating to have St. Mary’s on top.

But they were by far the top team in the area last year, and although they graduated 16 of 22 starters, their coaching staff returns as do some key players. Look for junior wide receiver Dewey Cotton to wreak havoc on offense and special teams, and for seniors Ontario Johnson and Brandon Sanders to power the secondary.

Today, St. Mary’s coach Tony Franks announced junior Jake Dunniway as the starting quarterback, ahead of his competitors in senior Tommy Alegre and sophomore Marcus Aponte.

ON FRIDAY: At Santa Rosa-Cardinal Newman (1-0), 7 p.m.

Tracy senior fullback Courtney "C.J." Hawkins, 4, had 21 carries for 105 yards in the Bulldogs' 46-27 loss Friday at Oakley-Freedom. STU JOSSEY/TRACHIGHFOOTBALL.COM

2. TRACY (0-1)

The Bulldogs, the reigning Div. I runners-up, are the only team in the top 5 with a Week 0 loss. But, that loss was at Oakley-Freedom, the No. 19-ranked team in NorCal in the preseason via and The Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson.

Most importantly, Tracy battled back from a four-touchdown deficit to make a game of it. Sophomore quarterback Josh Alvarado, younger brother of former Bulldog standout Jake Alvarado, delivered three rushing TDs and a passing TD in the 46-27 loss.

Tracy is going to have to pull a heck of an upset to avoid being 0-2, as they host Concord-Clayton Valley this week, which was a point away from upsetting reigning state champion Folsom on the road in Week 0.

ON FRIDAY: Concord-Clayton Valley Charter (0-1), 7:15 p.m.

3. LINCOLN (1-0)

The Trojans came out with a quiet confidence in their strangely-shortened 29-0 win Friday at Stagg. Both Lincoln and quarterbacks in senior Colby Dickson and junior Aaron Thomas, it appears there’s no true starter on this team, improved as the game wore on and jitters wore off.

Junior two-way players Izaiah Celestine (3 rec., 60 yards, TD) and Isaiah Downes (10-yard INT TD) breathe some life into this group.

ON FRIDAY: At Turlock-Pitman (0-1), 7:30 p.m.

4. MANTECA (1-0)

If there were any question if this year’s Buffaloes, with young offensive and defensive lines and new offensive schematics, had the toughness of the section champions of years past, they were answered.

Manteca blasted Buhach 34-6, led by senior fullback and linebacker Darrion Kitson, who had 10 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns. The Buffaloes could keep climbing this list.

ON SATURDAY: At Castroville-North Monterey County (0-0), 2 p.m.

5. MCNAIR (1-0)

The Eagles left no doubt at Calaveras just how dynamic their offense is. In the 74-26 win, senior quarterback Osai Brown fired eight touchdowns, and senior wide receiver Derrion Grim (Boise State verbal commit) had six receiving TDs for around 200 yards, and returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a TD.

ON FRIDAY: Modesto-Downey (1-0), 7:15 p.m.

On the Bubble: Tokay (1-0), Ripon (1-0), Escalon (0-1)


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Helmet Stickers: Football’s Week 0

The Stagg High student section, the Royal Rumblers, cheer during their Friday home game against Lincoln. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

Everything you needed to know about the McNair football team’s season-opener Friday at Calaveras in San Andreas could be summed up by the opening kickoff.

Derrion Grim, an Eagles senior wide receiver bound for Boise State, brought back the kick 89 yards to the house. And he wasn’t done.

Grim is one of 16 players who have received my Prep Football “Helmet Stickers” — celebrating the best every week in Stockton, San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode.


In addition to his fantastic opening return, Grim torched the Calaveras secondary with six touchdown receptions for nearly 200 yards, according to Record correspondent Kevin Niendorf.

Grim, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound machine, is one of only a couple potential NFL prospects, in my opinion (along with St. Mary’s junior lineman Popo Aumavae and potentially Lincoln defensive lineman Rodney Jones) in Stockton high school football.


