X-Factors: Stagg-Lincoln Football Showdown

Lincoln High football coach Brian Gray breaks his team out of practice Wednesday. Lincoln hosts Stagg Friday at 7:30 p.m. (THOMAS LAWRENCE/THE RECORD)

There’s plenty to love about Lincoln High football’s Spanos Stadium.

The artificial turf that feels like pristine, real grass. The old-school bleachers and modern press box looming above the new field. And, my favorite part, the fans in the stands are right on top of the players on the sidelines.

And that should be a heavy presence on both sides Friday  night.

Lincoln hosts Stagg at 7:30 p.m. to open the high school football season, as Stockton (and maybe San Joaquin County’s) premier matchup.

Stagg is coming off a 10-2 season, and a No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. Lincoln was 4-1 in league but 4-7 overall last year, and was  blasted in the first round of the D-I playoffs by Sacramento-area power Folsom and QB Jake Browning (Washington commit).

With that in mind, here are three X-Factors for Friday’s game:


At Lincoln’s practice today, I heard their linemen affectionately called “The Big Dogs” by an assistant.

And the Trojans’ and Delta Kings’ “big dogs” will be instrumental Friday night.

Especially when Stagg has the ball, as 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive lineman Tristen Taylor must protect against a gnarly Lincoln line: with Rodney Jones, Eric Leapaga, Jermiah Mendoza and Jordan McMiller.

Whichever team wins the war in the trenches should have the upper hand to having a comfortable rhythm on offense and a season-opening win.


Both starting quarterbacks, Stagg’s Lavante Bushnell and Lincoln’s Colby Dickson, are juniors and new to guiding a team Week 0.

Dickson, though, was already a quarterback, while Bushnell is a converted wide receiver.

How Bushnell is able to cope with pressure from the Trojans, because yes, it’s coming, and use his speed to his advantage should determine if Stagg can win this thing.

Both guys have great senior wide receivers to throw to, in Lincoln’s Mark Russell and Stagg’s Lester Williams.


While this is not an arch rival-type game (see: St. Mary’s-Lincoln or Franklin-Edison), the smack talk has been flying on social media and I assume throughout both schools this week.

Couple that with the atmosphere at Spanos Stadium, and the outlying crowd and chatter could have an affect on this game.

Whichever team stays above the noise Thursday and, more importantly, Friday night, has a mental edge that is much more important than you might think.


MONDAY: Players to Watch (Stagg-Lincoln), Locals Honored by Cal-Hi Sports, MaxPreps

TUESDAY: Week Zero Local Schedule

WEDNESDAY: X-Factors (Stagg-Lincoln)


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Local Prep Football Schedule: Week 0

Can you taste it? I can.

High school football is on the doorstep, and it all begins Friday with a wonderful slate of games in Stockton, San Joaquin and the Mother Lode.

I’ve been talking Stagg-Lincoln all week, but we should have reporters at Calaveras-McNair, Del Campo-Edison, Sierra-Ripon and more.

And, even though I know you’re all well-versed in MaxPreps (and you’ll pick up a Friday copy of The Record to see our local schedule) I’ve compiled a quick Week 0 football schedule for your reading pleasure.



Manteca at Wilcox, TBA

Lathrop at West, 7 p.m.

Sierra at Ripon, 7 p.m.

Sonora at Oakdale, 7 p.m.

Calaveras at McNair, 7:15 p.m.

Del Campo at Edison, 7:15 p.m.

Freedom at Tracy, 7:15 p.m.

Gregori at Chavez, 7:15 p.m.

Hercules at Tokay, 7:15 p.m.*

Lodi at Amador, 7:30 p.m.

Colfax at Argonaut, 7:30 p.m.

East Union vs. Grace Davis @ Modesto Junior College, 7:30 p.m.

Linden at Orestimba, 7:30 p.m.

Patterson at Escalon, 7:30 p.m.

Sierra Ridge/Rite of Passage at Bret Harte, 7:30 p.m.

Stagg at Lincoln, 7:30 p.m.

