Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 37-43

”]We’re now into the top 40 of my Top 50 Football Returners Countdown. And high school football is less than a month and a half away.

Every Friday, in honor of Friday Night Lights, we’ll start posting seven of the Top 50 at a time until mid-August. 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.

Away we go:

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

No. 43 – Vincent Ferro (5-10, 160), SS/RB, Manteca, senior

If you’re an opponent of the Manteca football team, you’d hope that between their dominant lines on both sides of the ball, their ability to run the ball and their collegiate-caliber quarterback, you’d get a break. Not with Vincent Ferro waiting in the secondary. The Buffaloes’ senior strong safety is coming off a season with 77 tackles and more importantly, a team-high six interceptions. He’ll team up again with guys like Kyle Rachels and Matt Ender in that secondary which, while it was one of the weaker positional groups for much of 2016, is primed to be one of Manteca’s high points.

No. 42 – Jake Lewis (6-2, 210), RB/DL, Escalon, senior

Eight-time champion Escalon is a Wing-T running machine. “Next man up” is cliche but true for coach Mark Loureiro’s squad. With that in mind, the next veteran in line could well be Lewis. He posted 434 rushing yards as a junior, including 7 yards per carry on average, and had 15 tackles on defense. Now that C.J. Gumbs is graduated, Lewis could be a 1,000-yard rusher and take on a much bigger load depending on how Escalon’s sophomore call-ups perform.

No. 41 – Jamal Fullard (5-11, 185), QB, Chavez, senior

You will see a lot of quarterbacks with varsity experience on this list. Even in high school ball, that position is so, so vital that it will be weighted more heavily than others. Fullard split time with John Supangan as starter last season, but managed to amass 920 yards, three touchdowns, eight interceptions, two rushing scores and a sack on defense. The SJAA is pretty wide open with Stagg’s graduation of stars like Cutrell Haywood and Jalend Dinwiddie, but star power does remain for Stagg (Lee Webb and Tim Omstead), Edison (Hassani and Dominick Zackery) and more to be determined.

No. 40 – Kyle Byrd (6-0, 190), QB, Calaveras, senior

Byrd had all of the ups and downs of a first-year varsity starting quarterback, but proved he is the man to lead Calaveras. He completed 44 percent of his passes for 1,116 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Byrd (and the rest of Calaveras, for that matter) struggled in an opening-round Division IV playoff loss to Marysville, but that’s an excellent learning experience. He’s the second consecutive Byrd brother to be Calaveras’ starting quarterback after Dylan Byrd (2016 graduate).

No. 39 – Royal Sitagata (6-2, 376), OL/DL, Lincoln, senior

This is one of the few picks on the list that is weighted more in potential, but here we have a third-year varsity player who can play offensive and defensive line for the Trojans. Lincoln needs Sitagata to be bullish in the trenches, especially in countering opposing TCAL linemen like Tracy’s Oyebolaji Akinyemi and St. Mary’s Max Barth and Anthony Rosales Jr. The Trojans need new leadership on the lines with the graduation of Ryan Williams and Will George.

No. 38 – Kyle Rachels (6-3, 190), DB/QB, Manteca, senior

Rachels is a superb two-sport athlete for the Buffaloes in football and baseball. He improved to conclude the 2016 season, a campaign where he posted 72 tackles and four interceptions. Plus, he plays quarterback in case of an injury to Campiotti or a brief schematic change. That two-way versatility gives him the slight nod over Ferro, though both can be ball hawks for the Buffs.

No. 37 – Brandon Wright (5-10, 180), MLB/RB, Amador, senior

The senior quartet of Daylan Thetford, Andrew Keeter, Anthony Burns and Reese Gilmore are gone after the Thundering Herd’s incredible Sac-Joaquin Section and Northern California championship run. Lost in that headline, though, is the fact that Amador’s leading returning tackler is back. Wright had 157 tackles, two sacks, two two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in 2016. Expect him to be one of the Mother Lode League’s most dynamic defensive players.


 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


Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence


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