Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 33-38

Tracy football's Kristien Reyes, right, returns a kickoff against Lincoln in November 2015 at Spanos Stadium in Stockton. Reyes is No. 33 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football countdown. RECORD FILE 2015

We’re getting into batches of the serious difference-makers. They may be unheralded, but they can play some pigskin.

My Top 50 Football Returners Countdown returns, with picks from Stagg, Escalon, Ripon, Manteca, McNair and Tracy. Dig in.

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here they are, players Nos. 33-38:

Stagg quarterback Stephon Favela stepped in for injured senior Lavante Bushnell to guide the offense in a 63-35 loss to St. Mary's in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs in November 2015 at Sanguinetti Field. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/RECORD FILE 2015

No. 38 – Stephon Favela (5-7), Stagg, QB, Jr.

Favela did an admirable job stepping in occasionally for first-team All-Area selection Lavante Bushnell last year. Usually, that was to mix up the offense and give Bushnell a spell at wide receiver. But in an opening-round, Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff game at St. Mary’s, it happened when Bushnell was injured. Favela threw for 777 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions overall as a sophomore. In the St. Mary’s game, Favela went 39 of 60 for 406 yards with three TDs and a pick. Had Favela played a full season, or started games, he’d be much higher on this list, but as this countdown gives more credit to those with more and more experience, he may be one of the underrated listings.

No. 37 – C.J. Gumbs (5-10, 155), Escalon, RB/DB, Sr.

Running backs have marked success in the Wing-T system, on Mark Loureiro’s traditional small-school powerhouse football team, and Gumbs figures to continue that tradition. Hunter Calton was the starter last year, but now it’s likely in Gumbs’ hands. As a junior, Gumbs tallied 522 rushing yards for seven touchdowns, averaging 11 yards per carry. Gumbs had seven receptions for 75 yards and another TD, and 34 tackles and two interceptions on defense.

No. 36 – Aaron Paschini (5-8, 145), Ripon, WR/DB, Sr.

Paschini had plenty of help on offense last year, led by seniors in quarterback Nick Price and wide receiver Jacob Duxbury. But when he got his touches, man, did he deliver. Paschini had 54 catches for 781 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a whopping 15 yards per catch. Translation: when this dude gets a quick pass with a sliver of space, he makes you pay. Paschini also had an interception on defense.

No. 35 – James Thomas (6-1, 190), Manteca, LB/FB, Sr.

Thomas was a welcome surprise to the 2015 Buffs, one of the men on defense who coach Eric Reis loved, saying that they played angry and had “bad intentions.” Thomas’ statistics don’t speak to his impact. He had 34 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, along with four rushing touchdowns. Expect him and junior Ferrin Manuleleua to be the heart and soul of Manteca’s defense.

No. 34 – Austin Sith (5-6, 160), McNair, RB, Sr.

Sith has two years of being a varsity starting running back under his belt, which sets him apart from the vast majority of tailbacks in this area. As a junior, on a team that passed the ball an average of 30 times per game, Sith still managed 74 carries for 573 yards and five touchdowns. As a sophomore, Sith had 622 yards and seven more touchdowns. He’s slippery in the open field and has underrated speed once he gets away. Don’t be surprised if he posts his first 1,000-yard season and thus surpasses 2,000 career yards.

No. 33 – Kristien Reyes (5-10, 185), Tracy, LB/RB, Jr.

Reyes, much like Thomas, cannot be valued by his stats alone. He flies around the field, as a linebacker, defensive back, receiver and rusher, and with his long, curly hair, reminds you of a high school Troy Polamalu at work. Reyes had 37 tackles, a sack and two fumble recoveries, with 207 rushing yards and 41 receiving yards as a sophomore.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
Today: Players Nos. 33-38
July 28: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 4: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 11: Players Nos. 15-20

Aug. 14: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: Player No. 10
Aug. 18: Player No. 9
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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The verdict is in

