Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: No. 8

East Union quarterback Jack Weaver, front, runs against Lathrop during their Valley Oak League football game on Sept. 25, 2015, at Lathrop High. RECORD FILE 2015

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 and Millennium
  • Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, player No. 8:

****

Spotting a three-year starting quarterback in high school, is akin to finding a snow leopard strolling around Micke Grove Zoo.

It probably won’t happen often. But when it does, we should take notice.

East Union senior Jack Weaver is entering his third season as the conductor of the Lancers’ winged offense. And though East Union has continued to struggle during his tenure, he’s been the driving force behind most of the good things that have happened to the program since 2014.

Through two seasons, Weaver has accumulated 3,612 yards total as quarterback: 3,111 passing and 501 rushing. His offensive line, though small, is more experienced and capable than years past.

This should be his biggest season yet.

That’s why Weaver is No. 8 on my Top 50 Football Returner Rankings.

Weaver, at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, does a bit of everything for the Lancers. He leads, he throws, he runs, he kicks (including a game-winning field goal over Gregori as time expired last September) and he can even play some free safety.

No matter how well-rounded a quarterback is, though, he’ll need some help. East Union’s returners have to play angry after going 0-7 in Valley Oak League play last autumn, including two brutal losses to Kimball (20-19 in OT) and Weston Ranch (26-20).

Weaver,  beyond his on-field skills, is beloved by his superiors, including head coach Willie Herrera.

Herrera, a father of four daughters, said Weaver is the kind of kid he’d be proud to see his daughters date one day.

“This is kind of funny, but if they can meet a kid who is genuine and hard-working, and puts his faith above everything else, that is exactly the kind of person who I’d want my girls to meet,” Herrera said.

All three high schools in the city of Manteca have returning quarterbacks, but none are three-year starters like Weaver. Sierra brings back senior Mark Vicente and Manteca features junior Gino Campiotti.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
Today: Players Nos. 33-38
July 26: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 2: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 12: Players Nos. 15-20

Aug. 15: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: No. 10 Keaton Hampton
Aug. 18: No. 9 Noah Preuss
Today: No. 8 Jack Weaver
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: 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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Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: No. 9

Calaveras' Noah Preuss, right, runs against Sierra during a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal on Nov. 13, 2015, at Calaveras High in San Andreas. Preuss is No. 9 in Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Returner Rankings. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/RECORD FILE 2015

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 and Millennium
  • Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, player No. 9:

*****

Most running backs would be satisfied with Noah Preuss’ 2015 totals for a full season.

But Preuss played just six games of the 12 Calaveras competed in, after sitting out half the season as a double-transfer rule. He went from Calaveras, to Oakdale, back to Calaveras.

In that limited time, the shifty, speedy Preuss put up 63 carries for 689 yards and 12 touchdowns. Make that a full season (double it), and that’s 1,378 yards and 24 touchdowns. That’s first-team All-Area type stuff, depending on the year and how competitive the Mother Lode League is.

Calaveras is a contender in that MLL, and Preuss is pivotal, along with senior Anthony Giangregorio, a 1,000-yard rusher last season. That’s why Preuss is No. 9 on my Top 50 Football Returners Countdown.

Preuss, at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, is the type of running back who makes tacklers miss with his elusiveness, Calaveras coach Jason Weatherby said. Who knows about he and Giangregorio, though. Calaveras may switch it up and give the heavier load to Giangregorio, proving my rankings wrong.

But Preuss came on so strong, despite missing half the way, that he was set to leap high up in my rankings.

Sonora, the two-time defending MLL champion, graduated several key players from its Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship run. That leaves the door open for teams like Calaveras, Amador and Argonaut.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
Today: Players Nos. 33-38
July 26: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 2: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 12: Players Nos. 15-20

Today: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: No. 10 Keaton Hampton
Aug. 18: No. 9 Noah Preuss
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: 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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Did Conor McGregor just crack?

Admittedly, it’s tough to keep your emotions bottled up.
Everything came pouring out in Wednesday’s pre-match press conference for UFC 202 and became the latest bizarre incident in the tale of Conor McGregor vs. Stockton’s Nate Diaz. And McGregor’s bottle and can-tossing tantrum may be a sign that the talkative Irishman is not as confident as he would like the public to believe.

