Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On the Golden State recuiting trail: Bullard-Fresno safety getting recognized

Nick Cole of Bullard-Fresno has started to receive interest from the PAC-12 (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna)
Nick Cole of Bullard-Fresno has come home to two recent letters from the University of Arizona and Washington. The Wildcats and Huskies are the first of three schools to show interest in the Class of 2016 free safety.

"The PAC-12 is great, but being recognized is too," Cole told Cali Gold Mine.

Cole has also played quarterback for the Knights, who are currently 2-1 after losing to state powerhouse Grant-Sacramento 28-14 on Sept. 12. He added that Utah of the PAC-12 has shown "some interest."

Cole, who stands at 5-foot-11 and 165-pounds, finished with four tackles in the 14-point loss to Grant. The junior and second-year varsity player said he's not satisfied with the interest from the PAC-12.

"My goal is to get a lot more (interest)," Cole said.


Michael Wright of Dinuba has received some love from the Northern part of California.

The four-year varsity running back visited Sacramento State on Sept. 13 and took in a Hornets game against Weber State. Wright's father, Michael Sr., said UC Davis called his son on Monday, Sept. 15, and said the conversation went really well.

"They asked him to come up for a game and they like what they see (of him) so far," Michael Sr. said. "The education at UC Davis and the fact they (the Aggies) want him at running back makes it interesting."

Wright has a team-high 317 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the 2-1 Emperors. He has 3,742 yards in his prep career.

The defending Central Section Division III champions host El Diamante-Visalia - the reigning section DII champs - at Claud Hebert Field at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.


Savion Simms of Central-Fresno announced he'll take his official visit to Eastern Washington University sometime in January of 2015.

The Class of 2015 prospect holds four scholarship offers, with EWU being one of those scholarship pledges.

Simms and the Grizzlies are currently 0-3 in 2014. They'll return home at Koligian Stadium to take on Bullard at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gold mines from week two

Sixteen players raised their level of play under the lights in week two. Here's who stood out in Cali Gold Mine's eyes:


Rogers, a senior, had a breakout night of seven catches, 139 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers' thrilling 48-42 overtime victory against Kingsburg.


Despite the loss, a new quarterback star in K Town may have emerged in Sierra, who threw for 296 yards and had four touchdown throws.


Brooks was Sierra's top playmaker with eight catches, 172 yards and two touchdowns in the overtime loss.


Jimenez has been the most dangerous playmaker in the Coyotes' fast paced Pistol Wing-T offense, as the senior ran for 227 yards on 29 carries and scored four touchdowns, as Madera held off Reedley 42-29.


Quezada went from being held to nine carries, 17 yards in the Pirates' opening 42-14 loss to Dinuba on Sept. 5 to being the big 6-foot, 209-pound freight train who kept RHS in its contest against Madera. The senior finished with 202 yards on 17 carries and scored twice in the loss for RHS. Quezada's 202 yards is a varsity career-high for him.


Metcalf is in the Central Section record books, after slinging 481 yards in the 51-21 rout of Woodlake, which now puts him at a section record of 9,411 career yards. Velacruz finished with nine catches for 273 yards.


The UCLA commit powered his way to 185 yards - including the game-winning two-point conversion run - as the Broncos escaped Buhach Colony-Atwater with a 36-35 victory.


Horton scored twice on a 91-yard kick return and 18-yard reception, while Murphy caught three passes for 63 yards and returned a 48-yard interception for the touchdown, as the Tigers improved to 3-0 with their 44-34 win over Merced.


The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Nelson finished with 13 tackles, five for a loss and two sacks as the Cavaliers improved to 3-0 with their 51-6 victory over Lindsay.


The 2017 prospect had 117 yards and three touchdowns, all in one half. The Bearcats cruised to a 45-6 rout of Cabrillo of Lompoc and now sit at 3-0.


Jefferson scored five times -three rushing and two receiving - as the Hawks got their revenge against Bakersfield Christian 42-30 on Sept. 13. The game was a rematch of the section Division IV championship.


Known as "Smash" at Sunnyside, Williams smashed his way to 340 yards rushing and five touchdowns as the Wildcats defeated Mt. Whitney-Visalia 53-35.


