Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Koski continues to keep up with East Bay elite

J.J. Koski holds up the Most Valuable Player trophy during the Passing Down Nor Cal Regional in March 2014. Since his MVP performance, Koski has heated up on the recruiting trail at wide receiver (photo contributed).
J.J. Koski is among a growing list of big play wide receivers who do their damage in the East Bay region of Northern California.

The corridor between Hayward and Pleasanton is known for game changers like Isaiah Langley (Foothill-Pleasanton, USC commit), Darrell Adams (Stellar Prep-Hayward, three scholarship offers including Arizona State), Dominic Williams (Hayward High, leads North Coast Section with 737 receiving yards and 13 touchdown receptions) and Carter Nichols (San Ramon Valley-Danville, leads his team with 16.9 average yards per catch).

Koski - despite missing several summer camps due to a foot injury he had in June 2014 - is doing his part under the East Bay lights with piling up the yards and touchdowns, plus having his phone ring with college coaches on the other line.

Koski told Cali Gold Mine that "over 20 programs in the last week" have picked up interest in the 6-foot-1, 185-pound target. Koski said he's seen his skills enhance on the field.

"My game has improved dramatically since last year," Koski said. "I ran track in the spring, which improved my speed, and I can read defensive coverages better which allows me to play faster. Plus this is my third year on varsity."

Through three games, Koski has a team-high 20 receptions, 204 yards (second on the Wolves) and four touchdowns. On the field, Koski torments defensive backs in man coverage. 

He's shown a smooth cut with his routes and gains separation on his defender; then finishes the play by hauling in the catch and turning on the afterburners for the touchdown. Despite not having an ideal towering frame for a red zone target, Koski has won the red zone battles too. He's gotten in front of his defender, turned his body to the ball, and snatched possession of the touchdown.

He's learned to win the mental edge against a defender.

"When I line up across from a cornerback, it usually takes me only a play or two to determine their quality of play and tendencies.," Koski said. "I Just want the ball. On every play, I know my speed and ability to make a play when it counts. It trumps anyone I line up against."

The senior is considered an underrated prospect in Northern California. While more schools are asking about him, Cal Poly and the University of Montana are Koski's only scholarship offers. Both hail from the Football Championship Subdivision.

Koski, who said he admires Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers "due to his work ethic and focus," plans on committing to a school before National Signing Day.

"As of now, I'm just focusing on playing under those Friday Night Lights, because it doesn’t get much better than that," Koski said.

CALI GOLD MINE'S TAKE

What to like: Koski is a natural route runner. He won't just run his plays at full speed, he'll finish his route. One of the most important traits for an elite wide receiver is to consistently win one-on-one battles, regardless of how athletic or tall a cornerback is. Koski does just that. He shows excellent concentration and body adjustment to his receptions, especially with passes that are away from his body. He's a fearless competitor who won't hesitate to run inside on a screen pass or take a punt return, which is something he also does.

What to build on: Koski doesn't have the best speed and even though he's beaten secondaries deep, he can get caught from behind. During screen plays or when he gets redirected inside on a passing play, I noticed Koski tends to swing the ball away from his body while he runs, which could lead to numerous fumbles at the next level. He runs upright and can work on staying low to the ground after the catch. 

Overall: Koski is reminding me of a young Jordy Nelson because of his work ethic and big play capability. He plays like a future Mountain West, Big Sky or PAC-12 wideout. Whoever lands him come February 2015 will get a potential steal.

More on Koski:  http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1605417/highlights/90397379


Monday, September 29, 2014

Week four highlights: reserves rise up

The most dominant performances came from two players who weren't considered the No. 1 options at running back for their teams at the beginning of the season: Charles Williams of Bullard-Fresno and Lameshio Hill of Bakersfield.

But both backs broke loose for breakout evenings in Fresno and Los Angeles.