First, a brief recap of the day: McGregor was late, Diaz left early and both sides tossed water bottles and canned energy drinks at each other before UFC boss Dana White mercifully called an end to the press conference.

McGregor was 30 minutes late, claiming he had the time wrong. He was there for about three minutes when Diaz walked away in a clear act of gamesmanship. Then things got ugly.

There was screaming and cursing, and McGregor insulting Diaz’s mostly Hispanic team by calling them “crackhead eses” (Ese is Spanish for man).

Not cool, Conor.

There’s some debate over who threw the first water bottle, but most in the room claim it was Nate. That’s no cool, either, but McGregor went absolutely bonkers, throwing bottles and cans at Diaz’s people. The Diaz team claims a young girl was hit, but there weren’t any injuries.

There will likely be fines. And the most telling thing about this incident is how out of character it is for McGregor, who prides himself as the calm, self-confident warrior in expensive suits. He just lost it, and you have to wonder why.

It reminded me of another UFC money-making machine — Ronda Rousey. She looked unbeatable before being upset by Holly Holm. But looking back, there were signs of trouble. She looked gaunt at the weigh in, and tried to physically go after Holm. Then she attacked Holm’s character on twitter out of nowhere.

While Rousey could talk tough, this was out of character, and a sign she wasn’t ready. Wednesday’s performance was out of character for McGregor, and just about in line of what happens around the Diaz Brothers, who are not new to such altercations.

So I wonder: Is McGregor worried? Does he think it was a mistake to fight Diaz again at 170, where the naturally bigger man has the advantage? Has it finally hit him that if he loses again to the same guy, that his Golden Goose could be cooked?

We’ll find out Saturday. But after being on the fence for months, I now think Nate Diaz is going to win.

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Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: No. 10

St. Mary's wide receiver Keaton Hampton looks for running room against Folsom during their Sac-Joaquin Section Division I football semifinal in November 2015. Hampton is No. 10 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Returner Rankings. CRAIG SANDERS/RECORD FILE 2015

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 and Millennium
  • Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, player No. 10:

*****

On most other high school offenses, Keaton Hampton would be the face of the program.

But Hampton, as unselfish as he is talented, does whatever he can to help the St. Mary’s football team win. Some nights, that means being a focal point for quarterback Jake Dunniway. Some nights, that means less catches and downfield blocking.

Either way, he’s one heck of a weapon for a team with league, section and state championship aspirations.

Hampton, a 6-foot, 170-pound senior wide receiver, is No. 10 on my Top 50 Football Returner Ranking Countdown, as he enters his third year of varsity competition.

As a sophomore, Hampton compiled 32 catches for 538 yards and five touchdowns. As a junior, he had 34 catches for 901 yards and 10 touchdowns. A similar amount of receptions, but the increased yards and TDs show you how his downfield route running and explosiveness have improved.

His peak, thus far, was in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal at Napa. Hampton hauled in eight catches for 236 yards and all four Rams touchdowns. That’s a prime-time performance in a road playoff game, something college recruiters must’ve loved.

Hampton is the ying to the yang of Dewey Cotton. Hampton is the bigger downfield threat, using his length, hands and long strides to fluster secondaries. Cotton is dangerous out in space, turning a 1-yard screen pass into an 80-yard TD in a moment. And don’t forget junior Marcus Aponte, an up-and-coming force out of the slot.

Expect Hampton to make big plays down the homestretch this year, especially in the Division I playoffs in November.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
Today: Players Nos. 33-38
July 26: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 2: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 12: Players Nos. 15-20

Today: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: No. 10 Keaton  Hampton
Aug. 18: Player No. 9
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: 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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Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 11-14

A slender-but-fearless bruiser, who’s also a quarterback. A precocious, friendly and fiery wide receiver wearing a new uniform. A flying missile of a defender, entering his third year of varsity play. A tall, menacing defensive lineman who’s bound to play for Nevada.

That quartet makes up Nos. 11-14 on my latest prep football returner rankings. The Top 10 begins with one each per day, starting Wednesday, Aug. 17, and leading up through Week 0 season openers on Aug. 26.

