Football coaches hate singling out one player to embody a team’s success. And it makes sense. NFL rosters are 53 while MLB is less than half that and NBA is a quarter of that.
It’s the ultimate selfless sport. Yet, sometime, players can be electric, and vital to a team in all phases of the game.
The West football team went 1-9 in miserable consecutive seasons in 2012 and 2013. They had several players step up to improve to 5-5 in 2014, including an unbeaten preseason, but one stood out above the rest. And he’s No. 2.
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 inaugural 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 2015. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 28.
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
- Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
Here he is, West senior Marcel Dancy, No. 2 on my top returner rankings.
The exceptional nature of Dancy’s season could be summed up in one play. With West leading Lathrop at home by a touchdown in last year’s Week 0 opener, Dancy, then a junior defensive back, nabbed and interception and took it back 100 yards to the house for a game-sealing touchdown.
He was truly vital in every aspect for the Wolf Pack, which although it went winless in the Tri-City Athletic League, still challenged in a couple of the games, like in a 14-6 loss to Lincoln.
Dancy finished with 1,231 rushing yards, averaging an impressive 7.7 yards per carry, with 12 touchdowns. He was also fantastic in special teams, adding 318 total return yards and a touchdown, and put up 172 receiving yards and another TD.
On defense, Dancy had 58 tackles and his epic interception.
He’s a muscular 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, and again, West needs him to improve upon 2014 and become a winning team again. I expect his receiving yards and production to go up with the improvement of senior quarterback James Gibbons. That’s also a valuable tool for Dancy if he’s trying to get onto a college squad.
“He’s got good speed and vision, he runs hard. He’s tough to bring down,” Anastasio said midway through 2014. “He’s a kid that loves the game of football. They’re hard to find these days, but he’s definitely one of them.”
Dancy and West play at Lathrop at 7 p.m. Friday in their season opener. Look for Dancy to keep the show rolling in his prep finale.
Oh, and No. 1 is coming. Friday afternoon. A few hours before kickoff.
TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN
July 9: Players Nos. 46-50
July 16: Players Nos. 39-45
July 23: Players Nos. 32-38
July 30: Players Nos. 25-31
Aug. 6: Players Nos. 18-24
Aug. 12: Players Nos. 11-17
Aug. 19: No. 10, Erron Duncan
Aug. 20: No. 9, Darrion Kitson
Aug. 21: No. 8, Derrion Grim
Saturday: No. 7, Dewey Cotton
Sunday: No. 6, Lavante Bushnell
Monday: No. 5, Rodney Jones
Tuesday: No. 4, Popo Aumavae
Wednesday: No. 3, Osai Brown
Today: No. 2, Marcel Dancy
Friday: Player No. 1
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