Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 2, Marcel Dancy

West senior Marcel Dancy is the No. 2 player on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Players Countdown, ranking the best returners in The Record's coverage area. RECORD FILE PHOTO

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
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or with me personally (my information is below).

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

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

X-Factors: Lincoln at Stagg

Stagg running back Maurell Robinson, left, runs last year in a 34-14 loss at Lincoln. The Delta Kings host the Trojans at 7:15 p.m. Friday in both teams' season opener. RECORD FILE PHOTO

The real X-Factor in last year’s Stagg at Lincoln game, though it was a 34-14 Trojans victory? Well, that Delta King is now graduated.

It was definitely Lester Williams, a 5-foot-6 force to be reckoned with who had an electric punt return for a touchdown, and a leaping TD catch from quarterback Lavante Bushnell to tie it in the third quarter.

Williams, The Record’s first-team All-Area kick returner, is not around, but the Delta Kings sure have plenty of depth and talent in their wide receiving ranks.

Here’s a look at three X-Factors for Friday’s matchup, The Record’s Game of the Week, at 7:15 p.m. at Stagg. I’ll be there updating live on Twitter, and you can go to stocktonpreps.com for everything you need for Friday Night Lights, with scores, stories, photos, videos, tweets and more.

*****

Who’s in-sync?

Last year, after Lincoln’s win, coach Brian Gray, fired-up and a little euphoric, explained some of the madness and sloppiness of the night as “Week 0 football.” Simply put, that’s true.

No matter how much talent or depth you have, it’s unpredictable what’ll happen the first time it finally counts.

And I noticed both at Stagg and Lincoln practices yesterday that the talent and drive are there, but understandably, they’re both working some of the kinks out.

Whichever team is most ready for true football, whichever has the most offensive coordination and whichever holds onto the football itself should be the winner.

Student becomes the master

Lavante Bushnell must’ve been a duck on the pond last year at Lincoln.

Bushnell, then a junior, was used to being a wide receiver, and faced the second largest school in the section in his first game as a varsity quarterback. He showed flashes of his brilliance and mobility, but mostly labored against the Trojans.

Now, his confidence is high and his ability to play the position is a world better than it was early in 2014. Look for him to be more on the move than last season, as the Delta Kings have more depth at quarterback, including senior Daniel Raya-Ruiz.

Backfield in style

Maurell Robinson, a 5-foot-9 senior running back for Stagg, told me he wants to leave his school with an impressive legacy. He and other ‘backs like Eric Kranh are pivotal Friday, because Lincoln graduated several of its linemen on both sides of the ball, including first-team All-Area defensive lineman Jordan McMiller.

We’ll see what Robinson and company can do against the Trojans’ front, which might occasionally go to five down lineman. That may not be wise often, though, given Stagg’s depth at wide receiver.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 3, Osai Brown

McNair senior quarterback Osai Brown, left, is No. 3 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Players Countdown. RECORD FILE PHOTO

It’s a solid day for the McNair football team.

First, former defensive coordinator Terry Hampton was announced as the team’s new head coach. Now, the fifth and final Eagle has made the Top 50.

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
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or with me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, McNair senior Osai Brown, No. 3 on my top returner rankings.

***

My first and only viewing of McNair football in 2014 displayed just how dynamic then-junior quarterback Osai Brown could be.

Brown, our first-team All-Area quarterback (St. Mary’s QB Noah Righetti was the Player of the Year, and Stagg’s Lavante Bushnell was second team), delivered 450 passing yards, three touchdowns and a pick, with 51 rushing yards and two more touchdowns.

Sure, the offense was often one-dimensional, and the defense couldn’t stop anything Galt-Liberty Ranch was doing in the 51-40 loss, but Brown and his work with wide receiver Sean Hamilton were a spectacle.

Brown finished the season with 33 touchdowns, 3,229 yards and 15 interceptions. Now, he has senior Derrion Grim, a wide receiver and Boise State verbal commit, with the Sacramento State verbal commit Hamilton, junior tailback Austin Sith, senior tailback Noah Faatau and senior tailback Jordan Threats.