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 and Millennium
  • Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here they are, players Nos. 11-14:

No. 14 – Josh Alvarado (5-10, 170), QB/DB, Tracy, Jr.

Josh Alvarado was just 14 the first time he took snaps as a varsity quarterback. Now he’s 15, and ready to be a consistent rushing presence and improved passer for the Bulldogs, who are seeking a return to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Alvarado had 489 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, with 476 passing yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions last year. Tracy coach Matt Shrout believes he can improve on his accuracy, after completing just 34 percent of his passes last year, but veer quarterbacks have different standards. Michael Brown, who was second-team All-Area in 2014, was hardly the most precise passer in traffic, but was exactly the QB that section-finalist team needed. You know, the guy who’s willing to wake up in pain on Saturday morning, and is happy too. The extra yard. The first down. The teammates who believe in him.

Wouldn’t you know it, when Alvarado was a freshman playoff call-up, Brown taught him plenty, Alvarado said this week. It’s going to start paying off this year at Wayne Schneider Stadium.

No. 13 – Hassani Zackery (5-9, 150), WR, Edison, Jr.

Zackery is the top-rated new transfer on my Top 50 countdown. He’s coming from Stagg, where as a sophomore, the lightning-quick Zackery posted 61 catches for 757 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s fighting for touches with other talented wide receivers in Cutrell Haywood and Michael Thompson. In a 65-35 playoff loss at St. Mary’s, Zackery had 15 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and even added a TD pass. He’s a phenomenal fit for Vikings coach Booker Guyton’s Air Raid (E Raid) offense. Give Zackery an inch and he’ll sprint a mile.

No. 12 – Seu Alofaituli (5-7, 190), ILB, Sierra, Sr.

Alofaituli is the heart and soul of the Timberwolves’ defense, along with fellow senior and friend Nashon Tamiano. He was second-team All-Area as a sophomore, and improved as a more muscular junior. Last year, Alofaituli had 96 tackles, a sack, five pass deflections and a forced fumble.

Lest we forget, he was a key component of Sierra’s CIF State Division IV-A championship run, not to mention its Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title run. He, Tamiano and Marcos Castillo are all entering their third year of varsity, and were key components of sharing the VOL title in 2014 with Oakdale.

No. 11 – Cole Norgaard (6-5, 250), DE/TE, St. Mary’s, Sr.

Norgaard doesn’t get as much attention as fellow senior Popo Aumavae, he of 21 NCAA Division I offers, including Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon, USC and UCLA. But the menacing Norgaard is a force in his own right. The Nevada verbal commit, whose father played for Pacific, had 53 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three pass deflections and a fumble recovery as a junior.

Those numbers should only approve, as Norgaard and Aumavae junior fellow seniors Keller Salmon and Jordan Stinhilver to make one heck of a defensive front line.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
Today: Players Nos. 33-38
July 26: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 2: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 12: Players Nos. 15-20

Today: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: Player No. 10
Aug. 18: Player No. 9
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: 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

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 15-20

Manteca quarterback Gino Campiotti is stronger and more experienced, and may have a breakout junior season for the Buffaloes. He's No. 15 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Returner Rankings. RECORD FILE 2015

So, there’s this: Nos. 15-20 on my Top 50 Football Returner Rankings Countdown have some clout.
There are two potential All-Area first-team defensive linemen, one of whom has verbally committed to Nevada. There’s a potential breakout wide receiver who was visited by Hawaii this offseason. There’s a linebacker and tackles machine who is the heart and soul of a defense that was in the playoffs last year. There’s a man who had fourinterceptions in one game last season. There’s a quarterback who could compete for Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section glory, and another who led a state title-clinching drive last December. And there’s the returning tackles leader for the top-ranked team in The Record’s coverage area.
Getcha popcorn ready.

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 and Millennium
  • Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here they are, players Nos. 15-20:

Tied at No. 20 – Keller Salmon (6-0, 215), DL, St. Mary’s, Sr. and Damion Pursley (6-1, 160), WR/CB, Franklin, Sr.

Salmon and fellow seniors Cole Norgaard, Popo Aumavae and Jordan Stinhilver make for an underrated, menacing defensive line. Perhaps not like the trio of Cutler Salmon, Myles Cunningham and Shane McDermott a couple years ago, but who knows? As a junior, Salmon was an underrated force, and disruptive. Salmon had 28 tackles and four sacks, but those numbers aren’t indicative of how well he played.

