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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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:

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Big plays from Tostado lead to Camarillo victory

Frankie Tostado finished with 148 receiving yards, three touchdowns and the game-winning interception for Camarillo, as the Scorpions held off Simi Valley 22-20 at home on Friday, Sept. 19 (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).
On offense, Frankie Tostado won the jump ball battle at wide receiver. Defensively, Tostado made a wide receiver-like jump for the football to clinch the game winning interception for Camarillo against Simi Valley.

The 6-foot-3 junior got in front of his wide receiver, leaped to the sky and hauled down the final pick of the night at the 2-yard line, sealing the 22-20 victory over the Pioneers at Carl Thompson Field on Friday, Sept. 19.

It was a night of big plays for Tostado, who caught eight passes for 148 yards and scored all three touchdowns for the Scorpions (2-1) while playing wide receiver. He had three receptions that went for 22, 38 and 43 yards. His 22-yard catch came when Tostado jumped in front of double coverage and brought down the air ball. He followed that catch by bringing down a 4-yard touchdown lob from quarterback Jake Constantine, who threw it up for his tall target to catch while facing press coverage and a safety over the top of Tostado.

But what was his highlight play?

 "I think it was the interception," Tostado said. "We were running cover four but at the last minute, we switched to a man. I was expecting something in the end zone. I wasn't expecting a double move (by the wide receiver), but I didn't bite on it and as soon as they threw it up, I made the jump on it."

Tostado said he entered the game motivated by his performance against Paso Robles, which he said was subpar after the Scorpions lost 41-35 on Sept. 5.

"I had a bad game. I told myself:  'I've got to get my mind right, do what I can for this team and step up my game,' " Tostado said. "I want to do as much as I could to help my team win."

Outside of Tostado, the Scorpion defense had a breakout game. The unit forced five turnovers including three interceptions. Bryce Arnold and Cristian Hernandez each had one interception for CHS.

Arnold made a crucial fourth and goal stop to end the second quarter. The senior outside linebacker sprinted from the opposite side of the field, maintained his angle, and wrapped up a Simi Valley ball carrier near the 2-yard line. The stop ended the half with CHS leading 15-14.

"Everyone ran right (on that play) and I was just making a play for my team," Arnold said.

Constantine added some big plays and crucial drives for CHS. The 6-foot-2 junior finished with 17-of-31 passing for 201 yards and the three touchdowns to Tostado. Constantine's first pass was a 15-yard touchdown strike to Tostado on a swing pass to the left. The receiver broke out of an ankle tackle and rumbled to the goal line for the first quarter score.

Constantine helped keep drives going with his ability to escape the pass rush and scramble to the outside. Along with his mobility, Constantine got the deep ball going, with a 38 and 43-yard strike to Tostado. The 43-yarder came on a play action bomb as Tostado sprinted past two defensive backs for the score.

Constantine said he figured Simi Valley would bring a battle.

"We knew they were going to come out and try to knock us out," Constantine said. "We had to come out strong in the second half. We have to move the ball better offensively, but we'll get better."

Constantine raved about his favorite target on the night - fellow Class of 2016 prospect Tostado.

"He's amazing. That kid makes everything happen," Constantine said. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Harris goes off on Central Section powerhouse

Romello Harris - all 165-pounds of him - ran circles around Kingsburg High School's massive defensive line as he finished with an astonishing 357 rushing yards in Tulare Union's 49-28 trouncing of the Vikings on Thursday, Sept. 18, at Bob Mathias Stadium on the TUHS campus.

Harris had 24 carries and scored three times against the Central Section Division II power. His touchdowns were from 9, 6 and 3 yards out. Tulare improved to 2-2 overall.

"I read the holes better and our offensive line blocked their butts off," Harris said. "I was thinking the whole time when I ran and I just tried to make big plays every time I got the ball."

Kingsburg arrived to Bob Mathias with eight players weighing between 270 to 330-pounds. The Vikings tried using their size to bottle Harris.

"But they were on the slower side," Harris said. "I had to make a few of them miss."

Harris, who's played on the Redskins' varsity team since his freshman year, now has 937 total rushing yards and eight touchdowns in four games. He called the victory over the Vikings a confidence booster, especially since the Redskins went 3-7 last year and got bumped down to Division II.

"It's real big. They're a real good team. They had some big boys," Harris said. "This gives us motivation going into next week. We have a bye, but we can build up confidence."