Brown, not to be outdone by his friend and fellow senior Grim, unleashed eight touchdown passes against the Redskins in the 74-26 rout. As a junior, Brown unfurled 33 touchdown passes, and after Week 0 he’s nearly a quarter of the way there.



In the strange, hysteria-shortened 29-0 Lincoln win, which lasted one half, the senior “June” Walker was sensational. He posted nine carries for 124 yards (an average of 14 yards per rush) with a touchdown. That TD came from 35 yards, and was cinematic, as Walker was nearly tackled onto his knee and burst loose.



Running around the field in the Bulldogs’ No. 3 uniform, Tracy sophomore quarterback Josh Alvarado looks a heck of a lot like his older brother Jake Alvarado, last year’s team MVP and a first-team All-Area defensive back who graduated last spring.

Josh, though, will quickly shake that shadow and make a name for himself if he keeps up performances like Friday, where he posted three rushing touchdowns and a passing TD to Jordan Baker in the 46-27 loss at Oakley-Freedom.


MARK PAULE JR. (Sierra RB, Sr.)

On a rough night for the Timberwolves, losing a 34-20 game at home against Ripon in a matchup they won 54-7 on the road last year, Paule was undeniably solid. The leading returning scorer in California and No. 3 in the nation, and the No. 1 player on my Top 50 Football Players Countdown, had 30 carries for 164 yards and two touchdowns.



Duxbury, one of the Indians’ key returners, gave the T’wolves’ defense fits, with 13 carries for 131 yards and a 60-yard touchdown run, as well as an 18-yard TD reception from third-year starting quarterback Nick Price, Ripon may be a contender in the Trans Valley League, and perhaps I did not give them enough credit in preseason.


Kitson, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound, muscle-bound force, punished Buhach’s defense in a 34-6 Manteca win, posting 10 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns.


Dancy, the No. 2 player on my top returner rankings, delivered an unbelievable 32-yard touchdown run in the Wolf Pack’s 12-7 opening win at Lathrop. The senior delivered 32 carries for 173 yards total. He also had 14 total tackles and a forced fumble.

JOVON WOODS (Franklin RB/WR, Sr.)

Woods, back to his usual spot of tailback and wide receiver with junior quarterback Stevie Thompson healthy, hammered visiting Johnson in a 57-18 win, with 11 carries for 255 yards and five touchdowns. Not bad to be a quarter of the way to 1,000-yard season after 48 minutes of football.


Zermeno, in his varsity debut, delivered three touchdown passes in Tokay’s 34-23 opening win against Churchill County of Fallon, Nev., at South Tahoe High — where former Tokay coach Louis Franklin is now coach. It was the debut of Tigers coach Michael Holst.


Fleming was explosive, with a 65-yard touchdown run and a 50-yard TD reception from Zermeno in the first half to boost Tokay.


Dosier, in his varsity debut as a starting quarterback, helped lead a comeback effort in the Titans’ 27-18 loss at Modesto-Gregori, after trailing 27-0. He had 17 completions for 278 yards, including a 48-yard TD pass to Deon White, and had a 3-yard QB sneak for a TD.

JACK WEAVER (East Union QB, Jr.)

Weaver, the Lancers’ second-year starter, hammered Modesto-Grace Davis for 251 passing yards and three touchdowns, with an interception, as well as 74 rushing yards with a TD in East Union’s 41-12 opening win at home.

AUSTIN MILLER (East Union WR, Sr.)

Miller, who has a great rapport with Weaver, had three catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in the rout.


Calton, nearly a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago despite starting the season as a reserve, had 27 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the Cougars’ 53-34 loss at Patterson.

MAX NICOL (Linden RB, Sr.)

Nicol, in a 57-37 home loss to Newman-Orestimba, had 21 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown, including a 28-yard TD run.


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Player of the Game, Lincoln-Stagg: Ronald Walker

Lincoln senior running back Ronald Walker delivered nine carries for 124 yards and a touchdown in the Trojans' 29-0, controversy-shortened win Friday at Stagg's Coaches Stadium. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

Ronald Walker showed flashes of being a primetime running back in 2014.