Bolded games we have a reporter or freelancer going, or hope to, bold and italicized games I’ll be going to (Stagg-Lincoln) as will our editor Mike Klocke (Calaveras-McNair).

* Lodi News-Sentinel should cover


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Word on the Street: Cal-Hi Sports, MaxPreps talking Stockton area teams

Tracy High tailback Nate Jones (left) is one of several locals honored by Cal-Hi Sports. (THE RECORD FILE PHOTO)

Getting local attention is something to be proud of.

But several Stockton and San Joaquin-area football teams and players are doing much more than that.

For example, St. Mary’s, Lincoln and Tracy were ranked Nos. 13, 14 and 15 by MaxPreps’ Preseason Sac-Joaquin Section Top 25 rankings. Those are compiled by The Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson, who’s been the guru of Northern California high school sports since 1988.

Yours truly was born in ’89!

As for some individuals, Stagg offensive lineman Tristen Taylor was named an OL to watch by Cal-Hi Sports. Taylor, at 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, already has offers from Idaho and Eastern Washington.

I’m guessing he gets even better than that.

One of his team’s opponents coming up is Lincoln. And the Trojans’ senior defensive lineman T.J. Tia Tia (6-1, 320) was named a Cal-Hi Sports DL to watch.

Tracy, the defending San Joaquin Athletic Association (SJAA) champion, now of the Tri-City Athletic League (TCAL), has one heck of a senior tailback in Nate Jones.

Jones, at 5-8, 190, had 113 carries for 1,174 yards and 19 touchdowns as a Bulldog junior. He’s a Cal-Hi Sports RB to watch, and with good reason.

Imagine the league battles now when Jones matches up with Lincoln DLs Jordan McMiller and TiaTia and St. Mary’s linebacker Khalil Hodge, who’s been offered by Sacramento State?

That’s theater in itself.

Got any more recruiting news or statewide or national honors to report? Tweet at me @RecordPreps, email me at tlawrence@recordnet.com or contact me in any way you want (telegraph is fine, too). My info is below:


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Players to Watch: Stagg-Lincoln

Stagg High wide receiver Lester Williams (left) is a player to watch this Friday. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

Our opening Game of the Week might not just be the best in Stockton.

It’s one of the biggest matchups in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Lincoln, ranked No. 14 in MaxPreps’ Top 25 SJSCIF Preseason rankings, hosts Stagg at 7:30 p.m. That’s the same Stagg team which went a perfect 5-0 to win the Tri-City Athletic League (TCAL) a year ago, and earned the No. 2 seed in the SJSCIF D-I playoff bracket.

Stagg only reached the quarterfinals, losing to Elk Grove-Pleasant Grove, but it was a mighty accomplishment.

Now, the Trojans look to return to prominence and the Delta Kings look to keep building their program under a massive spotlight at 7:30 p.m. Friday. I’ll have updates on Twitter, and check out our game-night coverage and live chat on Recordnet.com.

For now, here are players to watch for both squads:


Taylor, a 6-7, 310-pound beast, was named an OL to watch by Cal-Hi Sports, and already has offers from Idaho and Eastern Washington. I’m guessing he’s going to get some true D-I offers, too.

And he’s pivotal for the Delta Kings, who will be in offensive transition with dual-threat quarterback Lavante Bushnell leading the way in Stagg’s spread offense.

He must protect the run game, and oppose Jordan McMiller.

WR – MARK RUSSELL (Lincoln, Sr.)

Russell is rumored to be a WR to watch in the section and the area this year, and he could do his damage out of the slot for the Trojans.

He’s got a heck of a counterpart for Stagg, too.


Williams is not to be trifled with, and had a team-high 43 catches for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.

I’m fascinated to see how he syncs up with Bushnell, and in the second half of the season, how he and QB Marcus Moore (Weston Ranch transfer) connect.

QB – COLBY DICKSON (Lincoln, Jr.)

With a weapon like Russell, it’ll be interesting to see how Trojans coach Brian Gray and company utilize their young quarterback.