Some of the true movers and shakers in the wine industry and other well-intended folks converged Monday morning at Viaggio Winery in Lodi.
They tasted and evaluated dozens of wines, talked about them, learned about each other and went home with writer’s cramp after judging the Bottle Shock Open, a competition for amateur home winemakers in its third year.
The Bottle Shock Open is the toughest wine competition to judge, according to Lodi’s G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski, who coordinated the judging and helped put on the event. Pucilowski would know, as he has more than 30 years experience as a wine educator, consultant, writer and chief wine judge. And he owns a prestigious California State Fair Golden Bear award.
More than 40 judges took part. Each tasted and evaluated 20 to 30 wines made from home winemakers in California, Nevada, Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York.
Why is the Bottle Shock Open so tough to judge?
“The reason is you have to write notes,” Pucilowski said to the judges prior to the tasting. “Now, you’re only going to have to judge 25 wines, but I want notes on every single wine. This is for home winemakers. We want home winemakers to know what’s going on with their wine, good or bad, so every judge that judges that wine is going to give me extensive notes.”
Monday was my first experience judging the Bottle Shock Open, having twice judged the Consumer Wine Awards, once in Lodi and once in Sacramento. Pucilowski broke the judges into panels of three or four, and put at least one wine expert in each group. The judges included Fresno State Professor Emeritus Tim Fugelsang, Brad Alderson of Woodbridge-Mondavi, Markus Niggli of Borra Vineyards and Markus Wine Co., Greg Burns of Jessie’s Grove, Scott Harvey of Scott Harvey Wines, Steve O’Neill with O’Neill Vintners, Lindsey Dugan with Grace Patriot Wines, Bradley Gray from Scotto Cellars, and author Clark Smith.
My panel included a couple heavy-hitters: Wine writer Roger Stockton of Nevada and Scott Smith, general manager and wine buyer at Sacramento’s landmark Biba Ristorante Italiano.
By grouping the panels in this way, the non-experts could learn from the experts when it came time to discuss the wines. Better educated wine enthusiasts make better judges. The Bottle Shock Open is about education, not only for the home winemakers, who receive extensive notes, but for the judges.
Each wine in a flight had a corresponding judging sheet broken into categories of appearance, aroma/bouquet, taste/flavor and quality, with a space for comments. There were five winemaking experts who floated about the room as technical judges and were available to answer questions.
Each judge had to assign their personal, initial score for each wine, then the panel shared their scores, discussed them and came to a consensus in awarding a final score of no-award, honorable mention, bronze, silver-minus, silver, silver-plus, gold-minus or gold. The gold-medal wines were judged again in the best of show category.
Stockton, Smith and I reviewed a flight of red blends, a flight of cabernet sauvignon and a flight of blush wine, about 20 total. Many of the wines were good and I’m certain every judge appreciated the effort that went into all of them.
The Bottle Shock Open was created by the Lodi Amateur Vintners Association, a collection of home winemakers and wine enthusiasts, when the state and San Joaquin County canceled their home winemaking events during the recent economic downturn. The state has since resumed its competition.
LAVA members meet monthly and share their knowledge and ideas and taste wine. Several noted commercial winemakers started through LAVA.
“We are all part of LAVA and we want our wines to be judged,” said Greg Helland, who works for Boboli International and has been a wine aficionado and collector for decades, and an amateur home winemaker and LAVA member for about four years. “We want to know whether we’re doing well or not and Pooch’s whole idea is making sure we all have really good notes. That was the key. That makes this different. And we use tech judges and we have expert judges on the tables. We do a lot of things that
nobody else does. We do a lot of mentoring of new judges and that’s very cool.”
Aaron Kidder and his team frantically crunched the scores Monday and the results will be posted in the coming week at bottleshockopen.com. An awards party will be thrown, perhaps in September, at a site to be determined.
Kidder said the theory is to grow the Bottle Shock Open into an international competition.
“We do about 300 wines here, so this is probably considered small, but we’re growing and getting better,” Pucilowski said. “And what we’re getting good about is getting good notes back to the home winemakers.”

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Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 39-44

McNair students and fans cheer on the Eagles during an October 2015 win over Chavez. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2015

My top football returner rankings continue, with six guys who are set to improve immensely in 2016.

Whether it be more experienced rosters, or a better schematic circumstance to succeed, the names on this list may not be familiar now, but they should be by November.

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here they are, players Nos. 39-44:

No. 44 – Julian Serrano (5-11, 180), QB/FS, Franklin, Sr.

Serrano, who’s told me he actually prefers playing defense, did take over as quarterback during last season. And he’s the favorite to be under center again for the Yellowjackets and second-year coach Larry Thompson. As a junior, Serrano had 640 passing yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also added two rushing touchdowns. Franklin, Bear Creek and Edison are all primed to gain on — not overtake, but gain on — teams like Stagg in the SJAA’s upper third after a brutal 2015.