Apparently, he’s poured his offseason workouts and focus into following through on that.

Walker, Lincoln’s 5-foot-8 featured rusher, dazzled Friday night, tallying 124 yards on nine carries with a 35-yard touchdown run in a 29-0 Trojans win, that took one half due to a bizarre situation, fear and mass hysteria.

For that, Walker is my Week 0 Player of the Game.

Walker isn’t just fast and strong. He displayed great field vision in front of him Friday, using his blockers and picking the perfect moments to juke and jive. His touchdown run was phenomenal, as he was nearly tackled and to a knee before bursting loose and putting the Trojans up 21-0.

The kid who’s nickname is “June” is poised to be a 1,000-yard tailback for the Trojans. They’ll need him when they get to Tri-City Athletic League play.



On an anemic night for the Delta Kings, Haywood was very good out wide, hauling in four catches for 59 yards.


A nice debut for Celestine, as he caught a 15-yard fade touchdown from quarterback Colby Dickson on fourth down for the first touchdown of the season, and was solid in the secondary. He had three catches for 60 yards.


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The Record’s Week 0 Football Scoreboard

The Ripon football team opened its season with a 34-20 win at Sierra, after losing 54-7 at home against the Timberwolves in 2014's season opener. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD

Here they are, without any pomp and circumstance, your Week 0 football scores from The Record’s coverage area: Stockton, San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode.

Lincoln 29, Stagg 0

West 12, Lathrop 7

Manteca 34, Buhach 6

Ripon 34, Sierra 20

Franklin 57, Johnson 18

Del Campo 63, Edison 14

Gregori 27, Chavez 18

Lodi 17, Bear Creek 7

Tokay 34, Churchill County 23

East Union 41, G. Davis 12 

McNair 74, Calaveras 26

Orestimba 57, Linden 37

Freedom 46, Tracy 27

Patterson 53, Escalon 34

Rio Vista 56, Brookside Chr. 6


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The Preseason All-Area Football First Team

Here it is, without any frills, my look at The Record’s Preseason (as in, this is just for fun, doesn’t count) All-Area Football First team.

QB – Osai Brown (McNair, Sr.)*
RB – Mark Paule Jr. (Sierra, Sr.)*
RB – Ronald Walker (Lincoln, Sr.)
WR – Dewey Cotton (St. Mary’s, Jr.)
WR – Derrion Grim (McNair, Sr.)
WR – Sean Hamilton (McNair, Sr.)*
OL – Popo Aumavae (St. Mary’s, Jr.)
OL – Haiden Hall (Tracy, Sr.)
OL – Jacob Torres (Tracy, Sr.)
OL – Joshua Fala (Sierra, Sr.)
OL – Shawn Williams (Lincoln, Sr.)
UT – Erron Duncan (Weston Ranch, Sr.)
DL – Will Kamps (Ripon Christian, Sr.)
DL – Rodney Jones (Lincoln, Sr.)
DL – Tevita Esau (Bear Creek, Sr.)
DL – Zach Aguilar (Tracy, Sr.)
LB – Darrion Kitson (Manteca, Sr.)
LB – Seth Tennis (McNair, Jr.)
LB – Sione Liku (Brookside Christian, Sr.)
DB – Nick Arnaiz (Tokay, Sr.)
DB – Cameron Crump (Lincoln, Sr.)
DB – Marcel Dancy (West, Sr.)*
DB – Seuseu Alofaituli (Sierra, Jr.)
P – Jack Weaver (East Union, Jr.)
*Returning All-Area first team selection from 2014

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Friday Prep Football Predictions: Week 0


Seriously, we are back into football season. Today marks the slate of Week 0 games, and by Week 0, it really means Week 1, because calling it Week 0 is ridiculous.