Frazier finished with five sacks, while Perryman grabbed three interceptions as the Tigers moved to 3-0 following their 21-3 victory over Buchanan-Clovis.

Navarro's risk taking leads to productive four-year varsity career

Nikolas Navarro at a spring Rivals! camp (photo credit rivals.com).
Nikolas Navarro is known at Jurupa Hills in Fontana for taking risks on the football field. He's used his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame to throw himself into a pile and halt a running back at inside linebacker, or go across the middle as a tight end and make the tough catch.

The senior plays two positions that require risk taking. But Navarro got used to making bold moves early in his prep career. His biggest gamble came in the summer of 2011, when he was an incoming freshman at the newest high school located on the town's south side.

"I told my mom I wanted to practice and lift with the varsity team and she said it was OK," Navarro said. "I had a slight step back, though, when I broke my wrist."

Navarro was demoted to the junior varsity team after sustaining the injury during one summer practice. However, he didn't shut down his hope of joining the varsity roster. His injury healed right on time for the freshman and junior varsity game.

"After I played in that game, they brought me back up to the varsity due to my superb performance," Navarro said.

Navarro's gamble of joining the varsity team as a 5-foot-10, 190-pound freshman got him to stay with the upperclassmen. He got on the field in seven games, finishing with 20 total tackles including eight solo stops. 

Since then, he's produced 199 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks in his Spartan career. He's now Jurupa's leading tackler with 32 stops and averaging 10.7 tackles per game this season. 

On the football field, Navarro is quick to locate the football, then dash like he's a dog spotting his chew toy inside his house. His vision and closing speed are two of his strongest traits. Navarro, though, said he's improved as a student of the game.

"I feel that I have a greater understanding of football and now know the importance of film," Navarro said. "I know the other teams' play before they run it now."

During his junior year, Navarro scored three defensive touchdowns, including two on interception returns. Along with his ball skills, he was an active blitzer who chased down a quarterback or blasted his shoulder into a running back, knocking him to the turf.

While Navarro said that his film study has improved, he said he thinks his speed and tackling have enhanced as well. 

"So far, two of the three teams I've played against have made schemes around me, and many plays that I make are always from my opposite side," Navarro said. "My tackling has improved too. I've lowered my pad level, making my tackles more efficient."

He's not just watching how other teams line up on offense or learn what formations they run. Navarro said he enjoys watching Luke Kuechly, an NFL All-Pro linebacker on the Carolina Panthers, to help with his own style of play at linebacker.

"For him to be so young and dominate the game the way he does just amazes me," Navarro said. "He's also an exemplary person off the field and just a monster on the field intimidating everyone."

Navarro has had to adjust to playing tight end this season. He said Jurupa sometimes lines him up as a slot receiver. He added that even though he's fine with playing tight end, he's more comfortable on defense.

"It's like clock work. I feel right at home every time I play the position," Navarro said. "I've been playing it for as long I can remember [Navarro has played since Pop Warner]. I work a lot on my hands to shed blocks and I spend around one to three-in-a-half hours in the weight room each day, whether if it's at school or the gym. Legs and shoulders are a must for me."

Despite being a four-year varsity letterman and a tackling machine for the Spartans, Navarro hasn't come home to a stack of scholarship offers. The University of Idaho of the Sun Belt Conference is his only athletic scholarship offer. Army and Vanderbilt have expressed recent interest.

Are colleges overlooking Navarro?

"I feel that I'm a big sleeper prospect, but patience is key and at the end of the day, having just one offer is a blessing," Navarro said. "No matter where I go, I'll make my mark."

He credits his early taste of the varsity level for helping him become the player that he is today. 

"Being on varsity early helped a lot. I never had to adjust to the speed from the freshman level to the varsity because I was always with everyone at the top," Navarro said. "I always learned from those games and remembered their plays because I knew I would see them again on Friday nights."