No. 43 – Tyree Stricklen (5-7, 165), QB/CB, Edison, Sr.

Stricklen is one of those versatile players set to benefit big time from new coach Booker Guyton’s “Air Raid” offense, which I believe will be dubbed the “E Raid.” Edison only posted four games worth of statistics out of 10 last year on MaxPreps. In that time, Stricklen completed 54 percent of his passes for 453 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also added 153 rushing yards. In a more modern offense, and in a season which should allow for more success with a more experienced team and a rebuilding SJAA, expect Stricklen to take off.

Tied at No. 42 – Robert Whitfield (5-6, 183), RB/LB, Bear Creek, Sr. and Robert Moreno (5-9, 190), MLB, Bear Creek, Sr.

The Bruins had almost entirely new faces last year, but the gritty play of leaders like Whitfield and Moreno are what led Bear Creek to SJAA victories over Edison and Franklin. Whitfield and Moreno were heralded as leaders by coach Reggie Camp last season. Whitfield racked up a team-high 442 rushing yards with a TD through the Bruins’ first seven games. Moreno, meanwhile, anchored the defense with a team-high 81 tackles, with four sacks.

No. 41 – Wayne Coberly III (6-0, 165), WR/TBA, Tokay, Jr.

Coberly III showed down the stretch last season that he could be a versatile offensive threat last season. And don’t be surprised if Coberly III spends time at quarterback as a dual-threat this year, as Tokay tries to climb out of the Tri-City Athletic League cellar. As a sophomore, Coberly III had 18 catches for 275 yards and two touchdowns. The quarterback situation at Tokay, of course, is subject to change, as I haven’t been out to a workout or camp yet to verify.

No. 40 – Bryant Bowen Jr., RB, Weston Ranch, Sr.

With Erron Duncan, our 12th annual Charles Washington Award winner, graduated, it’s Bowen’s turn to head the running game behind an impressive Weston Ranch offensive line. Bowen tallied 46 carries for 377 yards last season, with an average of 8 yards per rush, with two touchdowns. He’s had immense amounts of varsity experience the past two years, and is primed for a Renaissance.

No. 39 – Hunter White (5-9, 160), WR/DB, Linden, Sr.

Everyone knew the Lions’ offense would probably be led by quarterback Anthony Craven and dual-threat Max Nicol. But White was a surprise, two-way standout for Linden, taking 53 carries for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with 25 tackles and four interceptions on defense. Linden’s last winning season was in 2004, and if that’s going to change, White must have a superb senior season.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
July 21: Players Nos. 33-38
July 28: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 4: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 11: Players Nos. 15-20

Aug. 14: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: Player No. 10
Aug. 18: Player No. 9
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Trio of former Tigers raking in minors

Pacific baseball's Brett Sullivan (left) is congratulated after scoring a run against Gonzaga in March 2014. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/RECORD FILE 2014

Brett Sullivan, Gio Brusa and Tyler Sullivan had excellent collegiate baseball careers at Pacific. Especially offensively. Of course, baseball requires production across the lineup and roster, so the Sullivan brothers and Brusa playing well never was enough to push Pacific to its first NCAA playoff appearance.

But the three are doing their thing in Minor League Baseball. Tyler Sullivan, from Lincoln High, is a left-handed outfielder selected in the 14th round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. The elder Sullivan is batting .266 with 18 extra-base hits, 28 RBI and 19 stolen bases for the high “A” ball Kannapolis Intimidators of the Carolina League in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

Younger brother Brett Sullivan, an infielder, was taken in the 17th round of the 2015 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s batting .299 with 10 home runs for the “A” ball Bowling Green Hot Rods in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The younger Sullivan is also from Lincoln.

Finally, there’s Lodi’s Gio Brusa, a St. Mary’s High product who hit 14 home runs as a Pacific senior and was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the sixth round of this year’s draft. That earned him a nice $262,700 signing bonus and a spot, for now, with the short-season “A” ball Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, in Salem, Oregon.

Brusa is batting .390 with two home runs, five RBI and an OPS of 1.032 in 11 games played.

Expect Brusa, as long as he stays healthy and productive, to be put on the Cal League’s San Jose Giants next spring, and make multiple return trips to Stockton to face the Ports.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Top Five Nonleague Football Games to Watch

 

St. Mary's wide receiver Dewey Cotton, right, attempts to catch a pass against Modesto-Central Catholic last September at the Rams' Sanguinetti Field in Stockton. RECORD FILE 2015

The joy of high school football season arriving is quickly replaced by a need for the league season to begin.