My Friday Prep Football Predictions return for 2015. After a slow start last year, and I mean, give me a break, I started on Aug. 11, 2014, I finished at a strong 120-37 for the regular season, a winning percentage of .764.

That number probably dipped in the playoffs, as I picked against No. 7 Tracy, which laughed its way to upset wins over No. 2 Jesuit and No. 3 Granite Bay in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

In honor of tonight’s games, here are my predictions. I’ll be at The Record’s and’s Game of the Week, a 7:15 p.m. tilt between Lincoln and Stagg, and I’ll be updating live with scores, photos, videos, out-of-town scores and statistics on Twitter @RecordPreps. Our good friend Richard Estrada, also known as Black Hat Football, is updating live from Buhach-Manteca @BlackHatFootbal. ALL of your area football scores and updates will be at

Away we go:


The Thunder were one of the best 5-5 teams in the section, most likely, last year, losing to playoff teams Clovis North, St. Mary’s, Turlock-Pitman, Merced and Turlock, but lose most of their key offensive players, including Lions South All-Star Justin Stefani.

So the Buffaloes, with the emotion of a home opener at Guss Schmiedt Field, with a rejuvenated, up-tempo offense led by senior quarterback Dakarai Charles, wide receiver Ronaldo Tijero and fullback Darrion Kitson, edge the Thunder. This game is truly a toss-up.


The Lancers have lost to the Spartans for two consecutive seasons, but opening at home, with second-year starting quarterback Jack Weaver, they turn a corner. East Union has a deeper defense, too, with linemen like Deon Mackson to wreak some havoc. Another toss-up, and again, I’ll give a slight edge to the home team.


The Eagles will be slowed a bit by Week 0 jitters, by solid home field advantage for the Redskins over 45 minutes away and by a grass surface, but this offense is far too good to be contained.

I don’t expect quite as much offense as last year’s 55-48 fiesta, because McNair’s defense is deeper and better and Calaveras has graduated Lions North All-Star tailback Connor Hamilton. Terrence “Terry” Hampton gets a win in his head coaching debut for the Eagles. I do, though, think coach Jason Weatherby and the Redskins are returning to the playoffs this year.


Last year, the Flames dismantled the Bruins 57-22. Though Lodi no longer has Chance Trammell, its gritty offense will be fine with quarterback Matt Meehleis and running back Jonathan Wright. Bear Creek’s defense was the best in the SJAA in 2014, and will play well, but the offense is going to take awhile to find itself.

And, the marquee matchup:


It makes me cringe to pick an SJAA team against a TCAL team, after that 10-0 run the TCAL produced a year ago.

Stagg, though, seems to have the right momentum for this game. Senior quarterback Lavante Bushnell is confident, and will use his feet more at will this year. That receiving corps looks, at least on paper, just sick. And it’s a deeper backfield.

Lincoln could easily punch the hosts in the mouth (metaphorically) to prove me wrong. I have no clue, but my guess is, despite them not making it public, they’ll start junior quarterback Aaron Thomas tonight over senior Colby Dickson, who’s basically the incumbent.

The Trojans have some star power with seniors in defensive linemen Rodney Jones, running back Ronald “June” Walker and defensive back and wide receiver Cameron Crump, but my gut tells me the Delta Kings have more depth and will ride a solid home crowd’s energy.

Another Week 0 game, another toss-up. I’ll take the brown and gold.


SIERRA over Ripon

FRANKLIN over Johnson

DEL CAMPO over Edison

WEST over Lathrop

PATTERSON over Escalon

RIO VISTA over Brookside Christian

RIPON CHRISTIAN over Mountain House

ORESTIMBA over Linden

OAKLEY over Tracy

TOKAY over Churchill County (Nev.)