Harris still holds three scholarship offers from Washington State, Air Force and Colorado State. Four schools have increased its interest in the 2016 running back: USC, UCLA, Washington and Duke.

Harris told Cali Gold Mine that he's planning to take an unofficial visit to Duke for the Blue Devils' contest against Wake Forest, which is on Saturday, Nov. 29. 

An open Book - Ian Book helps open up Oak Ridge offense

Ian Book of Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills is piling up the offers while leading the Trojans to a 3-0 start in 2014 (photo contributed).
Ian Book - a rising junior quarterback who's listed as a three-star prospect by Fox online affiliate - is starting to heat up on the recruiting trail, with one Mountain West Conference powerhouse extending a recent offer to him.

Boise State surfaced as Book's third offer. The 6-foot, 175-pound quarterback from Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills said the Broncos made their pledge to him on Sept. 14. Book said he reached out to the Broncos and developed a relationship with some of the BSU coaches.

"They really liked my film and wanted to talk to me. I called them a few times over the next two weeks (beginning on Sept. 1) and we continued to talk. I got to know Director of Player Personnel Taylor Tharp and then coach Mike Sanford, who eventually offered me last Sunday," Book said.

Along with the Broncos, Book holds offers from the University of Idaho of the Sun Belt and San Diego University of the Football Championship Subdivision.

Book is currently leading Oak Ridge with a 3-0 record in 2014.  The Trojans are averaging 37.6 points per game on offense. He said this year's Trojans are a young but disciplined group.

"Our Coaches have done a great job preparing our team especially since we lost so many seniors to graduation last year" Book said. "We are young with a lot of juniors playing this year.  I give our coaches and my teammates a lot of credit for working so hard to get us ready for our difficult Sierra Foothill League play."

Book looks for running room (photo credit Max Preps).

Book has brought efficiency to the Trojans' attack. He's completed 74.2 percent of his throws, has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. His quarterback rating stands at 151.2. Book is starting to see growth in his development as a passer.

"Since I'm still growing, my arm strength and speed are getting better every month," Book said. "My ability to see things down field and extend plays is what most college coaches say is my strength."

He adds that he's included another trait to his play.

"I'm becoming more of a dual-threat QB and teams now have to prepare for that," Book said. "I have about 80 yards rushing so far in my first three games."

Book hasn't just heard from the three programs who've offered him a scholarship. He said he's had "great communication" with Cal-Berkeley, Washington State and Arizona State.

"Purdue and Northwestern (Big 10 schools) appear very interested as well," Book said.

The next challenge for Book and Oak Ridge is on Friday, Sept. 19, as the Trojans welcome Nevada juggernaut Reed, who's 14-4 in its last 18 games.

"Reed is a very good football team and one of the top rated teams in Nevada," Book said. "They have lots of athletes and they like to blitz a lot.  I will have to be on my game for Reed and make them think about my ability to run and our teams' ability to run the ball."


What to like: Book does an excellent job of fooling defenses on play action throws. He's good about tucking and hiding the football on fake handoffs, then throwing the strike down the field. He has good arm strength for a junior quarterback and can continue to hone his right arm. He runs a 4.74 40-yard dash time and isn't afraid to show his mobility. He can escape defenders and pass rushers. Book has been an efficient thrower who minimizes his mistakes.

What to build on: He plays in a pro style system that requires a lot of play fakes, so it's hard to determine if he can consistently spread the field. He doesn't have a consistent quick release as of now. He's made most of his throws on roll outs. I'll need to see more of his ability to stay in the pocket and show patience with his receivers.

Overall: Book is beginning to blossom at the right time. He still has one more year to add to his quarterback resume, which could potentially make him a highly wanted quarterback on the recruiting trail. Right now, he reminds me of former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, who was a master with the play action while with the Broncos.

More on Book:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rising star watch: Michael Pittman Jr.

Michael Pittman Jr. is not only a rising junior wide receiver, he's the son of Super Bowl XXXVII champion Michael Pittman (photo credit
Oaks Christian of Westlake Village - a renown Southern California powerhouse known for taking in athletes with famous bloodlines - has the son of a former NFL running back who is making his own name for himself.

Michael Pittman Jr. is the latest in a long line of Lions from famous families. The sons of Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana and Will Smith all lined up for OCHS before.