What to like: I would start with size but I'm more impressed with Navarro's other attributes. His closing speed and reaction skills make him an ideal linebacker for the next level. He won't back down from snatching a ball carrier for a huge stop on a blitz or make a game changing interception or fumble. He does a solid job of extending his hands and shedding blocks quickly for the tackle. He does a consistent job of keeping himself low to the ground and finishing his tackle. The fact that he's spending more time in the film room shows that he's willing to improve his preparation for a game.

What to build on: He said he's improved his speed, but that aspect can always improve at the next level. I've noticed that he tends to use more upper body strength than hand technique to shed his blocks. He might get away with that in high school but he'll need to improve that area down the road. I also need to see more of his ability to single cover a tight end or inside receiver.

Overall: Navarro is a hidden gem in the talent rich Inland Empire. There's no question he has a great number of skills that can make him a prototypical linebacker at the collegiate level. How he has just one offer baffles me. But I'm sure that lone offer is motivating Navarro to dominate his games on Fridays in the "I.E" and get more looks on the recruiting trail.

More on Navarro:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhoUF3D3PZ4

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Week two highlights: Bearcats have rising star in sophomore power back

Christian Erickson - who's only a sophomore - just made Paso Robles more dangerous than ever on offense, plus elevated himself as a 2017 prospect to watch in North San Luis Obispo County.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound angry bull stampeded his way to 117 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns - all in one half - as the Bearcats won their battle of the unbeatens against Cabrillo of Lompoc 45-6 at Huyck Stadium.

Erickson didn't just move the chains, he moved a pile with his legs, low pad level and physical upper body. He wore down the Conquistadores on belly and blast running plays that were executed between his offensive tackles. Erickson had three scampers that were good for 20, 21 and 25 yards.

And, on a team with highly-recruited Bailey Gaither (six NCAA Division I and Football Championship Subdivision scholarship offers) making the most dynamic plays for Paso Robles, Erickson proved that the 3-0 Bearcats don't need the receiver and return ace to set the tone or lead the way.

Erickson has 379 yards on 62 carries, giving him an average of 6.1 yards per carry. He's leading the balanced Bearcat offense with five rushing touchdowns.

He's gone over 100 yards against some quality competition too. He had 152 yards against the Clovis High Cougars, who's had one of the best defenses in the stacked Central Section during the last few years. He rumbled for 110 yards against Camarillo, with the Scorpions having a combined record of 21-5 in the last three seasons. On Friday, he pummeled a previously 2-0 Cabrillo team with his triple digit first half outing.

I won't be surprised if college football coaches continue to migrate to North SLO County's wine country after Gaither graduates. It's because they can court Erickson.


Hanford High is unleashing its young attack dogs this season, and the Bullpups have knocked down two Central Sequoia League heavyweights in Kingsburg (33-12 on Aug. 29) and Dinuba (30-7) to make their early statement.

Now sitting at 3-0, Hanford has won with a sophomore quarterback in Ryan Johnson and a 211-pound junior power runner in Joseph McDaniel leading the charge.

Johnson scored three touchdowns (two passing, one 33-yard rushing touchdown) against the defending Central Section Division III champion Dinuba. Johnson also burned the Emperors with air strikes of 22 and 51 yards.

McDaniel isn't a fast back, but he brings power and determination to his runs. As of Sept. 12, McDaniel was averaging seven yards per carry for the Bullpups.

I should also add the performance of the Bullpup defense. Hanford limited a high-powered Dinuba offense to 77 total yards, including bottling Emps' running back Michael Wright with 44 yards. Hanford brought an array of blitzes to hault a Dinuba offense that came in averaging 30.5 points per game.


In the post Richard Doctor era, the Tigers have turned to defense.

The result? A pass rush from Zack Frazier and the ball-hawking ability of Allen Perryman to help move past Doctor's illustrious career.

Lemoore faced the task of replacing Doctor and his 2,504 yard season from a year ago. The Tigers have leaped to 3-0, with two victories over Tri-River Athletic Conference opponents Clovis (40-27 on Sept. 5) and their recent win over Buchanan-Clovis (21-3 on Friday).

Frazier, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior defensive end, has eight sacks during the undefeated start. He had five in the 18-point win against Buchanan.