Pursley, who received recruiting attention from Hawaii this summer, is bound to benefit from a new shotgun spread offense and an experienced quarterback in fellow senior Julian Serrano. Even during a 1-9 Franklin campaign, out of an I-form offense, Pursley put up numbers: 30 catches for 662 yards and seven touchdowns. It’s going to be a big year for Pursley.

No. 19 – Seth Tennis (6-1, 225), LB, McNair, Sr.

Tennis has delivered a superb two years of defensive varsity football for the Eagles.

As a sophomore, Tennis posted a team-high 118 total tackles. As a junior, Tennis was used more in the pass rush, tallying 70 tackles and nine sacks as McNair finished second in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.

Tennis now must be the voice of that defense, as Noah Faatau graduated. Though McNair lost its historically-good passing attack to graduation, senior running back Austin Sith returns, and if Tennis can anchor the defense, the SJAA is wide-open and the Eagles could content with Stagg, Edison and others.

Oh, and Tennis can play baseball! (See above).

No. 18 – Isaiah Downes (6-0, 165), WR/CB, Lincoln, Sr.

Downes has an absolute nose for the football. He’s a leader in the Trojans’ secondary, and earned first-team All-Area honors for The Record last year after nabbing seven interceptions. Shockingly, four of those game in one game, an overtime win over West at Spanos Stadium.

Downes has his hands full this season, especially when Lincoln travels to St. Mary’s on Nov. 4, and he’ll defend either/or seniors Dewey Cotton and Keaton Hampton and junior Marcus Aponte.

No. 17 – David Ford (5-8, 185), SS/RB, St. Mary’s, Sr.

Ford is a big-time, spring-loaded tackle waiting to happen. He’s the Rams leading returning tackler, after earning 111 of them last season, along with an interception, eight pass deflection, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

It’s in his blood, after older brother Lazarus Ford was a second-team All-Area defensive back in 2014 for St. Mary’s. The younger Ford was first team last season, and will probably be so again this autumn should he stay  healthy.

No. 16 – Mark Vicente (5-9, 160), QB, Sierra, Sr.

Vicente already has these things on his resume: Sac-Joaquin Section champion. Northern California champion. CIF State champion. And on that last one, he was at the helm of a winning, 82-yard drive in desperation time.

His top three wide receivers, D.J. Wyatt, Jimmy Galindo and Tim Brown graduated, so the Timberwolves will be much more reliant on Vicente and Vicente alone offensively. Plus, big man Joshua Fala graduated and is now at Delaware State. Look for Vicente to run perhaps even more this season.

As a junior, Vicente connected on 62 percent of his passes for 2,519 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; rushing for 286 yards and 10 more TDs.

No. 15 – Gino Campiotti (6-3, 190), QB/S, Manteca, Jr.

Campiotti completely revamped his body composition, Buffaloes coach Eric Reis said of his young signal callers’ offseason. A more muscular, fit Campiotti is a good sign for Manteca, as is a year of experience under his belt after being thrown in from time to time as a sophomore.

Though Manteca is a running powerhouse, Reis says he’s never seen the ball come out of one of his quarterbacks’ hands with such power and zip. Certainly, Campiotti and senior wide receiver Jose Garcia have some big plays to come.

Campiotti can also play safety, giving him even more impact on this group. Being on a stronger team, and having the defensive ability, gives Campiotti the slight nod over Vicente. As a sophomore, Campiotti had 912 yards passing, with 15 TDs and seven picks.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
Today: Players Nos. 33-38
July 26: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 2: Players Nos. 21-26
Today: Players Nos. 15-20

Aug. 15: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: Player No. 10
Aug. 18: Player No. 9
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: 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

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Football Camp Tour: Lincoln, Brookside, Manteca, East Union, Franklin and Chavez

Sorry to get behind, folks.

I’m bringing back my camp visit thoughts from our high school football preview season.