GREGORI over Chavez



Monday: CCAA, TVL football preview

Tuesday: VOL, MLL football preview

Wednesday: Tokay grad Crocker showing maturity, heart for San Jose, SJAA football preview

Thursday: TCAL football preview, McNair football hires homegrown product as coach

Today: Column on Stagg football honoring fallen alumni, Weekly Prep Football Previews, Sac-Joaquin Section commish settles in; football playoff changes on way


Monday: Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 5, Rodney Jones


Tuesday: Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 4, Popo Aumavae, Players to Watch: Lincoln at Stagg 


Wednesday: Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 3, Osai Brown, X-Factors: Lincoln at Stagg 

Thursday: Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 2, Marcel Dancy, Predicting Prep Football’s League Champions and Runners-up 

Friday: Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 1, Mark Paule Jr., Friday Prep Football Predictions: Week 0, The All-Area Preseason Football First Team


Website: Stockton Preps

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Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 1, Mark Paule Jr.

Sierra senior running back Mark Paule Jr., right, is the No. 1 pick on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Players Countdown. RECORD FILE PHOTO

One named was burned into the psyche of the San Joaquin County-area high school football fan as soon as Week 0 hit last season. And, wouldn’t you know it, he’s No. 1 on my returner rankings. Stay tuned, below, to read about the top spot.

My Top 50 Football Players Countdown, weighing the best returners in The Record’s coverage area: San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode, is in its inaugural edition. The inspiration and much of the wording describing these rankings is thanks to my good friend and former colleague T.J. Holmes of the Redding Record Searchlight. These rankings are based on past varsity experience, as well as potential impact for 2015. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 28.

Because tangible impact is important for these rankings, there are often more skill position players. Yet, you will see plenty of capable linemen here.

Schools included for these rankings:

  • San Joaquin County: Lincoln, St. Mary’s, McNair, Bear Creek, Chavez, Stagg, Tokay, Lodi, Franklin, Edison, West, Tracy, Kimball, Weston Ranch, Lathrop, East Union, Manteca, Sierra, Escalon, Ripon, Ripon Christian, Brookside Christian, Elliot Christian, Millennium
  • Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or with me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, Sierra senior Mark Paule Jr., No. 1 on my top returner rankings.


Sierra High football's Mark Paule Jr., left, was one of seven area players named Preseason All-Sac-Joaquin Section by Cal-Hi Sports. RECORD FILE PHOTO

At first glance, Paule doesn’t seem like the top leading returning football scorer in California, and No. 3 in the United States of America. Just watch him play for a few carries, and it makes sense.

Paule, at about 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, has exceptional field vision, and his ability to change course and cut a run the opposite direction is uncanny. He can also utilize his relatively low height, using his low center-of-balance to plow forward for a few more yards. He’s also versatile, and can take a direct snap out of the Timberwolves’ wildcat-esque sets — coach Jeff Harbison hates that word, and calls it “jumbo.” That’s especially a threat inside the 10.

Sierra, though stocked with many talented players once again, needs Paule’s prowess more than ever, as quarterback Devin Nunez, offensive linemen Connor Melton and L.J. Valencia and wide receiver Hunter Johnson have graduated.

“Mark has great vision and really good speed,” said Harbison, after a win over Ripon last year in which Paule had a stunning 202 yards and seven touchdowns, “but any running back has to credit not only his offensive linemen, but on any long run, you are going to see receivers blocking downfield.”

Paule has reflected that humility and credit to his teammates which Harbison preaches. Never once did he show an ego to the media, or with some gaudy celebration after a touchdown.

If he keeps driving forward with that kind of grounded persistence, the Timberwolves could easily see themselves contending in the Valley Oak League and back in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

After posting an unbelievable 2,024 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns as a junior, you better believe it.


July 9: Players Nos. 46-50
July 16: Players Nos. 39-45
July 23: Players Nos. 32-38
July 30: Players Nos. 25-31
Aug. 6: Players Nos. 18-24
Aug. 12: Players Nos. 11-17
Aug. 19: No. 10, Erron Duncan 
Aug. 20: No. 9, Darrion Kitson
Aug. 21: No. 8, Derrion Grim
Saturday: No. 7, Dewey Cotton
Sunday: No. 6, Lavante Bushnell
Monday: No. 5, Rodney Jones
Tuesday: No. 4, Popo Aumavae
Wednesday: No. 3, Osai Brown
Thursday: No. 2, Marcel Dancy
Today: No. 1, Mark Paule Jr.