And, how Stagg’s 4-3 defense can affect Dickson’s comfort in the pocket.


Bushnell is at 5-8, 155, and was a wide receiver before this year.

Delta Kings coach Don Norton is tremendously impressed with his development as a passer and a leader, though, so this offense may not be as run heavy as once thought.

It certainly helps to have Williams to throw to, and Taylor protecting him.


McMiller’s senior leadership on a scary Trojans’ line should be something to watch Friday, especially when paired against the Delta Kings and Taylor.



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The Good, The Bad and The Grassy: Manteca’s Levi’s Stadium game delayed


Is there any greater irony than the fact that the old, dingy, nearly-dead Candlestick Park might’ve been a better high school football showcase venue than the glitzy, gaudy, Silicon Valley-tinted Levi’s Stadium.

Answer, no. At least, not for this season.

The 49ers and Levi’s Stadium announced today that the doubleheader between Manteca-Wilcox and De La Salle-Jesuit was canceled due to problems with the sod and the playing surface.

There have only been a handful of events thus far at Levi’s – and just one football game, a preseason drubbing of the 49ers by the Broncos – and this is a shaky start.

However, it does present a few positives for Manteca. Yet, they’ll lose a natural home game, and have this event disrupt their season’s flow, instead of open it.

In light of today’s hot topic, I’ve accumulated three pros and three cons for the Buffaloes’ new date in Santa Clara.



Prep football kickoff brings enough nerves as it is for the teenagers involved.

Now imagine a sparkling new NFL stadium, the site of Super Bowl 50, and you’ve gotten some certain jitters. As great of an experience as it is, coaches and players really need to be concerned with getting in the flow of game speed.

So maybe it’s a blessing that Manteca won’t play in the 49ers’ digs for another month-and-a-half.


OK, a new stadium isn’t exactly hallowed ground. But to take the Manteca-Oakdale rivalry, which isn’t as well-known as Sonora-Oakdale, but it’s a big one, to a professional stadium is something to behold.

Sure, these events look like nobody comes on TV, because you can’t draw 70,000 high school fans, no matter how rabid they are. But you can bet that Saturday afternoon the downtown  businesses of Oakdale and Manteca will be pretty empty.

Not a bad day to drive without traffic down Highway 120.


A major reason the 49ers cancelled the “Friday Night Lights” showcase is for the safety of the professional athletes who’ll be playing on that turf.

But lest we forget, some sorry sod could’ve hurt a Manteca or Wilcox player, as well.

So hopefully, Levi’s playing surface will be figured out by October, making for a solid, safe place to play for the Buffaloes and Mustangs.



First of all, selfishly, I’m bummed that this game did not happen Aug. 29.

Myself, a videographer and a photographer were probably all going to Levi’s Stadium to cover it, and it was going to be a legen – wait for it – dary way to open high school football season.

And I’m sure, even moreso, the players were amped to begin their season in the home of the Niners. I’m sure that’s the favorite team of many of them.

5, 4, 1

Technically, Manteca still has five road games and five home games this season. Yet, five of those are natural road games, four of those are natural home games, and then, technically, the Oakdale game is “at home.”

Only, it’s 64 miles away from home and in Santa Clara.

While the magnitude of the experience is undeniable, losing what could be a crucial home field advantage against a league rival and powerhouse program could rub you the wrong way as a competitor.


Just as it could be a “pro” to get into the season’s rhythm, this trip could take away the flow of a team on a roll.

Not only will it be a strange environment, and not a typical league game, but it’s on a Saturday afternoon instead of a Friday night.

Considering these guys’ weekly schedules, they might need buckets of scalding-hot coffee on the sidelines instead of ice-cold Gatorade.


Seriously, this opportunity is a dream come true for Manteca and Oakdale.

As a high school baseball player, I would’ve killed to play at AT&T Park or the Oakland Coliseum.

These “pros” and “cons,” while I mean what I say, do not serve to undermine just what a great moment this will be for this group of young men.

I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.