Now, Pittman is already looking like a highly-sought recruit for the class of 2016. He just landed his first scholarship offer from Cal-Berkeley on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Here's a breakdown of the 6-foot-4, 200-pound target:

What to like: Pittman already has a college football physique even as a junior. He'll likely continue to grow. He torments cornerbacks who try to defend him in man coverage because of his size. He also burns double coverage on deep patterns. Pittman uses his size to his advantage by out-jumping a defender for possession of the football. He does an excellent job of showing concentration, focus and body adjustment to his receptions. With his size, he's reliable with catching the ball in traffic. He already has his dad's toughness.

What to build on: I'll need to see more of his footwork and getting out of his breaks. I'll also be curious to see if he can catch footballs low to the ground, which is usually problematic for tall wide receivers.

Overall: Pittman plays safety too, but with his size and talents, he's better suited for wide receiver. He can be a Kelvin Benjamin or Calvin Johnson type target for a four-year program down the road. After landing his first pledge, I won't be shocked if he piles up more offers soon.

More on Pittman:

On the Golden State recruiting trail: the wait ends for Paso Robles' Baldwin

Jonathan Baldwin of Paso Robles landed his first scholarship offer from Sacramento State of the Football Championship Subdivision on Tuesday, Sept. 16 (photo contributed).
Jonathan Baldwin of Paso Robles High School no longer has to deal with the anxiety of waiting on his first scholarship offer, because Sacramento State emerged as his initial pledge on Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Baldwin, who's listed as a 6-foot-3, 230-pound tight end and outside linebacker, was coming home to letters from different Football Championship Subdivision and Mountain West programs before the Hornets decided to extend an offer to him.

"I'm really excited. They have a great program and they love their tight ends. So we'll see how things turn out," Baldwin said.

Baldwin has played three seasons with the varsity team at PRHS. As a tight end, he has 24 career receptions for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, Baldwin has two interceptions through the first three games for the Bearcats.

Paso (3-0) returns home against St. Joseph-Santa Maria (2-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.


Darian Owens of Clovis West landed his sixth scholarship offer on Sept. 16 from UCLA, who's now the fifth PAC-12 program to make a run at the rising junior.

The chiseled 6-foot-2, 188-pound Owens holds offers from the University of Oregon, USC, Washington State, Cal and Washington from the aforementioned conference. The University of Oklahoma of the Big 12 is his other pledge.

Owens currently leads the 2-1 Golden Eagles with 10 receptions and 213 yards. His two touchdown receptions are tied for the team lead.

Owens and Clovis West have a bye this week.

Rice now the lead Cougar on defense

Tanner Rice of Clovis High is looking to keep the tradition of game-changing players alive with the Cougars (photo contributed).
Inside Daryle Lamonica Stadium nestled on the corner of Barstow and Fowler Avenues in Clovis is a football field where legendary Cougar names are remembered - and where linebacker Tanner Rice wants to keep this moving train of tradition going.

Lamonica is remembered here, as the former Oakland Raiders' quarterback carved up defenses while with CHS. Tyler Clutts wreaked havoc on this field as a defensive end before transitioning to fullback in the NFL. Zack Follett brought the rush and big plays for the Cougars, then eventually landed at Cal-Berkeley of the distinguished PAC-10 (before it became the PAC-12). Nate Palomino recently made some game-changing plays at linebacker before moving on to Cal Poly of the Football Championship Subdivision.

Rice, a Class of 2016 prospect, is using past Clovis High greats for his fuel to be the next best player in the CHS blue and gold.

"I want to be the next one who keeps that strong tradition of taking football to the next level alive," Rice said. "And it's proof to me that a Clovis boy is able to do exactly that."

So far, so good for Rice.

Rice (No. 57) chases down an Atwater player during Clovis High's 19-7 victory on Sept. 12 (photo contributed).

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Rice leads the Cougar charge with 30 solo tackles this season, including four stops for a loss. He's gone past 10 tackles in two of three games in 2014, with 10 stops in the 48-30 loss to Paso Robles on Aug. 29 and 13 in the 40-27 loss to Lemoore on Sept. 5. Against Atwater on Sept. 12, Rice finished with seven tackles, five solo and got credit for half a sack in Clovis' 19-7 home win.

Built like a young Zach Thomas [former Miami Dolphins linebacker], Rice patrols the middle of the field for the Cougar defense and shows an instant reaction to where the football is going.