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Predicting Prep Football’s League Champions

St. Mary’s football’s student section, the Green Machine, makes noise during last year’s win over Santa Rosa-Cardinal Newman. RECORD FILE PHOTO

Last year’s area league champions didn’t really surprise me. In the TCAL, everybody knew St. Mary’s was loaded with senior-heavy, collegiate-caliber talent. In the SJAA, it was a wide-open field, and Chavez had a veteran offense and was due to take it home. In the VOL, which was split, Oakdale was already a three-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion, and Sierra had a phenomenal senior class with beastly lines.

Yet, who would’ve expected Tokay would edge Lincoln and grab that third automatic playoff bid from the TCAL? Who would’ve supposed Sierra would not only beat Oakdale, but Modesto-Central Catholic, as well? Who knew that Bear Creek would sneak in and nearlyearn the first playoff bid in program history?

Very few, if any. With that in mind, the fantastic, unpredictable nature of this game, here are my league champion predictions from the area, with a runner-up (automatic playoff bid) for each.

We’ll start from small schools and work our way up. For the first league, from Division VII, I’ll by take a look at two.


Champion: Merced-Stone Ridge Christian. This squad is the defending Div. VII champion, and brings back a few key pieces like senior fullback Austin Rees. Elliot Christian is no longer in the league — at one point, they had less than 10 players this offseason, I’ve heard — and would’ve been depleted, anyway.

Runner-up: Brookside Christian. The Knights are a contender not just in this league, but for a section championship. However, Brookside Christian is incredibly young, with a freshman quarterback in Quincy Glasper, a key freshman receiver in Jaylen Williams and more.

It’ll take awhile to get set, and they’ll probably drop the regular-season finale at Stone Ridge.


Champion: Escalon. It’s going to be an all-out war when the Cougars host the reigning TVL champion Modesto Christian Crusaders in the regular-season finale on Nov. 6. Mark Loureiro, Escalon’s coach of 29 years, has his entire offensive line back and told The Record’s Scott Linesburgh that it’s one of the best he’s coached. Throw in senior Hunter Calton, who did a remarkable job replacing injured Christian May last year, racking up nearly 1,000 yards, and you have a chance at Escalon’s ninth section championship run.

Runner-up: Modesto Christian. The Crusaders are certainly the most explosive team in this league. So I might be remiss in picking Escalon, this just feels like one of those years where they go old-school powerhouse on everybody. The most dynamic player in this league, it seems, is Modesto Christian junior Chris Brown, who unloaded 1,604 rushing yards and a whopping 25 touchdowns in 2014.


Champion: Sonora. My easiest pick thus far. The Wildcats were so happy to be freed from the Valley Oak League, where they were still a perennial beast but where they were playing against larger schools, hat they took it out on the poor MLL. Sonora outscored its opponents 299-27 in league last year, including three shutouts. Several key players are graduated, but it’s not even close: this is the Wildcats’ league to lose.

Runner-up: Calaveras. The Redskins return to where they belong in November — the section playoffs. Senior quarterback Dylan Byrd’s leadership and game management capabilities are crucial as Connor Hamilton, a Lions All-Star tailback, graduates.


Champion: Central Catholic. The Raiders were in the mix a year ago, losing at Sierra by a field goal, yet were crushed by eventual section champion Oakdale, by its lines and by its devastating running game, in the season finale at The Corral. Central Catholic brings back more vital pieces, though, including senior quarterback Hunter Petlansky (Columbia), senior wide receiver and athlete Justin Rice (Fresno State) and junior tailback Montell Bland, who as a freshman, was key in the Raiders’ second of three consecutive state championships. And this time, Central Catholic gets to host Oakdale: Nov. 6 in Modesto (plus, Sierra).

