The marquee names are obvious.
Stagg is coming off a 10-2 season overall and a 5-0, triumphant Tri-City Athletic League championship campaign. St. Mary’s is a powerful private school program, with D-I championships in 2004 and ’08. Even the smaller schools like Calaveras could repeat as league champions.
And no, we haven’t forgotten about Manteca: the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion and NorCal D-II bowl competitor.
But there are a handful of teams that could surprise in 2014, if not in the playoffs then at least in league competition.
Here’s a few of them I’ve compiled in my short time at The Record:
Considering Lincoln’s solid history – including the 2000 Sac-Joaquin Section D-I championship – and resources it shouldn’t be a sleeper.
But the Tri-City Athletic League is just loaded this year, and defending SJAA champion Tracy, perennial power St. Mary’s and upstart Tokay may bury some of the Trojans’ press.
Even from a brief visit to Lincoln’s camp, though, they look physical, they look hungry and they look focused. Throw in returning quarterback Colby Dickson and his top target in WR Mark Russell, and you have a potential league contender.
The Trojans’ front four led by Jordan McMiller helps, too.
Even with losing some fantastic seniors, all signs point to Stagg winning back-to-back league championships behind first-half quarterback Davante Bushnell, and second-half transfer Marcus Moore, stud WR Lester Williams and D-I prospect lineman Tristen Taylor.
However, the Titans could be on the up-and-up, and are not to be trifled with.
This is especially true because of Julius Davila. He’ s not only a returning senior quarterback, but the top returning passer in the league. He threw for 1,990 yards and 18 TDs as a junior, and WR/RB Priest Jennings returns as a versatile weapon.
Jennings ran for 791 yards and seven TDs, and had 192 receiving yards and two more TDs. The Titans will miss Darrin Gentry, but on defense, look for Trumaine Williams (56 tackles, four sacks last year) to thrive.
It just seems funny to call Escalon a sleeper.
I mean, really, the Cougars have eight section championships in their history. The things is, the Trans Valley League was loaded with small-school swagger last season, and Escalon finished third behind Ripon and Hilmar.
In fact, those same Hilmar Yellowjackets downed the Cougars 14-7 in the Division IV quarterfinals.
But Escalon rarely has two league losses, or gets a 10 seed. And I don’t see it happening again.
Tailback Christian May is back to do damage, and I see Escalon rebounding and having a better year.
ALSO LOOK OUT FOR:
Edison Vikings (SJAA)
Lodi Flames (TCAL)
Sierra Timberwolves (VOL)
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