"I think one of my main strengths is my flow to the ball," Rice said. "I'll make my read as quick as possible and decide the best angle to take, so I can get to the football as fast as I can."

Because of Rice controlling his territory, opposing teams have rarely ran their plays up the middle of the field. He's crashed down on opening gaps and has interrupted blast or dive running plays that are going between the offensive tackles. Rice also hasn't been caught standing straight up when he tackles or muscles a player to the grass. He uses lower body leverage and his long arms to wrap up a ball carrier, then drop him to the ground.

Rice has the size and frame of Thomas, but he said he looks up to another NFL legend at linebacker.

"Even as a young kid I really looked up to Ray Lewis [former Baltimore Raven]," Rice said. "I realized he was a great player, but I also loved how intense he was and how he really led his team."

Rice looks back at one highlight play that looked similar to what Lewis did during his illustrious 17-year career.

"Paso Robles was going for a two-point conversion. It was a running back dive up the middle and I shot through my gap to meet him in the backfield and deny them the extra points," Rice recalled.

Rice shows his game face (photo contributed).

While Rice is off to a fast start in the first three games for the Cougars, he's acknowledged that there's still room for improvement.

"I can improve on jumping routes to get interceptions and jamming the receivers as they cross my zone," Rice said.

Like many high school football players, Rice dreams of a college football career. The recruiting period has been quiet for him.

"Unfortunately, I have not received any offers as of yet. But I keep praying and checking the mailbox," Rice said.

Rice, who holds a 3.94 grade point average, said that he's enamored with one powerhouse in the PAC-12 and wouldn't mind suiting up for this program.

"I love Oregon," Rice said. "I have been to their campus and the atmosphere is great. I can tell that it would be a great place to not only to play football, but to go to school also."


What to like: Rice has a strong set of eyes and nose for the football. What I admire the most about Rice is he's a fundamental tackler, meaning he doesn't try to wrestle someone to the ground because he stays low, he keeps his head up, places his shoulder underneath a ball carrier's hip, then wraps his arms around to make the stop. He's an intelligent defender who knows where the ball is going and can make quick reads. Lastly, he doesn't back down from making a crucial stop, and that's what you want out of a middle linebacker.

What to build on: I need to see how he does in pass coverage, especially if he can single cover wide receivers or tight ends. His speed can also improve. I'll also need to see his ability to go sideline-to-sideline, particularly against sweep or swing passes because that's another important trait for inside linebackers.

Overall: Rice is a Tasmanian devil in Fresno County and plays like a feisty defender. He's capable of continuing the Cougars' tradition of standout defenders. The scary part for opponents is that Rice is still growing into his linebacker role. Once he improves as a cover linebacker and pass rusher, he'll be the complete package and emerge as the next most highly-sought Cougar.

More on Rice:


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

JUCO gold mines from week two

Last week, defense reigned on opening week of the Golden State junior college football scene.

This week, six of the eight highlighted players are offensive guys. Here's who stood out:


Despite the 45-41 loss to Feather River, Alvarez led the Giants with 544 passing yards and four touchdowns.


Burton ran through the COS defense with 299 yards and four rushing touchdowns in the thrilling shootout on Sept. 13.


King, a bounce back from Eastern Kentucky University, burned Allan Hancock College with 14 catches, 137 yards and a 12-yard touchdown which got the Vaqueros to take the lead and never look back. King out-smarted the Bulldogs' zone coverage with his footwork and routes in SBCC's 33-27 win.


Araujo-Lopes helped get the Tigers to nearly pull off a 27-point comeback, as he finished with 12 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the 41-36 loss to San Jose City in Silicon Valley on Sept. 13.


Rivera threw for 299 yards and tossed four touchdown passes as SJCC held on for the victory against Reedley College.


The Rams have always had stout defensive linemen, and Smith just gave FCC another pass rusher following his two sack performance in the gritty 15-12 victory over Sierra College.


The Rams also have been known for being a linebacker factory, and Francis could add to the lineage after getting 10 tackles, six solo stops, one tackle for a loss, one forced fumble and one interception in the Rams' three point victory.


Hayes finished with 200 yards on 39 carries and scored twice in the 31-13 win over Laney.

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 187-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
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:

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:

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:

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.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gold mines from week one

In the Central Section, running backs reigned supreme, including Khai Williams of Edison pummeling the defending State Division I champions with 161 yards at Fresno City College's Ratcliffe Stadium.