The past three days, I’ve visited Lincoln, Brookside Christian, Franklin, Chavez, Manteca and East Union, in that order. Given each of those stops was pretty brief, here’s one prevailing thought for each team:

LINCOLN TROJANS

We’re all ready to watch the offensive show, sure. Seniors in quarterback Aaron Thomas, tight end Miquan Maxey and wide receiver Izaiah Celestine are going to dazzle in that up-tempo spread. However, Lincoln might just be better in the trenches then I originally presumed. Maxey will play defensive end, alongside two-way linemen Ryan Williams and Will George, both of whom could be All-Area selections.

BROOKSIDE CHRISTIAN KNIGHTS

Wide receiver Jalen Williams is a sophomore, but he has the height and musculature of a senior or a college kid. No wonder he’s a solid collegiate prospect at just a sophomore. It can be tougher to pick up scouting and offers at a small school, but as many coaches say, if you’re that good you will be found. Brookside Christian could be a sleeper in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division VII. The  favorite is probably two-time defending champion Merced-Stone Ridge Christian, but they have new leaders, and parity is more likely in the smallest divisions, in my opinion. Folsom isn’t going 1-9 anytime soon.

FRANKLIN YELLOWJACKETS

Franklin has the right attitude, and is building the right culture under second-year coach Larry Thompson. But if they suffer an injury or two, those perennially low roster numbers will hurt. The most interesting angle to watch, to me, is how they adjust to a shotgun spread from last year’s I-form scheme. Senior wide receiver Damion Pursley has his chance to propel the offense, and draw in recruiters.

CHAVEZ TITANS

The Titans are a mystery. They could be SJAA championship contenders. They may take awhile to gel with a new quarterback, receivers and running back. First-year coach La Te’f Grim has a history of winning, with two Sac-Joaquin Section championships at Brookside Christian in 2010 and 2012, so that’s always on your mind. If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say Chavez fights for a playoff spot and finishes third in the league behind Stagg and Edison. That’s not an official prediction, but an early whim.

MANTECA BUFFALOES

The Valley Oak League has a chance at more parity this year. With their senior classes in place, no one was going to touch Modesto-Central Catholic and Oakdale as champion and runner-up last season. Manteca, though, could contend for its first VOL banner since 2013 if:

  1. They stay healthy, almost uncannily healthy, throughout the year. Fifteenth-year coach Eric Reis really likes this team, but says after the starters and first couple reserves on each side, the depth falls off quickly.
  2. Junior quarterback Gino Campiotti steadily improves his accuracy, and provides the balance the Buffaloes need to couple with running back Kameron Beamon and a stout line.
  3. The defense keeps its nasty edge from years past. I think it will. Especially with Devin Gonzales,  James Thomas and Ferrin Manuleleua at linebacker and Justin Kakala back on the defensive line.
EAST UNION LANCERS
Most teams only dream of having a senior starting quarterback who’s in his third season in that role. East Union has that in Jack Weaver, who can pass, run and kick his way into Lancers lore this season. Head coach Willie Herrera thinks this team’s sneaky strength is the experience and football IQ on the offensive and defensive line, but with only one player on the roster over 250 pounds (I believe), that can be difficult in a VOL that prides itself on massive, nasty lines. We’ll see come late September.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

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Football Camp Tour, Day 1: Sierra, Edison and St. Mary’s

For a comprehensive story from my visits to Sierra, Edison and St. Mary’s football, as practices opened across the Sac-Joaquin Section on Monday, click here.

However, here are some random thoughts from each camp from Day 1. My following practice visits, I’ll do more extensive blogs since I won’t have the same accompanying stories.