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Phone: 209-546-8272

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Out of the Limelight: Area prep football sleepers for 2014

Lincoln High wide receiver Mark Russell (10) could be lethal and help the Trojans compete in the TCAL. (ROGER WOO/THE RECORD)

The marquee names are obvious.

Stagg is coming off a 10-2 season overall and a 5-0, triumphant Tri-City Athletic League championship campaign. St. Mary’s is a powerful private school program, with D-I championships in 2004 and ’08. Even the smaller schools like Calaveras could repeat as league champions.

And no, we haven’t forgotten about Manteca: the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion and NorCal D-II bowl competitor.

But there are a handful of teams that could surprise in 2014, if not in the playoffs then at least in league competition.

Here’s a few of them I’ve compiled in my short time at The Record:


Considering Lincoln’s solid  history – including the 2000 Sac-Joaquin Section D-I championship – and resources it shouldn’t be a sleeper.

But the Tri-City Athletic League is just loaded this year, and defending SJAA champion Tracy, perennial power St. Mary’s and upstart Tokay may bury some of the Trojans’ press.

Even from a brief visit to Lincoln’s camp, though, they look physical, they look hungry and they look focused. Throw in returning quarterback Colby Dickson and his top target in WR Mark Russell, and you have a potential league contender.

The Trojans’ front four led by Jordan McMiller helps, too.


Even with losing some fantastic seniors, all signs point to Stagg winning back-to-back league championships behind first-half quarterback Davante Bushnell, and second-half transfer Marcus Moore,  stud WR Lester Williams and D-I prospect lineman Tristen Taylor.

However, the Titans could be on the up-and-up, and are not to be trifled with.

This is especially true because of Julius Davila. He’ s not only a returning senior quarterback, but the top returning passer in the league. He threw for 1,990 yards and 18 TDs as a junior, and WR/RB Priest Jennings returns as a versatile weapon.

Jennings ran for 791 yards and seven TDs, and had 192 receiving yards and two more TDs. The Titans will miss Darrin Gentry, but on defense, look for Trumaine Williams (56 tackles, four sacks last year) to thrive.


It just seems funny to call Escalon a sleeper.

I mean, really, the Cougars have eight section championships in their history. The things is, the Trans Valley League was loaded with small-school swagger last season, and Escalon finished third behind Ripon and Hilmar.

In fact, those same Hilmar Yellowjackets downed the Cougars 14-7 in the Division IV quarterfinals.

But Escalon rarely has two league losses, or gets a 10 seed. And I don’t see it happening again.

Tailback Christian May is back to do damage, and I see Escalon rebounding and having a better year.


Edison Vikings (SJAA)

Lodi Flames (TCAL)

Sierra Timberwolves (VOL)


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Brookside Christian hires Wilburn as girls basketball coach

If there’s one thing the new Brookside Christian girls basketball coach needed, it was championship pedigree.


The Knights announced they’d hired Pico Wilburn Tuesday, replacing Que Ngo and his four-year tenure. Ngo went 110-21, with three Sac-Joaquin Section championships and a NorCal crown.

Wilburn has four league championships, two Oakland Section titles, and oh yeah, back-to-back state championships. So he shouldn’t be intimidated.

He comes in from Oakland Tech, which competes in the North Coast Section come playoff time.

Brookside Christian principal Dennis Gibson told me they love Wilburn’s philosophy, which is to care for his players as individuals and support the total person, not just the basketball player.

Seriously, though, that brief but phenomenal resume helps, too.


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Back in Action: Top VOL Football Returners

Sierra High wide receiver Hunter Johnson (23) could be one of the top targets in the VOL. (WAYNE THALLANDER/MANTECA BULLETIN)

The Valley Oak League has become a hall of champions.

The new VOL, an eight-team gauntlet, has Central Catholic (17 Sac-Joaquin Section championships, back-to-back NorCal and state titles), Manteca (4 SJSCIF titles, NorCal bowl appearance last season) and Oakdale (2013 NorCal D-II champion, three SJSCIF banners).