After all, the vast majority of preseason matchups either end up lopsided (an easy ‘W’ for an established program and a point of growth for a losing program), or even if they’re close, the matchup has little intrigue or history.

But, through those weeks, there are a handful of games that deserve our full attention, and that I’m looking forward to seeing without a doubt.

Here are the top five preseason games to watch in The Record’s coverage area:

WEEK 0 (Friday, Aug. 26)

Sierra at Ripon, 7:30 p.m.

The Timberwolves return from their glorious CIF State Division IV-A championship run (not to mention, their NorCal Division IV-A and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV banners). Senior quarterback Mark Vicente is likely to maintain his focus more than Saracen did, after guiding a state-clinching TD drive in the mud and slop in Chowchilla last December. The Timberwolves’ defensive duo of buddies and tackle machines are back in linebacker Seuseu Alofaituli and safety Nashon Tamiano.

But questions linger. Who’s running the ball? Who are they throwing the ball to? How do they replace the size and sheer presence of two-way lineman Joshua Fala?

Ripon, of course, is one of the area teams lining up to tarnish Sierra’s magical run. The Indians beat the Timberwolves last year, and soundly so in Week 0, but funnily enough, the section’s Division V bracket had better teams (Sonora, Ripon, Bear River, to name three) than Div. IV.

WEEK 0 (Saturday, Aug. 27)

St. Mary’s at San Mateo-Serra, 1 p.m.

St. Mary’s, believed to be one of the top teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section, if not the best, begins with a Saturday day game at the alma mater of four-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. (Not to mention Barry Bonds, but who’s counting).

The Rams have heavy expectations on them, and these tough nonleague games are crucial, as they try to build up a total resume and good enough won-loss record that could give them a high enough seed to host a Folsom, Del Oro or Grant in a section semifinal.

WEEK 1 (Friday, Sept. 2)

Edison at Weston Ranch, 7 p.m.

Booker is back. Former Edison coach Booker Guyton is now the current coach, and his return is on the road against a fellow south Stockton team. The Vikings are implementing a more modern, “Air Raid” offense that will be dubbed the “E Raid.”

Weston Ranch elevated itself as a program last year, finishing 5-5 and a victory away from returning to the section playoffs for the first time in a decade. The offensive line, known as “The Protectors of The Ranch” is formidable again, Andrew Farley is a defensive playmaker and the Cougars believe their offensive skill position players are underrated.

WEEK 2 (Friday, Sept. 9)

St. Mary’s at Modesto-Central Catholic, 7 p.m.

The “Holy Bowl” is back, and with it some massive expectations.

Central Catholic is a four-time defending CIF State champion, one which handled ascending to Division III of the section from Div. IV, beating Oakdale twice to reach the state playoff stage.

The Rams, though, will be hungry for payback from last year’s two-touchdown “Holy  Bowl” loss at Sanguinetti Field, and no matter how well the Raiders have re-loaded, St. Mary’s should have the advantage on the lines and in its offensive speed and experience.

Central Catholic’s home field and natural surface, and the fact that this is a rivalry game, should even out what would be a more marked St. Mary’s advantage in Stockton.

WEEK 4 (Friday, Sept. 23)

Chavez at Lincoln, 7:15 p.m.

Though the Stagg-Lincoln matchup was discontinued after two years (and who can blame either school, after six Stagg players were suspended indefinitely in 2014, and the game ended at halftime as the stadium descended into panic in 2015), Lincoln still has an intra-Stockton, preseason matchup.

Chavez comes in featuring a new coach and new leaders on both sides of the ball, while Lincoln needs all of its preseason victories to try and earn a higher playoff seed down the line. And, of course, as an insurance plan for an at-large bid depending on how much Tracy has improved come Tri-City Athletic League play.

Expect a good amount of scoring, and though the Trojans are early favorites, it’ll be fascinating to see who Chavez names coach and what impact he’ll have on a program that has already improved mightily under John Ward, now the Delta College linebackers coach.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Way Too Early: The Record’s Pre-Pre-Season All-Area Football First Team

Folks, this is just for fun. But hey, were I to predict The Record’s All-Area football first team in July (a month before official camp even opens) this is my rough draft.