Runner-up: Oakdale. The Mustangs will surely miss graduated runners Frankie Trent, a fullback who turned in six touchdowns against Manteca in Oakdale’s 42-21 win at Levi’s Stadium, and Brock Whiting. Quarterback Adam Olsen and tailback Darus Nelson, though, provide senior leadership, and this team could easily be a VOL champion and contend for its fifth section banner.

Third qualifier: Manteca. The VOL is one of seven teams in the section that’s receiving an extra automatic playoff bid. Those were chosen as the top seven teams with the highest combined winnng percentage in the postseason over the last three years. So Manteca, behind the dual-threat senior quarterback Dakarai Charles, formidable senior linebacker Darrion Kitson and two-way standout in senior Ronaldo Tijero, a wide receiver and defensive back, is waiting in the weeds.

Keep an eye out for Sierra, too. They have one of the best running backs around in senior tailback Mark Paule, Jr., and if junior quarterback Mark Vicente performs well, they could easily be in the top three.


Champion: Stagg. The Delta Kings could very well beat the SJAA-TCAL curse and beat Lincoln tomorrow night (although I’m not releasing my predictions until Friday), and they seem to have the most complete team in the SJAA. McNair’s offense is probably better by a hair, but Stagg has more defensive depth and a coach in Don Norton with a world of experience.

Runner-up: McNair. It would’ve been easy for the Eagles to fall apart when head coach Curtis Perkins resigned Aug. 14. Yet, they didn’t, and the passionate, inspired Terrence “Terry” Hampton, a San Joaquin County probation officer, takes over with the coaching staff and team behind him. It’s still a tall task taking over a program two weeks before the season, when you’ve never been a varsity head coach. The interesting thing about the matchup with Stagg is McNair hosts it, on its natural surface, and that could be an advantage.

Dark horse: Chavez. This is the team that probably feels most disrespected by me, and this could certainly be the team that proves my predictions wrong, proves that it’s winning culture is rampant and wins the league. I think they’ll be third, and that probably makes coach John Ward, who understands proper motivation for his team, smile.


Champion: St. Mary’s. The Rams, ranked No. 16 in and The Sacramento Bee’s Joe David’s Preseason NorCal Top 25, graduated 16 of their 22 starters, sure. But as we’ve said all along, St. Mary’s doesn’t meekly rebuild, they reload and take it out the competition.

Junior wide receivers Dewey Cotton and Keaton Hampton highlight the offense, with the help of senior tailback Brandon Zaunbrecher and sophomore Dusty Frampton. Look for a solid year from cornerbacks Ontario Johnson and Brandon Sanders, filling the shoes of second-team All-Area corners Kodi Thruston and Lazarus Ford.

Runner-up: Tracy. The Bulldogs lost just as much as the Rams did, namely, all of the heart-and-soul skill position players like Nate Jones, Jake Alvarado, Brandon Russell and Josh Clarke. But almost all of the offensive and defensive lines return, and as cliche as it is, that wins football games. The Oct. 30 matchup at Lincoln could decide which team earns an automatic playoff bid from the TCAL, and don’t forget about Tokay. If sophomore quarterback Josh Alvarado, Jake’s younger brother, plays in the grinding spirit of his predecessor Michael Brown, Tracy will be just fine.


Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

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    Bob Highfill

    Bob Highfill has been with The Record sports department since 1990. He started as a part-time reporter/agate clerk then covered the high school sports beat before taking on the Pacific athletics beat. In 2006, he was named sports editor. Bob was ... Read Full

    Scott Linesburgh

    Linesburgh has been a member of The Record's sports department since 1988. A native of Wantagh, N.Y., he has covered the Stockton Thunder hockey franchise since its inception in 2005 and has spent more than two decades reporting on motorsports and ... Read Full

    Thomas Lawrence

    Lawrence became a prep and general assignment sports reporter for The Record in August 2014. He has covered high school, college and professional sports and more in his career. From November of 2011 through summer 2014, he covered college and prep ... Read Full
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