Perryman is a rising junior with seven interceptions - including two games with three picks. He hauled in three interceptions in the victory over Buchanan. He's a 6-foot, 175-pound free safety who's on pace to grab 15-20 interceptions this season.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Johnson stays patient while running through defenses

Stevan Johnson, a three-year varsity running back, walks onto the field in San Joaquin Memorial's 50-13 rout of Hoover on Thursday, Sept. 11 (Photo contributed).
Stevan Johnson of San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno hasn't opened any mail that reads "official scholarship offer" when he comes home.

Johnson, however, is using his fast start in 2014 - 419 rushing yards and 10 combined touchdowns in the first three games - to make him feel peaceful and hopeful about landing a potential offer soon from a four-year university's football program.
"I am very understanding that the recruitment process is a slow and steady process and colleges don't just hand out scholarships," Johnson said. "I've learned that I have to just be patient, keep playing hard and leave it all in God's hands."

So far, defenses have had their hands full with the 6-foot, 205-pound freight train, who's in his third varsity season and has 1,755 career rushing yards with 35 total touchdowns.

Johnson has wore down defenders by averaging 139.7 yards per game during the Panthers' 3-0 start this season. His latest performance saw Johnson pulverize Hoover with an average of 6.3 yards per carry in SJM's 50-13 trouncing of the Patriots on Thursday, Sept. 11.

He's quickly ran through open holes like a rock being released from a sling shot. Johnson's burst, vision and powerful legs have made him a tough back to pull down. Defenders are leaping at Johnson's ankles or bouncing off of him during his highlight films.  

Despite not landing his first scholarship pledge from a four-year school, Johnson has been on the phone with a number of college coaches and has received letters from schools in the PAC-12, Big Sky and Mountain West conferences. The University of Washington and Fresno State are among the schools expressing interest in the senior.

On the football field, he said that he's in "better shape" than last year.
"I feel like I have more knowledge of the game and I have more desire to win," Johnson said. "It's all hard work, preparation in the offseason and good blocking from the big boys up front. My running style is the same: the ball is high and tight, I run fast, run hard with a low pad level and I keep my legs pumping at all times."

Johnson has shown determination with some of his runs. He's driven tacklers backwards by keeping his legs going and has carried a pile with him. Those running traits are similar to Marshawn Lynch of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Johnson has been labeled "the Marshawn Lynch" of the Central Valley by some spectators of the prep football scene in the 559. He's also walked around the Memorial campus with his fellow classmates showering him with praise.

"They've just congratulated me on my success this far. They tell me to keep up the good work and big things will happen," Johnson said.


What to like: Johnson has shown more quickness with his runs, especially when locating a hole and bolting through it. He does an excellent job of keeping his pad level low and never stopping his legs after contact is made. His receiving ability has improved thanks to his offseason work at Passing Down and the Pylon 7-on-7 tournaments. Johnson is deadly after the catch and runs with the same determination.

What to build on: I'll need to see his ability to pick up blitzing linebackers when he doesn't have the football. He also can continue to build on his speed because defenders have caught him from behind. He's not a speedster but most power backs aren't.

Overall: Johnson is a throwback runner. He's in the mold of Earl Campbell, Lynch, former Jacksonville Jaguar Fred Taylor and current University of Arizona running back Nick Wilson (former Central Grizzlies star). His receiving ability has helped raise his stock further. Johnson combines as a powerhouse back and receiving threat.

More on Johnson: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2075312/stevan-johnson

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stockton receiver is hands on - on and off the field

Demetrius Ferguson of St. Mary's-Stockton tries to spin past a Downey High defender during the June 2014 Fresno State tournament (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna)
Under the stadium lights of the 209, Demetrius Ferguson of St. Mary's-Stockton uses his hands to defeat his opponents, as the senior wide receiver is the Rams' No. 1 target.

Off the field, Ferguson doesn't stop using his hands - because he's either making dinner or cutting hair.

Ferguson triples as a downfield playmaker, cook and barber. Just like any high school football player with college football ambitions, the 6-foot-2, 158-pound senior posts his highlight film on his social networking pages for his friends to see. However, unlike many prep prospects, Ferguson will post videos of himself cooking in the kitchen or using the razor blade to give someone a new look.