He’s being recruited to be more of a receiver for college teams, so who knows if offensive coordinator La Te’f Grim will throw a wrinkle or two for him to expand his game and let someone else toss him the ball every now and then.

Brown also has the capability of playing defensive back, which is probably the most unsure area of the Eagles’ defense. The defensive line is the best former coach Curtis Perkins said he’d dealt with in over 15 years as a coach, he said in July, and the linebacking corps has two studs in junior Seth Tennis and the senior Faatau.

In my mind, it’s either McNair or Stagg for the SJAA championship, with Chavez as a dark horse third option, and Brown’s improvement, accuracy and leadership may make or break the Eagles’ chances.

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
Today: No. 3, Osai Brown
Thursday: Player No. 2
Friday: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Players to Watch: Lincoln at Stagg

Lincoln senior defensive back Cameron Crump will be vital Friday night at Stagg. RECORD FILE PHOTO

Last year’s Stagg at Lincoln football matchup, which opened the 2014 season, was the first in a long time in the series, and featured everything wonderful about high school football.

A muggy, but not comfortable late August evening. Packed stands right on top of the field at gorgeous Spanos Stadium. Intra-city squads starting what could become  a second-tier rivalry. A deafening home student section: the Lincoln Lunatics.

And while the game was close, quarterback Lavante Bushnell hit wide receiver Lester Williams for a game-tying touchdown pass in the third quarter, it ended 34-14 Trojans, and both teams were shaky. It was Week 0, after all.

This year, the atmosphere could be the same at Stagg, and the game should be even better.

The Trojans-Delta Kings matchup is once again our Week 0 Game of the Week. I’ll be there updating live on Twitter, and you can keep up with all of the scores and more at our brand-new stocktonpreps.com.

For now, and yes, I can’t wait for kickoff at 7:15 p.m. Friday, here are a couple of players to watch for both teams.

Maurell Robinson (Stagg RB, Sr.)

Robinson, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior, wants to make a legacy at Stagg, he told me after practice tonight.

Taking on Lincoln, which has smaller, more inexperienced lines than a year ago, and less depth, could be a start.

We’ve talked all preseason about Bushnell and his wide receivers like senior Michael Thompson, junior Cutrell Haywood and sophomore Hassani Zackery, but the run game, featuring guys like Robinson and Eric Kranh, may devastate defenses who are softened up to cover the pass.

Aaron Thomas (Lincoln QB, Jr.)

Trojans coach Brian Gray still said it’s uncertain who “QB 1″  is — #ClearEyesFullHeartCantLose — but later in the week they’ll know if Thomas or senior Colby Dickson will be taking snaps when the game begins.

Thomas, Stagg coach Don Norton believes, gives Lincoln a read option, um, option, in its offense, which could help keep the Delta Kings’ defense off-balance if they’re expecting fly concepts.

Either way, if he sees time, it’ll be his first varsity game and on a big stage with one of the most anticipated openers in Stockton and San Joaquin County.

Lavante Bushnell (Stagg QB, Sr.)

A year ago, Bushnell had a rough introduction to being a varsity quarterback, and, just being a quarterback in general, in the 20-point loss at Lincoln.

Now, his confidence is there, and his accuracy and decision-making have improved dramatically, Norton said.

Bushnell has that year under his belt, one which he delivered 29 touchdown passes.

Cameron Crump (Lincoln DB/WR, Sr.)

Crump, a senior defensive back who’s received an offer from Cal Poly football, certainly has his work cut out for him. He must deal with some formidable wide receivers in senior Michael Thompson and junior Cutrell Haywood, as the veteran leader of the secondary.

Don’t be surprised mixes in at wide receiver, too, as a reliable veteran target for Thomas or Dickson.

MORE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jonathan Phillips (Stagg LB, Sr.)

Ronald Walker (Lincoln RB, Sr.)

Cutrell Haywood (Stagg WR/DB, Jr.)

Rodney Jones (Lincoln DL, Sr.)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 4, Popo Aumavae

St. Mary's junior lineman Popo Aumavae is No. 4 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Players Countdown. PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL-HI SPORTS

Popo Aumavae, a St. Mary’s junior two-way lineman, slowly walked from the parking lot of the Pacific soccer field toward me before our prep football tabloid cover photo shoot. Seeing how this kid, still an underclassman, has the musculature of a 25-year old lineman and a bevy of recruiting attention, his future seems limitless.