Not to mention a playoff team in Sierra, along with Weston Ranch, East Union, Kimball and Lathrop.

Locally, we’ll focus on the Manteca schools – Sierra, Manteca and EU – and Stockton’s Weston Ranch. I’ll also try to include Tracy’s Kimball. Manteca opens with a heck of experience Aug. 29, with a 4:30 p.m. game at the 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The Buffaloes face Wilcox of Santa Clara, which beat Manteca 28-27 in OT in Manteca to kick off last season.

I hope to be there, and if so, I’ll be updating live on Twitter.

For now, here are the Top VOL Returners for 2014. To look at my SJAA and TCAL returners, check out our blog.

RB – HECTOR SOTO (Manteca, Sr.)

Soto played third fiddle behind Alex Laurel and Michael Gonzalez in the Buffaloes’ D-III championship and NorCal D-II bowl game run, with 487 rushing yards on 67 carries with eight touchdowns.

Odds are he’ll be the man in the backfield spotlight this season.

DB – DOM PISANO (Manteca, Sr.)

Pisano led the Buffaloes with 87 tackles as a junior, adding two interceptions.

He’ll need to be the leader on the defensive side once again as Manteca ventures into the brutal VOL.


Johnson could be an early candidate for an all-area receiver, coming off a junior season where he hauled in 46 catches for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns.

His QB from last year, and our first-team all-area QB Jake Pruitt, will no longer be there, though.

LB – TREVON MCCRAY (Sierra, Sr.)

McCray powered the Timberwolves with a team-high 88 tackles as a junior, with one forced fumble and a blocked pass.

You can bet Sierra will need McCray to hold down the fort in late-game situations against Manteca, Central Catholic and Oakdale, to name a few.

LB – ANGEL ROBLERO (East Union, Sr.)

Roblero led his team in tackles as a junior, too, with 102 of them for the Lancers. He also forced a fumble and had a rushing touchdown against Orestimba of Newman.

WR – CHRIS CANNADAY (Weston Ranch, Sr.)

Cannaday was a bright spot amid the Cougars’ 3-7 season, with 41 catches for 643 yards and six touchdowns.

The tough part for him is his quarterback, now-senior Marcus Moore, transferred to Stagg and will lead the defending-TCAL champion Delta Kings in the second half of the season.


TE JARED RICE (Central Catholic, Sr.)

QB HUNTER PETLANSKY (Central Catholic, Jr.)

RB MONTELL BLAND (Central Catholic, So.)



DB JACOB TALOA (Kimball, Sr.)

*Lathrop did not have any statistics posted for the 2013 season, so I could not surmise who its best returner would be. The same stats problem goes for Oakdale, but thanks to my friend Rich Estrada, aka “Black Hat Football”, I was able to find Ichord.


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Back in Action: Top TCAL Football Returners

Tracy High senior tailback Nate Jones (right) could be one of Northern California's top rushers in 2014. (MICHAEL MCCOLLUM/THE RECORD)

Today, I met Lodi High football coach Robert Sperling. And I asked him what he thought about the re-assembled football gauntlet: the Tri-Cities Athletic League.

“It’s like the SEC,” he told me. “It’s loaded.”

He couldn’t be more right.

The TCAL includes two schools each from Stockton, Tracy and Lodi this year, with defending champion Tracy, Stockton’s St. Mary’s and Lincoln and Lodi’s Tokay as the four that should battle for the top spot.

Tracy’s got one of the best tailbacks in the section in Nate Jones, Tokay will get UCLA-bound WR L.J. Reed (Cosumnes Oaks transfer) likely halfway through the year, St. Mary’s is loaded as always and Lincoln has a ton of returning talent, and looks big, strong and mean.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the top returning players in the TCAL, with at least one – but not limited to one – entry from each team.

Here’s a look at my top SJAA returners from Monday.

RB – NATE JONES (Tracy, Sr.)

Jones, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound force, has been listed as a tailback to watch in the state of California, by Cal-Hi Sports. Now that’s saying something.