I’ll do a more official Preseason All-Area team in late August, and of course, the real deal in December.

Enjoy this, and again, it’s just for fun:

THE RECORD’S PRESEASON ALL-AREA FOOTBALL TEAM

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

QB – Jake Dunniway (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

RB – Noah Preuss (Calaveras, Sr.)

RB – Dusty Frampton (St. Mary’s, Jr.)

RB – Austin Sith (McNair, Sr.)

TE – Miquan Maxey (Lincoln, Sr.)

WR – Dewey Cotton (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

WR – Damion Pursley (Franklin, Sr.)

WR – Keaton Hampton (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

OL – Popo Aumavae (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

OL – Ryan Williams (Lincoln, Sr.)

OL – Dominic Splan (Tracy, Sr.)

OL – Jarett Carl (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

OL – Kyle Reis (Manteca, Jr.)

UT – Josh Alvarado (Tracy, Jr.)

K – Jack Weaver (East Union, Sr.)

DEFENSE

DL – Cole Norgaard (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

DL – Keller Salmon (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

DL – Mikie Prefling (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

DL – Zach Fleming (Tokay, Sr.)

LB – Jalend Dinwiddie (Stagg, Sr.)

LB – Seuseu Alofaituli (Sierra, Sr.)

LB – Ferrin Manuleleua (Manteca, Jr.)

LB – Seth Tennis (McNair, Sr.)

DB – David Ford (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

DB – Isaiah Downes (Lincoln, Sr.)

DB – Cutrell Haywood (Stagg, Sr.)

DB – Nashon Tamiano (Sierra, Sr.)

KR – Hassani Zackery (Edison, Jr.)

P – Tre Tuipuloto Willis Jr. (Lathrop, Sr.)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 45-50

The Stagg student section cheers during their Aug. 28, 2015, home game against Lincoln in Stockton. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2015

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here they are, players Nos. 45-50:

No. 50 – Jovantae Redic (5-8, 176), RB/OLB, Edison, Sr.

Last season, Edison came into competition departing every single player who’d had any meaningful offensive impact, or scored a touchdown, for that matter. Redic, though, got his experience in the offset veer offense. It is now an air-raid under first-year coach Booker Guyton, who also coached the Vikings from 1998-2002. Redic tallied 32 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown through the first four games last year. Edison’s statistics on MaxPreps end at that point. Redic also had 17 tackles on defense.

No. 49 – Mark Reyes (5-9, 185), LB, Chavez, Sr.

Reyes posted 75 tackles for the Titans as a junior, and is the pre-eminent defensive leader coming back for 2016. Chavez will have a new head coach, yet to be announced, and the San Joaquin Athletic Association saw most of its top players from 2015 graduate. So, it may be anyone’s game, though Stagg is an early favorite with some key returners. Reyes could have a key season for Chavez.

No. 48 – Jonah Gaoteote (6-1, 195), FB/LB/DE, West, Jr.

West has been the “Marcel Dancy Show” the past two seasons, with all due respect to the Velasco brothers and talented lineman Francisco Jimenez, all of whom are graduated. Gaoteote’s experience is crucial. The junior tallied 15 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown as a tailback, with 59 tackles, two sacks and an interception on defense.

No. 47 – Cole Carouba (5-9, 170), RB/DB, Lodi, Sr.

Two years ago, it was the Flames’ Chance Trammell rushing for 1,000 yards in the Wing-T offense. And last autumn, quarterback Matt Meehleis had a team-high 700 yards. It appears to be Carouba’s time to shine. As a junior, Carouba had 45 carries for 257 yards and two TDs, and made 80 tackles on defense.

No. 46 – Quincy Glasper (6-1, 150), QB, Brookside Christian, So.

The bad news, is that Brookside Christian struggled to a 3-7 record last season, when it wanted to make the playoffs. The good news is Glasper already has one varsity season under his belt, and though he struggled at times, with 11 interceptions, he had over 1,600 passing yards with 13 touchdowns. He’ll continue to improve, and a returning quarterback is so valuable at the varsity level, especially for small schools, when a program can more easily ascend into the postseason with quick turnover.

No. 45 – Isaias Hunter (5-9, 145), LB/WR, Lathrop, Sr.