Here's this week's gold mines:

CHARLES WILLIAMS, RUNNING BACK, BULLARD-FRESNO

Williams got the call from the Knights to carry the load; and the 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior responded with 277 yards on 36 carries and four touchdowns in Bullard's 28-25 victory over Clovis West on Sept. 25.

LAMESHIO HILL, RUNNING BACK, BAKERSFIELD

Hill finished with 145 yards and five touchdowns in the Drillers' 49-6 stomping of Salesian-Los Angeles on Sept. 26. Hill energized a BHS offense that switched from its triple option attack to a wildcat formation.

MICHAEL WRIGHT, RUNNING BACK, DINUBA

He's officially the Emperors' all-time leading rusher with 4,196 career rushing yards, as he ran for 118 in the Emps' 41-10 rout of Porterville. Larry Hall held the previous school record with 4,155 yards.

JABAR BYRD, ATHLETE, MERCED

Byrd stampeded past the Clovis North Broncos with 109 yards on 18 carries, two rushing touchdowns and a 97-yard kickoff return for the score in the Bears' 32-25 home win.

BOLU OLURUNFUNMI, RUNNING BACK, CLOVIS NORTH

On one ankle, Olurunfunmi finished his night with 202 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns, as he overcame his injury to keep the Broncos in the game despite losing 32-25 to Merced.

ANTOINE CUSTER, RUNNING BACK, DE LA SALLE-CONCORD

Custer finished with 247 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns, as DLS pounded Orange County boss Servite-Anaheim 47-24.

BRYCE ARNOLD, LINEBACKER, CAMARILLO

The undersized 6-foot, 185-pound linebacker led the Scorpions with 15 tackles (12 solo) and had one stop behind the line of scrimmage in their 17-7 statement victory over previously unbeaten Ventura High.

BLAKE SCHMIEDERER, DEFENSIVE LINEMAN, SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL-FRESNO

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior wreaked the trenches against Sunnyside in a huge battle in Fresno, as the lineman had five tackles, four solo stops and three sacks in the Panthers' 42-14 rout.

DEONDRE VINES, ATHLETE, PACIFICA-OXNARD

The Tritons have ended their five-year streak of winning no more than four games thanks to their 5-0 start, and Vines was one reason for that accomplishment as a do-everything type for Pacifica against Buena-Ventura. Vines had 188 yards on nine catches with one receiving touchdown on offense, then added one interception and a fumble recovery on defense in PHS' 56-35 victory.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Simms joining "the red army"

Savion Simms of Central-Fresno lines up during a one-on-one drill between wide receivers and defensive backs at the Fresno DB Guru summer camp in August 2014. Simms, who held four scholarship offers, gave a verbal commitment to Eastern Washington University on Sunday, Sept. 28 (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).
Savion Simms of Central-Fresno has continued the Grizzlies' streak of producing an NCAA Division I football recruit, as the Class of 2015 athlete verbally committed to Eastern Washington University of the Big Sky Conference on Sunday, Sept. 28.

Simms is now the 14th Grizzly to move on to the DI ranks. The list includes Brendon Bigelow (athlete, Cal-Berkeley), B.J. Kelley (wide receiver, University of Oregon), Shakiem Barbel (wide receiver, walk-on at the University of Kansas), Matt Lea, (safety, UNLV), L.J Moore (defensive back, former Oklahoma commit), Hatari Byrd (safety, Oklahoma), Johnny Johnson (cornerback, UCLA), Tashon Smallwood (defensive tackle, Arizona State), Nick Wilson (running back, Arizona), Devon Brewer (safety, Arizona), Shariff Williams (nose tackle, Arizona), Dehlon Preston (cornerback, San Jose State) and Zeandae Johnson (defensive end, Cal).

Simms held other offers from Idaho, Montana State and Northern Arizona. The 5-foot-8 Simms is utilized in a variety of ways for the Grizzlies. He's returned kickoffs, punts, and has lined up at running back, wide receiver, cornerback and safety.