Off of Highway 101 and 24th Street in North San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles electrified - and scared - its home crowd with a 41-35 victory behind the big plays of the Bearcats' most dynamic athlete, Bailey Gaither. The victory was during an evening when Paso nearly lost a 28-7 lead.

Here's this week's gold mines from Cali Gold Mine:


Looks like Khai Williams' phone, email and mailbox will soon get flooded with messages from college coaches. The senior - who was the third back behind Kevin Nutt (Nevada) and Blake Wright (Colorado State) one year ago - drilled the Drillers with 161 yards on 19 carries and one 80-yard touchdown run in the Tigers' emotional 15-14 victory on Sept. 5.

Williams told me back in April that his success came from watching Nutt and Wright.

"When I came in as a freshman, I was always under their wing. So they showed me lot," Williams said. "They taught me when to make cuts. They passed their game and knowledge down to me."

Williams has been on the NCAA Division I radar since his sophomore year. He's gathered interest from the PAC-12 and currently holds an Eastern Washington offer.


Johnson used his 200-pound frame to rumble past McLane for five touchdowns in the Panthers' 46-18 romp on Sept. 5.

Johnson hasn't been offered yet, but has generated interest from Fresno State, Arizona, Washington and numerous Mountain West programs.

The senior has scored seven touchdowns in the first two games of the season.


Grier showed Immanuel football fans what he's capable of, as the Edison transfer powered through Lindsay's defense with 215 yards on 40 carries in the Eagles' 13-12 victory.

Grier is built like a boulder at 5-foot-8, 205-pounds. He runs with a low center of gravity and punishes opponents with his shoulders. He's a Montee Ball type runner for the Eagles.


Jimenez ran for 289 yards and scored four long touchdowns (26, 55, 92 and 29) in the Coyotes' 58-14 rout over Roosevelt-Fresno.

In Madera's high-octane Pistol Wing-T offense, Jimenez showed off speed, power, balance and a second gear on his touchdown runs. 


Browning, the University of Washington commit, picked apart a Clovis North defense with three Division I prospects on the field. The pro style quarterback tossed six touchdowns in the 49-13 rout.


The rising 6-foot, 187-pound junior threw 517 yards and five touchdowns in Buena Park's 53-6 rout over California High of Whittier. Taylor has 958 yards and nine touchdowns this season.


The freakish 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior added two more sacks in the Jackrabbits'  34-21 victory over Narbonne-Harbor City. Wicker, who holds 10 Division I scholarship offers, has eight sacks this season.


Like Williams, Lewis could start heating up on the recruiting trail following his six catch, 152-yard evening against state champion Bakersfield. Lewis caught a 47-yard bomb on a flea flicker for the touchdown. He has 12 catches, 222 yards and two touchdowns this season.


Gathier raised his game to another level against Ventura County powerhouse Camarillo after catching eight passes for 190 yards and scored three touchdowns.

He added an 82-yard kick return for the touchdown in the third quarter, when he dropped the incoming ball, but darted through Camarillo for his score. Only two defenders laid a finger on him during the run.

His highlight score, though, was on a 91-yard bomb that sealed the victory. Gaither drew one-on-one coverage, ran full speed on his streak route, then caught the ball at the 35 and dashed his way to the end zone.

Gaither told me he's added Eastern Washington and Sacramento State offers. The 2015 prospect has six offers on the table.


The sophomore Erickson could be the next highly recruited Bearcat. The 205-pound animal lowered his shoulders and bruised Camarillo's trenches for 21 carries, 107 yards and one touchdown.

His running style is similar to a young Toby Geahart (former Stanford running back).


Despite the loss to Paso, Constantine is emerging as a 2016 quarterback to watch in Ventura County. He went 31 of 44 passing, threw for 310 yards and tossed four touchdowns in the Scorpions' 41-35 loss.

Constantine was intercepted twice and lost one fumble. His ability to throw on the run and escape the pocket impressed me the most.

He has nine touchdown passes on the season. Per his father Charlie, Jake Constantine has received interest from Clemson and Fresno State.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gold mine games for Sept. 5

Vance Sams of Edison will look to slow down the state champion Drillers (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).
Friday, Sept. 5, will have a number of games with a November playoff feel to them.

One contest in Fresno has two Central Section heavyweights battling in what could be the Division I title game preview. Another contest in Kern County has two preseason Division III and IV favorites. On the Central Coast, one Ventura County air attack will look to drop bombs on a San Luis Obispo County powerhouse who just poured 48 points on a proud Clovis High team.