Ferguson said he's learned both cooking and hair cutting in the last year. He calls both hobbies his stress relievers.

"At the end of the day, I have to take my mind off of something. I think about football all day, but you have to relax and have some 'me' time," Ferguson said.


Ferguson has learned his culinary skills from his mom, who's using dinner time to help prepare her son for the college life, plus get him to resist the temptation of eating out everyday.

"She's trying to get me ready (for college) so she has me preparing my own meals," Ferguson said. He adds that his favorite dish to make is a chicken alfredo casserole.

Ferguson has posted videos of himself firing up chicken, vegetables or other side dishes on the stove.

Has his Rams' teammates asked him to prepare the team meals?

"They haven't, yet," Ferguson said, laughing.


The wide receiver learned how to cut hair by watching one of his friends.

"I decided to do that because one of my best friends, who's my age, cuts hair and he's my barber. I'm at his house all the time and I've seen him cut hair," Ferguson said. "I started thinking 'I'm playing football and I'm going to school. Then I come home, do homework, but then I don't do nothing. So why not? Why not find another hobby? And I can make money while I'm doing it.'"

Ferguson said he likes the social aspect of being a barber.

"When I cut people's hair, it gives me a chance to interact with new people and chill with them," Ferguson said.

Like his highlight films and cooking reels, Ferguson will post videos after giving someone a cut. He also said that being a barber can give him a side job in college.

"I know a lot of people who need haircuts," Ferguson said. "When I visited Arizona State (for a summer camp), I saw a lot of people looking for barbers. Once I get to college, that will be a great thing for me to do (cut hair)."

Ferguson catches a practice ball during the Fresno State tournament (Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna)


Ferguson looks like a mismatch for opposing defensive backs because of his towering frame. He's won several one-on-one battles by out-jumping his defenders, hauling in the air ball, then dashing to the end zone. He's shown he doesn't need to always beat opponents with the jump ball, though, as he's torched defenses after the catch. He proved that in his opening game on Sept. 5 against Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa.

Ferguson caught one pass on a post route, sprinted at three defenders waiting for him at the CN 35-yard line, but cut left and darted his way to the 9 for a 44-yard gain. The trio of Cardinal Newman defenders didn't lay a finger on him.

He spun his way out of two defenders' arms on another post route. He caught the big play at the Rams' 49-yard line, but then slipped by one defender by rotating to his left then added another spin move to his right at the CN 40 to shake off the other defensive back. Ferguson was brought down at the CN 35 after the 22-yard catch and run.

Ferguson averaged 20 yards per catch that night, finishing with four receptions for 80 yards in the Rams' 35-15 victory.

Ferguson credits his 7-on-7 team for helping him add new traits to his game.

"I honestly feel that playing with Diverse Sports during 7-on-7 made me a smarter player," Ferguson said. "They helped me pick apart defenses. Now, I know what defenses and coverages my opponents are in. It gives me a chance to know which route to run now."

He caught the attention of one opposing coach during the 7-on-7 season: Elon Paige of Team Field Up. Paige compares Ferguson to Doug Baldwin of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

"I was very impressed with his speed off the ball, ability to make the tough catches, and his ease in making people miss after the catch," Paige said of Ferguson. "Those are three qualities that make a dangerous receiver."

Paige is a former college football receiver at Sacramento State University. He said he likes Ferguson's attitude and receiving strengths.

"He carries a demeanor which he knows that he's elite and he'll play like it. That's what you want in a go-to-guy," Paige said. "After watching him at the Fresno State passing camp, it solidified my belief that he's a bonafide NCAA Division I athlete. He was unguardable. He scored at ease and ran past a host of defensive backs. If he continues to do that up there in the delta (Stockton area), especially against the top teams in his area, his stock will rise drastically."


The Rams' target has been on the college football radar. He holds one scholarship offer from New Mexico State of the Sun Belt Conference. He said Eastern Washington of the Big Sky Conference (Football Championship Subdivision) has him high on its list of recruits.

"They've called me and said they want to see me play," Ferguson said.

Washington State and Oregon of the always-competitive PAC-12 have sent him letters recently, Ferguson said.

