The new San Joaquin Athletic Association is what high school football is all about.
This league is all Stockton, and in a six-team format with defending champion Stagg, Edison, Franklin, McNair, Bear Creek and Chavez. The Delta Kings, who went 5-0 in SJAA play and 10-2 overall last year en route to the No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, are the favorites, sure.
But it’s wide-open, as everyone else should be improved.
As we ramp up our coverage here at #RecordPreps heading into the season, I’m taking a look at the top returning players for the SJAA schools. We’re doing at least, but not limited to, one per team.
NOTE: Look for top returners in the TCAL, VOL and more in the next couple of weeks.
WR – LESTER WILLIAMS (Stagg, Sr.)
The Delta Kings will be in an unorthodox offense this season, using former wide receiver Lavante Bushnell at quarterback the first half of the year. After that, Weston Ranch transfer Marcus Moore should step in as a more traditional QB.
Williams was exceptional last season, with a team-high 43 catches for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He may see the ball a bit less with Bushnell, but Delta Kings coach Don Norton likes his new QB’s development, and Williams and Moore should be fast friends come October.
RB/LB – JA’ QUAN WILLIAMS (Edison, Sr.)
Williams, a muscular, 6-foot, 210-pound senior, will see a much heavier role as a tailback in 2014.
He was limited in 2013, with 18 carries for 58 yards for two touchdowns, but coach Andre Horace sees a heavy role for him. He and quarterback Sean Buligon must lead Edison.
QB – BRICE WEBER (Bear Creek, Sr.)
Weber has limited stats posted from a year ago, but needs to be on his game for the Bruins to compete in the SJAA.
QB – JULIUS DAVILA (Chavez, Jr.)
Having a solid returning senior quarterback is rare and treasured in high school football. Having a junior is even better.
Davila is back to lead coach John Ward’s Titans, a team I believe will improve in 2014, and threw for 2,250 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine INTs in 2013. He also had four rushing scores.
WR/CB – ALBERT RIVERA (Franklin, Sr.)
Rivera only had four catches for 37 yards and two TDs in a rough year for the Yellowjackets – 3-7 overall and 0-5 in the SJAA – but he’s coming back to an offense that nearly graduated entirely.
For example, no Franklin player returning had more than eight yards rushing a year ago.
WR/S – SEAN HAMILTON (McNair, Jr.)
Hamilton, the rare junior returner on a list like this, was vital in McNair’s passing game, with 18 catches for 415 yards and four TDs.
LB – JEFFREY VALVERDE (Stagg, Sr.)
Valverde is the kind of enforcer a young Stagg team needs to defend its SJAA title, heading a new-look 4-2-5 defense.
Last season, Valverde had a team-high 120 total tackles with four sacks.
WR – PRIEST JENNINGS (Chavez, Sr.)
Jennings wasn’t used as heavily as all-area teammate Darrin Gentry last season, but was solid when he got the ball. As a junior, Jennings had 14 catches for 192 yards and two TDs.
QB/LB/DB – SETH SANTOS (McNair, Sr.)
Santos was one of the bright spots in a difficult season for the Eagles, passing for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Thanks for reading, everybody, and stay tuned for my top returning players from the TCAL, VOL and more. And, please, if you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to contact me. I’m an open book.
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