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
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or with me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, St. Mary’s junior Popo Aumavae, No. 4 on my top returner rankings.

***

Aumavae, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound machine, is probably going to play Pac-12 Conference football if he wants to. He’s already visited Oregon, and when he showed up for the photo shoot, he was rocking green socks, sporting, of course, the Ducks (He paid for the socks himself, he pointed out, and understandably so in this paranoid era of recruiting and technology). Aumavae may be far from making his collegiate decision, and there’s no reason to rush it given his potential.

He’s ranked No. 33 in the Class of 2017 in the state by CalHiSports.com, and was already lauded as a sophomore both by head coach Tony Franks and defensive coordinator David Tipton last season. Tipton should know Pac-12 football, as a former Stanford defensive end, and later, defensive coach himself.

The reason Aumavae ascended even higher in these rankings, because it’s difficult for an offensive lineman alone to go so high when tangible impact is judged, is that he’ll probably play on the defensive line for the Rams, too.

Even if it takes him awhile to adjust to the technique, imagine this machine coming at you if you’re a standard-sized high school offensive lineman. That’s trouble for everybody on St. Mary’s schedule.

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
Wednesday: No. 10, Erron Duncan
Thursday: No. 9, Darrion Kitson
Friday: No. 8, Derrion Grim
Saturday: No. 7, Dewey Cotton
Sunday: No. 6, Lavante Bushnell
Monday: No. 5, Rodney Jones
Today: No. 4, Popo Aumavae
Aug. 26: Player No. 3
Aug. 27: Player No. 2
Aug. 28: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 5, Rodney Jones

Lincoln senior defensive lineman Rodney Jones, right, is No. 5 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Players Countdown. He's a 6-6, 235-pound UNLV verbal commit. RECORD FILE PHOTO

As a grown man between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3 in height, rarely does one of the athletes I cover tower over me when I interview them. Such is the case of No. 5 on my Top 50 Football Players Countdown.

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
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, or with me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, Lincoln senior Rodney Jones, No. 5 on my top returner rankings.

***

Jones, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound defensive lineman, is an NCAA Division I commit to UNLV. And you can see why the Runnin’ Rebels would be high on him, just from frame alone.

He learned from great linemen on both sides of the ball last year, and now, he’s the sensei of a younger group who look up to him.

Before last season, Lincoln coach Brian Gray said Jones has the potential to be one of the most dominating linemen in the area, and that’s only intensified as he prepares for his finale.

“We really take pride in trying to change our image. Everybody thinks that we’re not going to be good enough, or we’re not going to be strong enough. This team – we can really achieve something,” said Jones, who added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason, according to the Trojans’ MaxPreps rosters. “I’m trying to help coach my defensive linemen to get better.”

Jones is not just big and strong, but a versatile athlete. He was a solid forward for the Lincoln basketball team last year, and competes in track and field as well.

He could be heading to a fantastic place on the rise in UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels hired coach Tony Sanchez before last season, who helped high school team Las Vegas-Bishop Gorman into a national powerhouse in six seasons, going 85-5 there. To be recruited by him should say something to Jones.

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
Wednesday: No. 10, Erron Duncan
Thursday: No. 9, Darrion Kitson
Friday: No. 8, Derrion Grim
Saturday: No. 7, Dewey Cotton
Sunday: No. 6, Lavante Bushnell
Today: No. 5, Rodney Jones
Aug. 25: Player No. 4
Aug. 26: Player No. 3
Aug. 27: Player No. 2
Aug. 28: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 6, Lavante Bushnell

Stagg senior quarterback Lavante Bushnell is No. 6 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Players Countdown. RECORD FILE PHOTO

His returner rankings number matches his jersey number, and it’s only appropriate.

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
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, orwith me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, Stagg senior Lavante Bushnell, No. 6 on my top returner rankings.

***

The kid who wears No. 6, and who is ranked No. 6 on this countdown, thought he’d only temporarily be a quarterback.