He said he's more motivated than ever because of the schools showing interest in him.

"If I ball out the first three games, I can get more offers," Ferguson said.

He said that his offense is opening up the playbook, allowing Ferguson to be utilized a lot more.

"This year is way different," Ferguson said. "Last year, we didn't spread the ball around (the Rams were run-heavy in 2013). But this year, we're passing the ball way more. It's equal this year. The coaches know how to use the weapons we have now."

Another motivation for Ferguson? The number of players who went from Stockton to the college and professional level.

Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back) attended St. Mary's High. Brandin Cooks (first round draft choice for the New Orleans Saints) starred at wide receiver for Lincoln High. Justin Davis (current USC starting running back) was a five-star recruit at Lincoln. Na'im McGee (San Diego State cornerback) was a former star at St. Mary's. Those superstars from the 209 have inspired Ferguson.

"I feel like we're getting more coverage now, especially with some of the guys in the NFL," Ferguson said. "They brought a look to Stockton."

Ferguson goes for the jump ball at Bulldog Stadium (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna)


What to like: Ferguson can make an array of catches, either low to the ground or high above him. He does an excellent job of adjusting his body to all kinds of passes. In the open field, Ferguson is slippery like an elusive running back and can run around defenders or use spin moves to make them miss. His blocking has improved this season, with Ferguson locking his palms in between a defenders' numbers and driving him to the turf like an offensive lineman. He's explosive off the snap and gets open in a matter of three seconds. Despite his small 158-pound body, he's not afraid to run inside routes and sacrifice himself with the middle grabs.

What to build on: Most defenses he's gone against have tried playing a zone coverage and usually gives him a three to five yard cushion. I need to see how he consistently fights off jams at the line as the season continues. He'll need to refine his routes like most high school receivers. He'll likely need more muscle down the road, especially if he goes against more press coverages.

Overall: Ferguson is a machine in Stockton. He's emerging as one of the 209's top playmakers. With only one scholarship offer, he's definitely a sleeper in the Northern California region. He's a big play waiting to happen.

More on Ferguson: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1875416/highlights/163800435

Next game: Ferguson and the Rams (1-0) travel to Central Catholic of Modesto (1-0) at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

JUCO gold mines from week one

Defense shined bright as the junior college football season opened up on Saturday for California.

Three defenders had four sack performances. One linebacker tallied 19 tackles in his season debut. Lastly, a couple of defenders hauled in three interceptions on opening day.

Here's who earned the gold mine recognition from CGM this week:


Allen overcame a knee injury that forced him out of action last year to finish with 10 tackles and four-in-a-half sacks, as CSM routed College of Siskiyous 31-3.


The 6-foot-3, 255-pound lineman brought the pressure with his four sack day in PC's 35-28 win over Citrus. Donahue explodes off the football like a firecracker and wreaks havoc against running backs and quarterbacks. He currently holds a scholarship offer from Colorado State.


Reedley College has had one of the worst defenses in the state in the last few years, but Kaaihue could be one of the men who changes the culture. The freshman from Nanakuli, HI, made an instant impact for the Tigers with four sacks in the 37-16 victory over Mendocino. Reedley's last big-time defensive line prospect was Marcus Dallas, who held nearly seven scholarship offers and is currently playing on Texas State University's defensive line. Perhaps Kaaihue could be next for the Tigers' line.


Despite the 28-26 loss to Santa Ana, Irabarren finished with 19 tackles and 11 solo stops. He's got size (6-foot-3, 225-pounds) and instincts for the Bulldogs' defense.


Beltram, from his linebacker spot, played like a ball-hawking safety with his three interceptions in the 19-16 win over Merced.


Despite being 5-foot-8, Sanders showed his nose for the football with three interceptions in ARCC's 37-27 victory over Modesto.


The returning 6-foot-4, 265-pound McBee pummeled the DeAnza College offense with five tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovery in the 52-7 pouncing on Saturday.


The former University of Wyoming linebacker commit didn't disappoint for the Rams, as he finished with three tackles, two sacks and two stops for a loss in FCC's 52-7 trouncing of DeAnza.