Hunter’s athleticism was proved this spring, as he was Sac-Joaquin Section Masters runner-up in the high jump, qualifying for the CIF State meet at Clovis-Buchanan. And he was an important piece of the historic Lathrop football team last fall, the one that produced the first winning season in program history, and earned the No. 1 seed in the section’s Division IV playoffs. Hunter had 14 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown, and two interceptions and 16 tackles on defense. Lathrop’s statistics only went through the first seven games of the season.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
July 21: Players Nos. 33-38
July 28: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 4: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 11: Players Nos. 15-20

Aug. 14: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: Player No. 10
Aug. 18: Player No. 9
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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The Formidable Five: Linebackers

Stagg linebacker Jalend Dinwiddie, front, was the Delta Kings' top tackler and pass rusher in 2015. RECORD FILE 2015

Many of the top pass-rushing and gap-plugging defensive linemen, and best defensive backs graduated this spring.

However, the linebackers from The Record’s coverage area, from San Joaquin County up into the Mother Lode, may have a Renaissance this autumn.

My “Formidable Five” series continues, after breaking down the defensive backs on Tuesday, to take a glance at five impressive returning LBs in our area. As you’ll notice, there are several more deserving names mentioned at the bottom as well. They could’ve easily made this list.

Here we go, beginning with a tackles machine-turned-quarterback destroyer from north Stockton:

SETH TENNIS (McNair, Sr.)

Tennis, at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, has been critical to the Eagles’ defense the past two years. The incoming senior had 70 tackles and a team-high nine sacks last autumn, and paced McNair with 118 tackles as a sophomore. Tennis has been an All-Area honorable mention pick for The Record the past two seasons.

JALEND DINWIDDIE (Stagg, Sr.)

Dinwiddie was a revelation for Stagg as a junior, posting 147 tackles and 7.5 sacks, the latter of which was tied for team-high with Robert Strother. With the graduation of the Strother brothers and first-team linebacker Jonathan Phillips, Dinwiddie’s presence is as important as ever.

KRISTIEN REYES (Tracy, Jr.)

Reyes’ tackles numbers weren’t out of control, but his energy, speed and ferocity were very apparent as Tracy went through a learning curve in 2015. I expect him to be one of the defensive leaders, and a factor running the ball, too, as Tracy has a bounceback season and returns to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

FERRIN MANULELEUA (Manteca, Jr.)

Manuleleua was quiet at first as a sophomore on varsity, his then-teammate Darrion Kitson once told me, but once he started letting his inner-beast out, it only benefited the Buffs. The 6-foot, 215-pound Manuleleua tallied 62 tackles in just nine games played (Manteca played 12 overall). Expect him to improve exponentially, with fellow linebacker in senior James Thomas.

SEUSEU ALOFAITULI (Sierra, Sr.)

Alofaituli, along with his friend Nashon Tamiano, made a pivotal switch to a more natural position during the season. He moved from safety to linebacker, and Sierra was only better because of it, playing great defense in winning section Division IV, NorCal and CIF State Division IV-A championships. He totaled 96 tackles, five pass deflections and a sack.

MORE LINEBACKERS TO WATCH: Jared Zermeno (Tokay, Sr.), Nick Quinday (Calaveras, Sr.), Hunter White (Linden, Sr.), Taylor Dickson (Lincoln, Sr.), Robert Whitfield (Bear Creek, Sr.)

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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The Formidable Five: Defensive Backs

Welcome to “The Formidable Five.”

In this high school football blog series, we’ll lay out five area players at each position group, who are proven talents and ones to watch for the upcoming 2016 season. Sometimes, they might have an even higher impact at another position, but they’re on this list for a reason. Again, if a player is highly-touted, but has not proven themselves at the varsity level, he or she will not be considered.

This all leads up to my Top 50 Returner Rankings, which begin July 8.

Let’s start off with the secondary:

CUTRELL HAYWOOD (Stagg, Sr.)

Haywood is quite possibly the best two-way player in San Joaquin County, and has an incredibly-high ceiling.

As a junior, Haywood dominated on both sides of the ball, tallying five interceptions for 260 return yards on defense, and grabbing 62 catches for 915 yards and 11 TDs on offense. Haywood made an enormous impact in just his second varsity game, as a midseason sophomore call-up in October 2014.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Haywood had four interceptions and three touchdown catches in a 55-20 win over McNair.

Stagg needs Haywood to replicate, and improve upon, those efforts in 2016 as they move forward with a brand-new quarterbacks, stable of running backs, and with many key new linemen and defensive players.