Bushnell, who began at Stagg as a wide receiver, converted to quarterback for what was supposed to be just half a season as a junior.

It turned out, it’s more permanent — until he gets to college, at least — and though he had growing pains throughout 2014, he developed immensely, firing 29 touchdown passes and prepping himself for an outstanding senior season.

Bushnell, who’s received recruiting attention from NCAA Division I FCS schools as a utility-type player, has three solid receivers to throw to in senior Michael Thompson, junior Cutrell Haywood and sophomore Hassani Zackery.

And his coach Don Norton, who’s guided Stagg for a decade now, believes in him.

“I expect bigger and better things from him this year. He has been really, at times, on-point as far as his accuracy and decision-making,” Norton said. “Big improvement over last year when he was just learning the job.”

Bushnell, besides his 29 TD passes, threw for 2,294 yards total, with 16 interceptions, and ran for 437 yards and six more scores. Norton says Stagg is more confident in having Bushnell run around this year due to more depth in the quarterback position: they also have faith in Daniel Raya-Ruiz, a 6-foot-2 senior.

Bushnell and the Delta Kings host the Lincoln Trojans at 7:15 p.m. Friday in The Record’s Game of the Week. I’ll be there updating live with tweets, photos, videos, score updates and much, much more.

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
Wednesday: No. 10, Erron Duncan
Thursday: No. 9, Darrion Kitson
Friday: No. 8, Derrion Grim
Saturday: No. 7, Dewey Cotton
Today: No. 6, Lavante Bushnell
Aug. 24: Player No. 5
Aug. 25: Player No. 4
Aug. 26: Player No. 3
Aug. 27: Player No. 2
Aug. 28: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 7, Dewey Cotton

Nothing about No. 7′s 5-foot-4, 145-pound frame plays football like an undersized prospect. This incoming junior is vastly impressive, and a versatile weapon for a team that won a league championship and was a touchdown away from the program’s third Sac-Joaquin Section banner…

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
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, orwith me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, St. Mary’s junior Dewey Cotton, No. 7 on my top returner rankings.

***

St. Mary's junior wide receiver Dewey Cotton, right, is Thomas Lawrence's No. 7 pick on his Top 50 Football Players Countdown. RECORD FILE PHOTO

Dewey Cotton has all the motivation he’d ever need to return with a fire as a junior.

Cotton, during last year’s 21-14 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship loss to Sacramento-Grant, made a dive for a second-half touchdown, one which could’ve won the game eventually. He was ruled out of bounds before it happened, and St. Mary’s eventually turned the ball over on downs.

This photo, though, shows Cotton touching the pylon while in the air. Translation: TD.

Yet, Cotton is such a lover of football and improving himself physically, he didn’t need that to have a monstrous offseason on the field and in the weight room, Rams coach Tony Franks said.

“He’s just got that fire. He would’ve done that regardless of how the Grant game ended up,” Franks said. “He wants to be great. And he’s willing to work at it.”

Cotton, a Swiss army knife of sorts for the Rams’ offense, is No. 7 on my Top 50 Football Players Countdown. While McNair’s Derrion Grim, No. 8, may be a better traditional wide receiver and has a much bigger, longer frame, Cotton could impact St. Mary’s in the run game on fly-sweep concept plays and on special teams as a kickoff and punt returner. Thus, the slight edge went to Cotton for overall potential impact.

Last season, Cotton delivered 36 catches for 500 yards and a touchdown, and that’s rarely seeing the ball until the latter half of the year.

Seeing Cotton on the opening day of fall camp on Aug. 10, it’s obvious that he’s put on a ton of muscle in the offseason, and is primed to go.

He’s one of the reasons it’s exciting to be a Rams fan yet again in 2015.