As a junior, Jones was instrumental in guiding the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record overall and a 5-0 mark to win the TCAL. Tracy routed Edison to open the section playoffs before taking a beating of its own against Jesuit.

Jones had 113 carries for 1,174 yards – that’s an average of 10.39 yards per carry, folks – with 19 TDs.

LB – JOEY PATINO (Tokay, Sr.)

Patino was a beast for the Tigers, with 69 tackles and a crucial 6.5 sacks. He’s one of several talented defensive returners and seems like he can stop the run and rush the passer effectively.

Look for Patino to team up with Jose Villanueva and Bradley Kazmierczak to lead the Tokay defense.

LB – KHALIL HODGE (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

Hodge is one of several D-I prospects in this league, and has already received an offer from D-I FCS Sacramento State, he said. He stands at about 6-1, 225 pounds, according to last year’s MaxPreps roster, and had 102 tackles, second-best on the team, with two interceptions and 1.5 sacks.

St. Mary’s looked massive when I saw them practice, and Hodge should be a menace on the TCAL this season.


Four-year varsity football players are special, and Trammell certainly can and should be for the Flames this year.

As a junior, Trammell had 84 carries for 558 yards and three touchdowns, through the eight games reported on MaxPreps.

He’ll need to lead Lodi at linebacker too.

WR – MARK RUSSELL (Lincoln, Sr.)

From everything I’m hearing, the Trojans senior wideout will be a great target for quarterback Colby Dickson. Lincoln coach Brian Gray is excited about the returning talent on this team, which includes most of last year’s major contributors.

Russell and the Trojans have only a couple games worth of stats reported on MaxPreps for 2013.

WR – ALLEN WARD (Tokay, Sr.)

Ward was instrumental in the Tigers’ 8-3 run in 2013, hauling in 26 catches for 548 yards – a team-high – and eight touchdowns.

Once he’s teamed up with Reed in midseason, the Tigers’ offense could be scary. That’s a nice situation for quarterback Grayson Dillon to say the least.


Ferguson is another D-I prospect like Hodge, Rams coach Tony Franks told me, and had 30 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.

Look for him and quarterback Noah Righetti to develop a great chemistry as the season moves along.


The Wolfpack’s stats were incomplete on MaxPreps, so it was difficult to place who would be their best returners.

However, in the four games registered for Wilson, he had 37 carries for 163 yards – averaging four-and-a-half yards per carry. He’ll need to be a beast for West to rebound and stay tough in the TCAL.

The Trojans’ four-man front should be one of the team’s major strongpoints, led by the veteran McMiller.







NOTE: Tokay’s Reed is not included on this list because he is not a Tokay returner, he’s just a returner to the varsity level.


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Brookside Christian parts ways with girls basketball coach Ngo

Que Ngo will no longer coach Brookside Christian girls basketball after four years. His teams went 110-21. (CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD)

As our own Jason Anderson wrote back in Feb. of 2011, when Que Ngo started coaching the Brookside Christian girls basketball team, he didn’t have a legacy to continue, he had a legacy to build.

The Knights had 33 Sac-Joaquin Section championship banners, but none for girls hoops. In four seasons, Ngo captured three of them and a CIF NorCal Division V championship to boot.

This weekend, though, Brookside Christian announced it decided not to renew Ngo’s contract, principal Dennis Gibson confirmed Tuesday.

I haven’t got to meet Ngo, or speak to him on the phone today, for that matter, so I can’t speak to his personality as a coach, his character or his basketball IQ. What I can say is how jaw-dropping his statistical resume is.

The Knights went 110-21 (winning percentage of .840) in his four seasons as coach, and won back-to-back-to-back SJSCIF banners from 2012-14. His best player, Tiara Tucker, scored a whopping 2,519 points in three varsity seasons. She transferred to McNair and played a shortened season as a senior, her poorest statistically.

Check this blog, Recordnet.com and The Record newspaper for a full story on Ngo’s departure and Brookside Christian’s search for a new coach in the coming days. As always, thanks for reading, everybody.


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