SIERRA TIMBERWOLVES

  • Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere was calm and there wasn’t much talk about state. That’s not the style of football coach Jeff Harbison. The man believes in a process and details. He’s formerly of the U.S. Air Force, and it shows in that methodical way of thinking, one which isn’t inhibited by being overly emotional.
  • Sierra is confident in senior quarterback Mark Vicente, and it should be. But his three senior wide receivers, D.J. Wyatt, Jimmy Galindo and Tim Brown, are gone and so the offense could be a work in progress for awhile. I’d expect him to run even more in 2016. And the kid can scoot, so that’s OK.
  • Having one solid senior captain on defense is ideal, but having two is paramount. So the Timberwolves, while their offense is currently unpredictable, can lean on linebackers Seuseu Alofaituli and Nashon Tamiano. I wouldn’t be surprised if  both post between 80-100 tackles with a few sacks.
EDISON VIKINGS
  • What a stark contrast to years past, when the Vikings were fighting for roster numbers. Now, as coach Booker Guyton returns for his second stint at Edison,  back after 14 years and a rough departure amid section and league bylaw violations, Edison has all three programs once again.
  • Look out for senior quarterback Tyree Stricklen and junior wide receiver Hassani Zackery not just on offense. Stricklen is a talented cornerback and Zackery is so good in the kick return game that many SJAA teams might just boot the ball out of bounds.
  • Guyton’s coaching staff surrounding him is solid and experienced. Edison offensive coordinator Mike Logan coached with Guyton at Sacramento City College, and the two have run that Air Raid (they call it the “E Raid”) offense before. The defensive coordinator is Edison mainstay Elliott Burke, who coached the Vikings the last time they were in a section championship game in 2003.
ST. MARY’S RAMS
  • For you kids out there, there’s a great scene in the baseball movie “Bull Durham” where the manager throws bats across the locker room and throws a fake temper-tantrum just to prove a point to players. When you’ve got guys who are teenagers or in their early 20s, and especially if they’re talented and hearing how great they are all offseason, you’ve got to push them and get under their skin. That seems to be the tactic of St. Mary’s coach Tony Franks and his staff. They know they’ve got a section championship-caliber team, but that potential is entirely useless when the pads come on.
  • Everybody’s pointing to St. Mary’s late September game against Bellflower-St. John Bosco: alma mater of UCLA sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen. But I look to Week 0 as not a trap game, but one  heck of a football game that taps one of the CCS’ best against one of the SJS’ best. San Mateo-Serra (Alma mater of Tom Brady and Barry Bonds) hosts St. Mary’s at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Serra could be the best team in the CCS, and with the home field in a different afternoon environment, the Rams’ wiles will be tested quickly.

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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2016: The Year of the QB

St. Mary's quarterback Jake Dunniway delivers a pass against Tracy last October at Sanguinetti Field in Stockton. RECORD FILE 2015

Playing quarterback is hard. Like, really hard.

I mean, I think I need italics here. It is hard.

And while high school football offenses may not be as complex as college and the pros, trying to wolf down a playbook, command a team, read coverages and perform all of the other duties of a quarterback is not easy for teenagers aged 16-18.

(Cheers to Tracy’s Josh Alvarado, too, who’s 15 and won’t turn 16 until mid-season).

With that in mind, it’s rare to come into a prep football region that has a ton of promise at the quarterback position heading into a given season. So while the skill-position talent has dipped a bit overall in Stockton, San Joaquin County and the Mother  Lode, the QB play is something to look forward to.

Here’s a brief look at some of the returning field generals to watch in our area.

No, I’m not going to rank them! That would ruin the suspense of my Top 50 Football Returner Rankings! C’mon, man.

MARK VICENTE (Sierra, Sr.)

We’re not ranking them, but we have to start with the guy who’s orchestrated a state-championship winning drive, right? Right.

Vicente, a silent assassin in his own right, grabbed hold of the slippery football on that fateful December night in Chowchilla, and willed the Timberwolves through the mud for an 82-yard touchdown drive capped by a 9-yard TD pass from Vicente to Mark Paule Jr.

Now, Vicente comes back with what must be an ocean of confidence. His wide receivers and running back graduated, but he has veterans like Marcos Castillo still around him on offense. Expect him to run even more than he did in 2015, depending on how his receivers and line develop.

JAKE DUNNIWAY (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

St. Mary’s did an excellent job giving Dunniway the space to grow throughout the year in 2015. The offense was more horizontally-focused and conservative early on. But we saw Dunniway’s downfield passing skill and confidence grow, as did his rapport with deep threat Keaton Hampton. Now, Dunniway’s a senior with heavy expectations along with Hampton, senior Dewey Cotton and junior Marcus Aponte to throw to. Look out, Sac-Joaquin Section.

STEPHON FAVELA (Stagg, Sr.)

Favela is the most unproven of this lot, but given the Delta Kings have won two outright league championships in the past three years and their quarterbacks tend to succeed, this is fair. Plus, Favela has proven he knows what he’s doing. Even in the postseason.

