The Valley Oak League has become a hall of champions.
The new VOL, an eight-team gauntlet, has Central Catholic (17 Sac-Joaquin Section championships, back-to-back NorCal and state titles), Manteca (4 SJSCIF titles, NorCal bowl appearance last season) and Oakdale (2013 NorCal D-II champion, three SJSCIF banners).
Not to mention a playoff team in Sierra, along with Weston Ranch, East Union, Kimball and Lathrop.
Locally, we’ll focus on the Manteca schools – Sierra, Manteca and EU – and Stockton’s Weston Ranch. I’ll also try to include Tracy’s Kimball. Manteca opens with a heck of experience Aug. 29, with a 4:30 p.m. game at the 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The Buffaloes face Wilcox of Santa Clara, which beat Manteca 28-27 in OT in Manteca to kick off last season.
I hope to be there, and if so, I’ll be updating live on Twitter.
For now, here are the Top VOL Returners for 2014. To look at my SJAA and TCAL returners, check out our blog.
RB – HECTOR SOTO (Manteca, Sr.)
Soto played third fiddle behind Alex Laurel and Michael Gonzalez in the Buffaloes’ D-III championship and NorCal D-II bowl game run, with 487 rushing yards on 67 carries with eight touchdowns.
Odds are he’ll be the man in the backfield spotlight this season.
DB – DOM PISANO (Manteca, Sr.)
Pisano led the Buffaloes with 87 tackles as a junior, adding two interceptions.
He’ll need to be the leader on the defensive side once again as Manteca ventures into the brutal VOL.
WR – HUNTER JOHNSON (Sierra, Sr.)
Johnson could be an early candidate for an all-area receiver, coming off a junior season where he hauled in 46 catches for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His QB from last year, and our first-team all-area QB Jake Pruitt, will no longer be there, though.
LB – TREVON MCCRAY (Sierra, Sr.)
McCray powered the Timberwolves with a team-high 88 tackles as a junior, with one forced fumble and a blocked pass.
You can bet Sierra will need McCray to hold down the fort in late-game situations against Manteca, Central Catholic and Oakdale, to name a few.
LB – ANGEL ROBLERO (East Union, Sr.)
Roblero led his team in tackles as a junior, too, with 102 of them for the Lancers. He also forced a fumble and had a rushing touchdown against Orestimba of Newman.
WR – CHRIS CANNADAY (Weston Ranch, Sr.)
Cannaday was a bright spot amid the Cougars’ 3-7 season, with 41 catches for 643 yards and six touchdowns.
The tough part for him is his quarterback, now-senior Marcus Moore, transferred to Stagg and will lead the defending-TCAL champion Delta Kings in the second half of the season.
MORE RETURNERS TO WATCH
TE JARED RICE (Central Catholic, Sr.)
QB HUNTER PETLANSKY (Central Catholic, Jr.)
RB MONTELL BLAND (Central Catholic, So.)
DL LANCON ICHORD (Oakdale, Sr.)
RB RASHAAD COOPER (Kimball, Sr.)
DB JACOB TALOA (Kimball, Sr.)
*Lathrop did not have any statistics posted for the 2013 season, so I could not surmise who its best returner would be. The same stats problem goes for Oakdale, but thanks to my friend Rich Estrada, aka “Black Hat Football”, I was able to find Ichord.
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