Off the field, Simms' lowest grade is an A- in his american government class. He's also competed in the 100 meter dash in track and field, with his fastest time at 10.89 seconds.




Friday, September 26, 2014

Shining Knight - Bullard junior breaks out for 277-yard evening

Before entering McLane High Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 25, with bitter rival Clovis West on the other sideline, Charles Williams said he was only looking to "fill the void" at running back with teammate and starter Tanner Van Es sitting out.

Williams ended up gashing the Golden Eagles and emerged as a back to watch in the Class of 2016.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior finished with 277 rushing yards on 36 carries and four touchdowns, including a 65-yarder in the third quarter that helped solidify the Knights' 28-25 victory.

"I just was hungry to beat Clovis West for head coach Don Arax and I tried to make my boy Tanner happy," Williams said.

The Knights (3-2) lined up in a lot of power and double tight end formations. The Bullard trench men created outside running lanes for Williams while going against an exotic Clovis West defense.

"It was a 4-4 (four linemen, four linebackers) with some odd and even fronts. They came at me with a few blitzes but we got what we needed," Williams said.

Williams also broke his long runs against two highly-touted national recruits on the Golden Eagles: wide receiver/cornerback Darian Owens (five scholarship offers) and outside linebacker/tight end Caleb Kelly (15 offers).

Williams said he crossed paths with Kelly on several occasions.

"It felt good," Williams said when going against Kelly.  "He had a few good hits on me. Much respect to him. He plays snap to whistle and I like his energy."

Through five games, Williams has 604 yards on 87 carries and nine touchdowns. He's averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

He's following the footsteps of past running back greats at BHS: Corey Jackson, Travon Jones, Demetrius Warren and Dejonte O'Neal.

"They're trying to show me stuff I've never seen before," Williams said. "My footwork got better from those guys. They advise me to just focus on me, but also keep moving the rock north and south."

The Knights and Williams are now preparing for the rigorous County Metro Athletic Conference season. Edison, San Joaquin Memorial and Madera were a combined 11-0 before their games on Friday, Sept. 26. The Tigers had a bye this week, while the Panthers and Coyotes had non-league games.

At 3-2, are opponents in the CMAC looking past Williams and the Knights?

"Sometimes they sleep on us, but these other teams are just as good as us and this year it is wide open for anyone," Williams said.



CGM returns to Your Central Valley news

Cali Gold Mine's Lorenzo J. Reyna on the Thursday, Sept. 25, live edition of Sports Central on CBS 47 in Fresno (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).
I had the privilege of returning to television on Thursday, Sept. 25, as Scott Bemis, Amy Gill and the rest of the great people at CBS 47 welcomed me back to their station to talk more high school football!

In case anyone missed the segment, here's some of what Scott and I discussed:

KEY MATCHUPS FOR FRIDAY, SEPT. 26

Clovis North at Merced - The final non-league hurdle for the Broncos and this time, CN has to deal with highly-touted Merced quarterback Tyrone Williams, who's being courted by some PAC-12 schools.

Immanuel at Avenal - A rare battle between two teams sitting at 3-0. Avenal, who plays in Division VI of the Central Section, has relied on a committee at running back. The Eagles - who compete in DV - have impressed on offense especially with the play of tight end Aaron Wilson. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Wilson has received interest from the University of Wyoming of the Mountain West.

Tulare Western at Madera - Probably the best game to attend on Friday. Tulare Western - once 0-10 in 2012 - has followed its stunning 7-4 turnaround from 2013 with a 3-0 start. Kobe Portillo and Jordan Padilla are a deadly quarterback and wide receiver combo when they connect. Padilla averages 19.3 yards per catch. Madera is a machine on offense with Alec Gamboa and Jesus Jimenez leading its fast-paced Pistol Wing-T scheme. The Coyotes are 4-0 with both running backs combining for 619 yards and nine touchdowns.