ISAIAH DOWNES (Lincoln, Sr.)

Downes played in a star-studded secondary, with then-senior Cameron Crump (Cal Poly football) and junior Izaiah Celestine, but shone brightest in 2015. He recorded seven interceptions, including four in one game, in a thrilling win over West. Downes had a touchdown in the season-opening win over west.

He and Celestine have their hands full this season, especially in their regular-season finale against rival St. Mary’s, which features three of the best wide receivers in the area: seniors Dewey Cotton and Keaton Hampton and junior Marcus Aponte.

DAVID FORD (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

Ford isn’t going to be the two-way star like Haywood, and probably, won’t rack up the interception total of Downes. But Ford is a blue-collar, hard-hitting safety, which apparently runs in the family: his brother Lazarus Ford was an All-Area defensive back, too.

David Ford recorded 111 tackles, a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles. The Rams will have new starting cornerbacks after Ontario Johnson and Brandon Sanders graduated, so Ford’s leadership is vital as ever.

Manteca sophomore quarterback Gino Campiotti, right, gives a handoff to Marcus Rivas during a section playoff game against Ceres-Central Valley. RECORD FILE 2015

GINO CAMPIOTTI (Manteca, Jr.)

Campiotti was an underrated safety, Buffaloes coach Eric Reis told me last year, and filled in for a defense that graduated a lot of leaders from 2014. And he’s on this list, in part, because the “Top 5″ quarterback list has several players who do not make an impact on defense. In the interest of giving more talented players the recognition they deserve, Campiotti has made this slot, though his greater impact on Manteca may be through being a quarterback.

NASHON TAMIANO (Sierra, Sr.)

Tamiano started off the CIF State-championship season for the Timberwolves at linebacker, but found a home as a safety. He recorded 93 tackles, switching places with friend Seuseu Alofaituli, who moved from safety to linebacker. Tamiano also had two sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Five Prep Volleyball Players to Watch

For the majority of the All-Area Player of the Year awards The Record gives out, the athlete happens to be a senior. It’s a coupling of talent, and the full high school experience that culminates in the premier season.

But Amilya Thompson is one of those rare cases who’s too good to deny.

Thompson, then a Lincoln High junior, was The Record’s All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year, guiding the Trojans to an outright Tri-City Athletic League title with her stoic-but-powerful play.

She’s back, and headlines my list of Five Volleyball Players to Watch for 2016.

AMILYA THOMPSON (Lincoln OH, Sr.)

Thompson, 16, had 387 kills, 324 digs and 66 aces. Translation: she was the top attacker and receiver, and  a major force behind the serving stripe.

She and now-junior outside hitter Kennedy Greenwood make Lincoln an inherent favorite to repeat in the TCAL, and try to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals. The Trojans do have a new coach in Jolana Fowler, who replaces Garren Allala and Gabe Leal.

LILI ITA (Chavez MB, Sr.)

Ita, an All-Area first-team middle blocker, improved dramatically for Titans coach Dodd Pinkham as a junior. She was a threat to deliver a kill or a block, and tallied 330 kills and 141 blocks. Chavez shared the San Joaquin Athletic Association title with Bear Creek.

CHELSEY EDDY-BERRY (Tracy L, Sr.)

The libero is one of the most underrated positions in sports, a defensive-minded, selfless leader for volleyball teams that rarely get recognized. Chelsey Eddy-Berry, a first-team All-Area libero, followed in the footsteps of older sister Casey Eddy-Berry, who was a first-team libero the year before.

HANNAH PRESLEY (Tracy OH/MB/S, Sr.)

Presley was not just a first team selection, but was a candidate to be All-Area Player of the Year. While the Bulldogs knew what they had in outside hitter Grace Murphy (Sonoma State), and expected Eddy-Berry to keep up the family tradition, Presley’s prowess as a hitter, blocker and setter was incredible. And she’s back for a high school finale.

SYDNEY MARKS (St. Mary’s OH, Sr.)

Rams coach Jayne McHugh felt that outside hitter, and formerly middle blocker, Ngozi Nwabuzoh was the heart and soul of last year’s team. But the former Pacific national champion and Olympian was vastly impressed with Marks’ all-around ability, and what it meant to the Rams. Expect Marks to once again be there for timely kills and assists in St. Mary’s 2016 campaign.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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