Football season isn’t just close. It’s here.
My Top 50 Football Players Countdown, weighing the best returners in The Record’s coverage area: San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode, is set for its inaugural edition. These rankings are based on past varsity experience, as well as potential impact for 2015. These 50 players reflect the 50 days remaining until high school football season begins with Week 0 on Aug. 28.
Because tangible impact is important for these rankings, there are often more skill position players. Yet, you will see plenty of capable linemen here.
Schools included for these rankings:
- San Joaquin County: Lincoln, St. Mary’s, McNair, Bear Creek, Chavez, Stagg, Tokay, Lodi, Franklin, Edison, West, Tracy, Kimball, Weston Ranch, Lathrop, East Union, Manteca, Sierra, Escalon, Ripon, Ripon Christian, Brookside Christian, Elliot Christian, Millennium
- Mother Lode: Linden and Calaveras
Here they are, players Nos. 46-50:
No. 50 – Max Nicol (5-11, 145), WR/DB, Linden, Sr.
Nicol was the Lions’ top versatile option in a frustrating year overall, with 89 rushes for 693 yards and six touchdowns. He also added 25 catches for 407 yards and a receiving TD. He and quarterback Anthony Craven must be in-sync if Linden hopes to compete in the Mother Lode League.
No. 49 – James Gibbons (5-10, 150), QB, West, Sr.
The Wolf Pack’s offense was mostly focused on the running of junior Marcel Dancy a year ago, but having a senior quarterback return like Gibbons is paramount. For West, Gibbons threw for 666 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions. As he improves and gives the Wolf Pack more balance, the better off they’ll be in league. A year ago, West won its first five nonleague games before dropping five consecutive games in the Tri-City Athletic League.
No. 48 – Jonathan Wright, WR/DB, Lodi, Sr.
Wright was a dual threat for the Flames, rushing for 366 yards and three touchdowns, and hauling in 166 receiving yards and another touchdown. He posted 22 tackles and a fumble recovery on defense. Lodi needs veterans like Wright on both sides of the ball to hang tough in the TCAL.
No. 47 – Anthony Craven (6-0, 197), QB/LB, Linden, Sr.
Craven returns after throwing for over 1,000 yards with eight TDs and eight picks in 2014. He added five rushing touchdowns as well. It was a difficult season for Linden in the revamped MLL, with now includes perennial power Sonora, and longtime coach Mark Miller and company have work to do after a 2-8 season overall, and 1-5 campaign in the MLL.
No. 46 – Matt Meehleis (6-1, 195), QB/DL, Lodi, Sr.
Meehleis only threw 15 passes for last year’s edition of the Flames, as a backup quarterback, but was superb as a pass-rushing lineman, with a team-high seven sacks with 26 tackles. He’ll be key in giving the Lodi offense a jolt of energy after Chance Trammell, a second-team All-Area tailback, moves on via graduation. Lodi finished fifth out of six teams last year in the TCAL, ahead of West and behind Lincoln, Tokay, Tracy and St. Mary’s.
TOP 50 PLAYERS COUNTDOWN
Today: 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. 13: Players Nos. 11-17
Aug. 19: Player No. 10
Aug. 20: Player No. 9
Aug. 21: Player No. 8
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
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