When Lavante Bushnell was hurt in a first-round section Division I playoff game at St. Mary’s, Favela stepped in and gave everything he could. Favela went a whopping 39 of 60 for 406 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

AARON THOMAS (Lincoln, Sr.)

This is Thomas’ time to forge his legacy.

The area’s, and maybe the section’s, eyes are focused on St. Mary’s, but Thomas proved at the end of his junior campaign just how dangerous he and the Trojans can be. First-year head coach Anthony Martinez was his offensive coordinator a year ago, and now, Lincoln brings forth an up-tempo spread offense.

Thomas has the aerial weapons around him in tight end Miquan Maxey and wide receiver Izaiah Celestine, but the question will be who replaces the talented June Walker at tailback. With likely candidate Reuben Lee transferring to Brookside Christian, we shall see.

GINO CAMPIOTTI (Manteca, Jr.)

Campiotti proved a precocious talent as a sophomore, and now, he could boost the Buffaloes under center and as a safety on defense. In limited action, Campiotti completed 53 percent of his passes for 912 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Expect him to be more accurate with another year under his belt, and the running game should be improved as his junior linemen will come into their own and senior tailback Kameron Beamon has another year of experience.

PHOTO COURTESY OF STU JOSSEY

JOSH ALVARADO (Tracy, Jr.)

Alvarado is the junior statesman on this list, as you might recall, he had to sit for a couple weeks last year after it was unearthed that he’s 14 years old. At a school with three levels of football like Tracy, the Sac-Joaquin Section requires players to be 15 or older. Now the 15-going-on-16 dual threat should have a full year to command the Bulldogs’ veer offense.

Alvarado has solid blocker, anchored by senior Dominic Splan, and the Bulldogs look primed to return to the playoffs, especially with a preseason schedule that doesn’t include Clayton Valley Charter like it did the past two years.

JACK WEAVER (East Union, Sr.)

Weaver is the heart and soul of the Lancers, the rare three-year starting varsity quarterback. He’s already accounted for 3,612 yards combined passing and rushing. My favorite fact about Weaver, though, is that he kicked a game-winning field goal against Modesto-Gregori last September as time expired.

He’ll sorely miss now-graduated wide receiver Austin Miller, but Lancers coach Willie Herrera believes his slightly undersized linemen are also underrated. If he’s correct, the running game will receive a boost.

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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Top 50 Football Returners Countdown: Nos. 21-26

Manteca's Jose Garcia is No. 22 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Returners Countdown. Garcia could be a threat in all three phases for the Buffaloes. RECORD FILE 2015

We are less than one week from high school football practice beginning.

Let that marinate for a minute.

With that in mind, enjoy these top returner ranking representatives from Lincoln, Manteca, Sierra, Stagg and Lathrop.

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 second 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 2016. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 26.

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 and Millennium
  • Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or connect with me personally (my information is below).

Here they are, players Nos. 21-26:

No. 26 – Reuben Lee (5-10, 175), RB/WR, Brookside Christian, Jr. and Will George (6-4, 260) OL/DL, Lincoln, Sr.

Lee is quietly, but certainly, a versatile weapon that should be able to transition perfectly to the Knights for first-year coach Jordan McGowan, after transferring from Lincoln. Lee, who could be a leading tailback and receiver on any given Friday, showed flashes last year. Like in a 49-28 win over Tracy, when the then-sophomore Lee racked up eight catches for 113 yards. Lee is one of those players who could end up being well above No. 26, or below, given if he stays healthy and how he fits in this year. But something tells me he’ll mesh well, and if you can thrive in the TCAL, you can certainly thrive in the Division VII CCAA. George figures to be the top blocking presence for Lincoln, which is desperately needed for the rushing attack. Certainly, dual-threat quarterback Aaron Thomas will appreciate having George around.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have been informed that Reuben Lee has transferred from Lincoln to Brookside Christian. I did not know this when putting together these rankings and that blog entry. Whether or not this would have changed his rankings is hard to tell, so he’s been kept at No. 26 for the time being.

No. 25 – Nashan Tamiano, DB/LB, Sierra, Sr.

