Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 44-50

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Brookside Christian receiver Tyrone Vickers, right, stiff arms a Stone Ridge Christian player during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII football championship game in November 2016 at Bear Creek High in Stockton. [RECORD FILE 2016

Everyone gather round the campfire (or the iPhone app that resembles a campfire, whatever), because my Top 50 Football Returners Countdown is back for a third consecutive season.

Every Friday, in honor of Friday Night Lights, we’ll start posting seven of the Top 50 at a time for the next month-and-a-half. Beginning on Aug. 16, we’ll do one each of the Top 10 every day.

No. 1 will be unveiled at Week 0 kickoff on Aug. 25.

This first patch includes players from Amador, Mountain House, Manteca, East Union, Edison, Franklin and Brookside Christian.

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 third 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 2017. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 25.

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 and Mountain House
  • Mother Lode: Amador, Argonaut, Bret Harte, Linden and Calaveras
http://youtu.be/NmCKBx7g7BY

No. 50 – Juan Herrera (5-10, 165), K, Amador, senior

What better way to start the countdown than with a Sac-Joaquin Section and Northern California champion, who delivered quite possibly the most clutch moment in Amador football history. Herrera drilled a game-winning field goal in the final 10 seconds of the section’s Division VI semifinals as Amador staved off an upset bid from Newman-Orestimba in Sutter Creek.

Herrera, a lefty and soccer player, made 57 of 66 extra-point tries and 7 of 8 field goal attempts with a long of 42.

No. 49 – Jalen Hill (5-10, 175), DE/G, Mountain House, senior

Hill was a superb pass rusher for the Mustangs, who were in just their second varsity season. He posted 9.5 sacks for Mountain House, which is slowly building in a tough small-school battlefield: the Trans-Valley League.

No. 48 – Jaysen Reindel (6-2, 260), OL/DL, East Union, senior

Reindel quietly put together one of the best seasons for a multi-sport athlete in 2016-17. He was an All-VOL offensive lineman for East Union football, which reached the section playoffs for just the third time in the past quarter century. And he was a superb heavyweight wrestler and finished eighth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters. Reindel and company will miss graduated linemen like Andy Parcells and Joseph Reynaga (North all-stars), and will have a new quarterback to protect after beloved Jack Weaver (three-year starter, also a Lions star) graduated.

No. 47 – Mateo Fernandez (6-2, 260), OL/DL, Manteca, senior

Fernandez was a second-team, All-Valley Oak League selection for the Buffaloes, who split a VOL championship with Oakdale and Modesto-Central Catholic, beat Auburn-Placer in the section’s Division IV finals and lost a NorCal bowl game to Menlo-Atherton.

He will line up with fellow seniors Justin Kakala and Kyle Reis as part of a formidable line. Manteca is an early favorite to win the VOL outright, given how many juniors were on last year’s squad.

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Franklin quarterback Julian Lopez, center, passes against Chavez during a heavy downpour in an SJAA football game. [RECORD FILE 2016

No. 46 – Julian Lopez (6-1, 170), QB, Franklin, senior

Lopez was the understudy to Julian Serrano as the year began, but got a heap of varsity experience due to Serrano being injured. Lopez struggled at times, but showed flashes of his potential. He completed 47 percent of his passes for 1,154 yards with nine touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Franklin labored to a last-place finish in the SJAA for a second consecutive season.

No. 45 – Nate Banks (5-10, 200), MLB, Edison, junior

Banks is transferring to Edison, where he presumably will have to sit out half the season per the CIF’s transfer rules. Banks was a tackling machine for the Knights, posting 204 total tackles and an interception last season. While the SJAA is hardly a powerhouse, large-school league, Banks will have to prove himself against stiffer competition. Still, 200 tackles is no joke, and he might be one of the most underrated players on this list. So is the guy following him: his former teammate:

No. 44 – Tyrone Vickers (5-11, 160), WR/DB, Brookside Christian, senior

While Reuben Lee gets a lot of the Brookside Christian headlines, Tyrone Vickers has played some superb football on both sides for the Knights and deserves respect. As a junior, Vickers had 45 catches for 658 yards and five touchdowns, and shined in the secondary with 133 tackles and four interceptions. Like Banks, Vickers can boost his stock big-time against heightened competition (Brookside Christian gets its chance with Bay Area’s Milpitas this season).

2017 TOP 50 FOOTBALL RETURNERS COUNTDOWN

 July 7: Players Nos. 44-50

July 14: Players Nos. 37-43

July 21: Players Nos. 30-36

July 28: Players Nos. 23-29

Aug. 4: Players Nos. 16-22

Aug. 11: Players Nos. 11-15

Aug. 16: Player No. 10

Aug. 17: Player No. 9

Aug. 18: Player No. 8

Aug. 19: Player No. 7

Aug. 20: Player No. 6

Aug. 21: Player No. 5

Aug. 22: Player No. 4

Aug. 23: Player No. 3

Aug. 24: Player No. 2

Aug. 25: 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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    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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