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
Wednesday: No. 10, Erron Duncan
Thursday: No. 9, Darrion Kitson
Friday: No. 8, Derrion Grim
Saturday: No. 7, Dewey Cotton
Aug. 23: Player No. 6
Aug. 24: Player No. 5
Aug. 25: Player No. 4
Aug. 26: Player No. 3
Aug. 27: Player No. 2
Aug. 28: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

Top 50 Football Players Countdown: No. 8, Derrion Grim

McNair senior wide receiver Derrion Grim is No. 8 on Thomas Lawrence's Top 50 Football Players Countdown. RECORD FILE PHOTO

When you make it to the Top 10 of this list, you have collegiate-level football talent. And a certain blue-turfed, West Coast powerhouse which had a comedy called “Blue Mountain State” indirectly made about it certainly thought highly of No. 8.

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
If you think I’m wrong, please let me know in comments, orwith me personally (my information is below).

Here he is, McNair senior Derrion Grim, No. 8 on my top returner rankings.

***

You wouldn’t assume Derrion Grim is about to crush your hopes and dreams.

Sure, McNair’s senior wide receiver is 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and fast and strong, with incredible hands. But he’s soft-spoken, quick to smile and a lover of anime cartoons, drawing and poetry.

Yet, as McNair senior quarterback Osai Brown said, when he sees a hint of daylight on that football field, he’ll burst through everything in his path to get there.

“Derrion is big. Real big, real stocky and hard to tackle,” Brown said. “With screens, if he gets in open space, he’s gone.”

That’s why Grim, a Boise State verbal commit, is No. 8 on my Top 50 Football Players Countdown. He’s the fourth player from McNair on the list thus far, joining senior wide receiver Sean Hamilton, junior linebacker Seth Tennis and senior linebacker Noah Faatau, and a guy who, with the proper focus, luck and coaching, could play in the NFL some day.

So as far as his potential and raw talent go, he’s definitely underrated as No. 8 on this list. But, because this weights potential impact on a team, being a wide receiver can be dependent on other circumstances, like the quarterback you play with and the offensive schematic style

Grim is No. 8, but certainly his pedigree is even higher.

“I see Derrion – his size, his speed, his power. It’s indescribable,” Brown said. “I look at him as unstoppable. In the open field, I don’t see anybody tackling him.”

Certainly, not many will be able to in 2015.

Grim had 35 catches, 637 yards and 10 touchdowns in a transfer sitout-shortened, five-game 2014 season. That’s an average of seven catches, 127 yards and two touchdowns per game.

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
Wednesday: No. 10, Erron Duncan
Thursday: No. 9 Darrion Kitson
Today: No. 8 Derrion Grim
Aug. 22: Player No. 7
Aug. 23: Player No. 6
Aug. 24: Player No. 5
Aug. 25: Player No. 4
Aug. 26: Player No. 3
Aug. 27: Player No. 2
Aug. 28: Player No. 1

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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

Manteca’s Wooten pursued by Kansas State, Nevada

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NORCAL BASKETBALL BLOG

A year off from varsity basketball hasn’t derailed the recruiting trail for Manteca High senior Kenny Wooten.

Wooten, a 6-foot-8 forward, transferred from Stagg to Manteca as a junior, after averaging 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocks per game as a sophomore in 2013-14. He attempted to have the 30-day transfer sitout period for a valid move, but something, with the Sac-Joaquin Section legally cannot disclose, flared up with that and he missed the entire season.

The good news is, he joins a team that advanced to the Division III semifinals as a No. 5 seed, and returns 6-9 senior Anand Hundal, the No. 2 shot blocker in the state last year, and 6-7 junior wing Tydus Verhoeven: Wooten’s cousin.

Kansas State, an NCAA Division I team in the Big XII Conference, has offered Wooten a full ride scholarship, Buffaloes coach Brett Lewis said in a text message Friday, as has D-I Nevada, Reno. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, he of former Illinois Fighting Illini fame (his 2005 team went to the national championship game and lost to North Carolina), is coming to Manteca to visit Wooten in September, Lewis said.

The Buffaloes are certainly early favorites to contend for Valley Oak League and section championships, and Wooten is a big reason why.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Website: Stockton Preps

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in College sports, High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment
  • Blog Authors

    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

    Scott Linesburgh

    Linesburgh has been a member of The Record's sports department since 1988. A native of Wantagh, N.Y., he has covered the Stockton Thunder hockey franchise since its inception in 2005 and has spent more than two decades reporting on motorsports and ... Read Full

    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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