Here's Cali Gold Mine's notable games to watch:



Location: Ratcliffe Stadium (Fresno City College).

Time: 7:30 p.m.

The Drillers enter this contest as the reigning state DI champs. The Tigers will stampede inside Ratcliffe looking to knock off BHS and prove they're worthy of the DI title.

Prospect watch for BHS: Running back Marcus Bruce punished Oaks Christian-Westlake Village with 205 yards and two touchdowns (66 and 16 yards) in the Drillers' 34-21 victory on Aug. 29. Bruce is a 5-foot-10, 195-pound back who combines speed with power. Nose tackle Nigel Brooks will go against a young Edison offensive line who had trouble with Buchanan's front seven in last week's 13-7 win. The 6-foot-1, 285-pound Brooks has generated some Mountain West interest.

Prospect watch for EHS: Ten Tigers have received some NCAA Division I interest. The biggest sleepers, however, are seniors Khai Williams (running back) and Kam'ron Lewis (wide receiver). The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Williams showed his north-south ability in the victory over the Bears. Williams is more known for his cutback ability and track speed. Lewis is a hard assignment for cornerbacks because of his size (6-foot-3) and vertical jump. Lewis had 70 yards on six catches last week. The Tigers' strength against Buchanan was the defense, as linebackers Vance Sams, Anthony Shepard, and defensive backs Tyler Horton and A.J. Greeley were flying to the football. Horton holds six offers and just recently heard from the University of Texas. Greeley - a 6-foot, 175-pound lock down corner and safety- is already committed to Fresno State.



Location: BCHS

Time: 7:30 p.m.

These two Christian schools won't just battle for the Milk Bowl. Both are entering the game with some under-the-radar prospects and having high hopes of a section championship run.

Prospect watch for CVC: Linebacker/tight end Tate Nelson is one of the most wanted Cavaliers on the recruiting trail. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Nelson  is one of the best pass rushing linebackers in the section. The senior currently holds a University of Idaho offer and has told CGM that Wyoming of the Mountain West is picking up interest. Nelson also has heard from Penn, Princeton, Fresno State and Sacramento State. Safety Bradley Taylor is emerging as a Class of 2016 prospect to watch. Taylor is a tall defender at 6-foot-2, 190-pounds. He can snatch the ball from mid air or attack quarterbacks and running backs on blitzes. He's the Kam Chancellor of the CVC defense. Offensively, running back MacIntyre Garbani overcomes his lack of size (5-foot-8) with stamina and heart. Garbani led CVC with 134 yards on 13 carries and scored three times in the Cavs' 60-7 rout over Woodlake on Aug. 28. The Cavs are considered one of the favorites to win the Central Section DIV title.

Prospect watch for BCHS: It all starts with the running game. Senior running back Matt Smith is one of many talented backs in the Central Section. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Smith can run over and around defenders. He holds four offers (Air Force, Colorado State, Utah State and UC Davis). Quarterback Brandon Jones has generated interest from the PAC-12 and Big 12 after throwing for 4,365 yards and 54 touchdown passes last year. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound signal caller is considered a pro style quarterback in the 661.



Location: Flamson Middle School.

Time: 7 p.m.

Two high-powered offenses should bring plenty of fireworks in this non-league contest in the Southern Section.

Prospect watch for Camarillo: The Scorpions have emerged as one of the better spread offensive teams in the 805. When their passing game gets going, it's hard to stop. Junior quarterback Jake Constantine threw five touchdown passes in Camarillo's 38-13 romp of Rio Mesa last week. Fellow junior Frankie Tostado is one of his top targets. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Tostado is dangerous on deep routes and with hauling down the jump ball.

Prospect watch for Paso Robles: Jonathan Baldwin brings versatility and explosive plays for the Bearcats. At outside linebacker, Baldwin had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. As a tight end, Baldwin uses his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame to out-muscle defenders for the ball. Senior Bailey Gaither had a breakout night against Clovis with four catches, 148 yards and two touchdowns. Gaither holds four offers from New Hampshire, Cal Poly, Montana State and Wyoming. Sophomore Christian Erickson provided balance for the Bearcats with 30 carries, 152 yards and one touchdown in the 48-30 victory. Erickson is a power back at 5-foot-10, 205-pounds.