BEST SURPRISES

1) Hanford - It's one thing to start 4-0, but the Bullpups have taken down section monsters Kingsburg, Dinuba and Porterville with a young, hard-nosed squad. Joseph McDaniel, Class of 2016 prospect, leads a resurgent running attack.

2) Lemoore - The Tigers have knocked off Clovis and Buchanan of the ultra competitive Tri River Athletic Conference (TRAC) then escaped the always hostile Tom Flores Stadium with a 27-22 road upset of Sanger. Lemoore's defense has been a hot topic among high school football followers in Kings County. Zack Frazier leads the pass rush with seven sacks during the 4-0 start. Rising junior Allen Perryman has seven interceptions.

3) Immanuel - The Eagles have been to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, but this could be head coach Matt Armstrong's best job yet. His unit has won with small roster numbers (21 active players), lack of depth at each position and having just eight seniors. But the Eagles have knocked off traditional section powers Dos Palos, Lindsay and Chowchilla. Along with Wilson, quarterback Caleb Paulson has seen his stock rise with 568 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception during the fast start. Edison-Fresno transfer Robert Grier has 418 yards and averages 4.7 yards per carry for the Eagles' running attack.

FIVE BEST RUNNING BACKS

1) Bolu Olurunfunmi, Clovis North - I've never seen a running back more prepared for the college game. The Central Valley's version of the Nigerian Nightmare runs through, around and over defenders. At the right moment, he flips a switch and takes over a game with his big-play capability. This locomotive is still UCLA bound after getting flooded with scholarship offers by other marquee college programs.

2) Michael Wright, Dinuba - Wright has got to have the best stamina in the section. I haven't seen him wear down in a game and when he gets an increase in carries, he gets stronger. Of course, his wrestling background keeps his lungs fresh and his stamina going. The hard-nosed Wright has picked up interest from UC Davis and other Football Championship Subdivision schools.

3) Romello Harris, Tulare Union - Already the most wanted Class of 2016 running back in the Central Section, Harris elevated his stock with a 357-yard night against Kingsburg and the Vikings' massive defensive line. Harris holds four offers, including a recent pledge from Duke.

4) Khai Williams, Edison - At the right moments, Williams punishes his way down the middle of the defense to help keep drives alive or seal victories. His breakout night of 161 yards against defending state champion Bakersfield is one highlight from the senior this season.

5) Malcolm Williams, Sunnyside - "Smash" electrifies his team with his elusiveness and breakaway speed. His best night was his 340-yard, five touchdown evening against Mt. Whitney-Visalia.

Honorable mentions:

Stevan Johnson, San Joaquin Memorial - He's off to a fast start with 10 touchdowns in three games, and picking up interest from a few PAC-12 and Mountain West programs in the process.

Jesus Jimenez, Madera - He's a force of nature who's capable of getting 200 yards on any given night.

Web link: http://www.yourcentralvalley.com/story/d/story/week-4-high-school-football-preview/27158/SKqRSE767kKAohNf1oXZ4A#.VCT9yhkXL7M.twitter

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Unrecognized sting - Camarillo rolls along while carrying "overlooked" label

The Scorpion logo on the home stands of Carl Thompson Field is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city of Camarillo while passing Highway 101. The varsity football program has won 15 straight league games while playing in the shadow of some Ventura County elite teams (photo contributed).
When traveling south bound through the Ventura Freeway on Highway 101, it's easy to spot where Camarillo High School is.

The large painted Scorpion gives away the institution's location, as it covers the first 24 rows of the home stands inside the football stadium. The decorated logo clad in navy blue and silver is one of the most recognizable landmarks in a town known for the following: its factory outlets, Cal State Channel Islands University, a high school football program with 15 consecutive Pacific View League victories...

And unrecognized football talent.

The players on Carl Thompson Field spearhead a program that's 47-15 since 2009 and has won five straight PVL titles (shared the league championship in 2010). However, the Scorpions believe they've been in the shadow of Ventura County bosses St. Bonaventure, Newbury Park, Westlake, Oaks Christian and Thousand Oaks.