What a year it’s been for the Timberwolves, who went from sub-.500 and limping through the Valley Oak League schedule, to finishing with a win and thundering through the postseason to win a CIF State Division IV-A title, not to mention the section’s Division IV banner. Tamiano is a key cog on defense, and although he’s most natural as a safety, he can play linebacker, too. As a junior, Tamiano had 93 tackles and two sacks.

Tied at No. 24 – Ferrin Manuleleua (6-0, 215), LB/RB, Manteca, Jr. and Kameron Beamon (5-9, 151), RB/DB, Manteca, Sr.

Manueleua is an incredibly strong kid, especially for his age. And while he can lay down some giant hits on the football field, his teammates described him as quiet. Last year, in fact, Darrion Kitson said he had to learn to let that inner beast out. Certainly, he started to, and could be one of the top defensive players in the Valley Oak League and possibly the area this year. As a sophomore, Manuleleua – whose older sister Leah was The Record’s top girls soccer player of 2015-16 – recorded 62 tackles with a fumble recovery.  He also had two rushing touchdowns. Look for Manuleleua to record 100 or more tackles and five or more rushing TDs in short-yardage situations. Beamon is entering his second year as the featured tailback, and he and his offensive line have much more experience than the year before. As a junior, Beamon tallied 572 rushing yards and five touchdowns, and we all know, the great teams of Buffaloes past have run and run often.

No. 23 – Jalend Dinwiddie (5-11, 180), LB, Stagg, Sr.

Dinwiddie was an absolute tackles machine for the Delta Kings as a junior, with 147 tackles and 7.5 sacks, both monster numbers. He was already a captain, and returns for his high school finale as Stagg looks to win its second consecutive outright San Joaquin Athletic Association championship. Dinwiddie is even more pivotal on defense, as former defensive players Robert Strother, Jonathan Phillips, Michael Thompson, Phil Strother and Alex Buenrostro graduated. Stagg needs Dinwiddie’s presence to repeat.

No. 22 – Jose Garcia (6-0, 170), WR/DB, Manteca, Sr.

Garcia is in line for one spectacular senior season. In fact, he may be one of the more underrated players in the VOL and The Record’s coverage area. Senior wide receivers and defensive backs, like Garcia, have shined for the Buffaloes of late – like All-Area selections Dom Pisano in 2014 and Ronaldo Tijero in 2015. Garcia had 34 catches for 393 yards and five touchdowns as a junior, along with 152 rushing yards. Expect him to use his speed to boost the Buffaloes on special teams as well. Manteca has excellent blocking and fundamentals across the board, which allows for players like Garcia to make the most of their abilities.

No. 21 – Tre Tuipuloto Willis Jr. (5-11, 180), LB/P, Lathrop, Sr.

Tuipuloto Willis Jr. is the first returning first-team All-Area selection to pop up on my returner rankings for 2016. He was an excellent pass-rusher for the Spartans – who posted their first-ever winning season and earned the No. 1 seed in the Division IV playoffs – as a junior, with 32 tackles and 10 sacks. Last year, though, fellow first-team selection Rob Luckett, a defensive lineman, was drawing blockers and creating opportunities for Tuipuloto Willis. Now, he’ll have the difficult job of guiding the Spartans’ defense.

TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN

July 7: Players Nos. 45-50
July 14: Players Nos. 39-44
Today: Players Nos. 33-38
July 26: Players Nos. 27-32
Aug. 2: Players Nos. 21-26
Aug. 11: Players Nos. 15-20

Aug. 14: Players Nos. 11-14

Aug. 17: Player No. 10
Aug. 18: Player No. 9
Aug. 19: Player No. 8
Aug. 20: Player No. 7
Aug. 21: Player No. 6
Aug. 22: Player No. 5
Aug. 23: Player No. 4
Aug. 24: Player No. 3
Aug. 25: Player No. 2
Aug. 26: 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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    Bob Highfill

    Bob Highfill has been with The Record sports department since 1990. He started as a part-time reporter/agate clerk then covered the high school sports beat before taking on the Pacific athletics beat. In 2006, he was named sports editor. Bob was ... Read Full

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    Linesburgh has been a member of The Record's sports department since 1988. A native of Wantagh, N.Y., he covers the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League, and has spent more than a quarter century reporting various other sports on the high ... Read Full

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    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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