The Scorpions haven't been known for being a college football recruiting hotbed either.

Corbin Covey - Class of 2013 - was one national recruit donning the CHS colors. He shattered state, county and school records at wide receiver before joining Colorado State of the Mountain West Conference. Jake Maulhardt is running routes in the MWC too with Wyoming. He's another former Scorpion and '13 graduate. Bryan Anger, Jacksonville Jaguars punter and former Cal-Berkeley Golden Bear, blasted his kicks in a Scorpion uniform before graduating in 2007. They're the most recent Scorpions who moved on to the collegiate ranks and were over-shadowed by the talent at the other prominent Ventura County schools.

The Scorpions' sting has been unnoticed. But now, Camarillo got its promotion to join the likes of Newbury Park, Royal-Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks in the Camino League. As for the non-league slate, St. Bonaventure is coming to Carl Thompson Field on Oct. 10. There's the forthcoming heavyweight battle at Ventura High on Friday, Sept. 26. These are the games that motivate the Scorpions to rise up and get noticed in front of the Ventura County powerhouses.

Scorpions quarterback Jake Constantine, who has 812 yards, 12 touchdown passes, three interceptions and early interest from some big time college football programs (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna)


Quarterback Jake Constantine said Camarillo is a sleeper in the southern Central Coast region.

"Yeah, I definitely think so," Constantine said. "We've been waiting for our shot to play all these good teams. We're excited to play these teams now."

Constantine is already playing like a national recruit. The junior 6-foot-2 signal caller directs the Up-Tempo No-Huddle offense that can score at will when it gets going. Camarillo is averaging 31.6 points per game, with Constantine throwing for 812 yards, 12 touchdown passes, completing 69.9 percent of his throws and getting intercepted three times.

He's frustrated pass rushers with his ability to escape the pocket and throw on the run, proven by his performances against Paso Robles (41-35 loss) and Simi Valley (22-20 victory). Constantine has included a quick release to his throws and a strong arm that can fling a ball 40-45 yards down the field.

Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Fresno State of the Mountain West and Holy Cross of the Football Championship Subdivision have already taken notice of Constantine by sending him letters.

While Constantine is motivated by the colleges that are showing interest, he said he can still build on his game.

"I have a lot of improvement to do throughout the year," Constantine said. "Mainly just footwork, staying in the pocket, just like all the great quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Brady is my favorite quarterback. That guy works the pocket."

Constantine isn't the only fast riser on the recruiting scene for Camarillo.

Senior linebacker Bryce Arnold leads the Scorpion defense. He's been recruited as both an outside linebacker and strong safety by a few mid-major college programs (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna)


Senior outside linebacker Bryce Arnold is getting courted by NCAA Division II and FCS programs. He's the sideline-to-sideline tackling machine at linebacker. Junior running backs Colby Stevens and Isaiah Otis bring determination and a hard-nosed running style to the backfield. Both backs averaged over four yards a carry in the victory over Simi Valley.

Then on the perimeter there's Frankie Tostado; the big 6-foot-3 target who doubles as a wide receiver mismatch and game changing cornerback. Tostado was the one who burned Simi Valley for three receptions of 22, 38 and 43 yards. He's the junior prospect who won the jump ball battle on defense to haul down the final climatic interception and seal the victory over Simi Valley.

Tostado, who's received interest from Utah of the PAC-12 and Boston College of the ACC, said he takes pride in his athleticism.

"I may not be the quickest receiver, but I can get off the line and come down with the ball," Tostado said, who likes to compare himself to Randy Moss.

Does he agree that Camarillo football is getting unnoticed?

"Yeah. We have a lot of talent out here especially in Ventura County," Tostado said. "But we don't get a lot of looks unless you're a private school. But public schools have talent out here too."

Next game: Camarillo (2-1) travels to Ventura (4-0) for its 7 p.m. non-league battle on Friday, Sept. 26. 








Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week three highlights: two running backs join the 300-yard club

Romello Harris of Tulare Union hands the football to the official after scoring one of his three touchdowns against Kingsburg on Sept. 18. Harris had a breakout night of 357 rushing yards in Tulare's 49-28 victory at Bob Mathias Stadium (photo contributed).
This past week saw two Central Section running backs wear down their opponents with more than 300 yards rushing. Down in Ventura County, a tall 6-foot-3 target doubled as a big play wide receiver and clutch cornerback who sealed the victory for his team.

Here's this week's highlight performers:

ROMELLO HARRIS, RUNNING BACK, TULARE UNION

The last few days have been one to remember for Harris. The junior dismantled Kingsburg High with 357 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Tulare's 49-28 victory on Sept. 18. Then, on Sept. 22, he landed his fourth scholarship offer from Duke University of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

MICHAEL WRIGHT, RUNNING BACK, DINUBA

Wright raised his game to a whole new level against El Diamante-Visalia, who entered Claud Hebert Field as the reigning Central Section Division II champions. The senior wore down the Miners with 336 yards on 44 carries and four touchdowns in the Emperors' 28-22 victory on Sept. 19.

FRANKIE TOSTADO, WIDE RECEIVER/CORNERBACK, CAMARILLO

Tostado made big plays when it mattered the most. He started the contest against Simi Valley with a 15-yard touchdown on a swing pass. After adding two more scores, he sealed the Scorpions' 22-20 victory at Carl Thompson Field by using his 6-foot-3 frame and vertical jump to haul down the clinching interception. Tostado had 148 yards on eight catches with three scores, including a 43-yard touchdown.

BRANSIN JOHNSON, ATHLETE, CLOVIS NORTH

Despite the close 21-20 loss to Edison in a possible Central Section Division I playoff preview, Johnson caught six passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, then added an 88-yard kickoff return for the score. Johnson is one of many NCAA Division I prospects on the Broncos with interest from the PAC-12 and Mountain West. He also holds a Weber State offer.

CORT GROATHOUSE, QUARTERBACK, LEMOORE

Playing in a hostile environment and facing its biggest Division II test in Sanger, Lemoore pulled out the 27-22 victory behind Groathouse's big night. The senior went 23-of-30 passing for 258 yards, three touchdown passes and added a 19-yard touchdown run at Tom Flores Stadium.

ANTHONY MARISCAL, ATHLETE, LIBERTY-BAKERSFIELD

The Arizona commit rushed for 181 yards on 12 carries and scored three times during the Patriots' 48-20 romp of Buchanan-Clovis.

HANK WIGGINS, DEFENSIVE BACK, CLOVIS

On his birthday, Wiggins had four tackles, an interception and a blocked field goal, as Clovis High overcame a 20-7 deficit to beat Stockdale-Bakersfield 21-20.

TANNER RICE, INSIDE LINEBACKER, CLOVIS

Rice finished with eight tackles, two stops for a loss and one sack in the Cougars' come-from-behind victory.

KRUZ BASS, WIDE RECEIVER, EL DIAMANTE-VISALIA

Bass caught 11 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns despite the Miners' road loss to Dinuba, the Central Section's defending Division III champion.

TYLER SMITH, QUARTERBACK, VENTURA

It was an efficient night for the junior quarterback, as he completed 18-of-26 passes for 306 yards and threw four touchdowns in the 48-14 rout of Saugus.

KAIZER BUTLER, RUNNING BACK, SIERRA CANYON-CHATSWORTH

Butler carried the ball just five times, but ran for 168 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Trailblazers' 42-13 trouncing of Agoura.

MASON RANDALL, QUARTERBACK, SACRED HART-ATHERTON

Randall led a 13-play, 99-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass on a slant route by Nick O'Donnell with nine seconds left, lifting Sacred Hart to the 27-21 victory over Salinas. The junior quarterback completed 10 straight passes during the long final drive.