Thursday, December 4, 2014

Championship weekend in the Golden State

St. Mary's of Stockton will look to spoil Grant-Sacramento's undefeated pursuit, as the Rams and Pacers will battle for the Sac Joaquin Section Division II championship on Friday, Dec. 5, at Sacramento State University's Hornet Stadium (photo contributed).
After Friday, Dec. 5, someone is coming home with some championship hardware and will likely have a parade down their neighborhood street.

It's championship Friday and Saturday in California and Cali Gold Mine has highlighted 10 key battles from the Delta to Southern California.

Here's some can't-miss games loaded with potential future college football stars:

Sac Joaquin Section


Where: Sacramento State University's Hornet Stadium

Game time: 7:30 p.m.

In this Sac Joaquin Section Division II title battle, Grant will be chasing its seventh section championship, as the Pacers return to the big stage for the first time since 2010 when Folsom ruined the Pacers' unbeaten bid 41-20.

Ironically, it was the Pacers who ruined St. Mary's bid for a section title during that same season, as Grant knocked off the Rams 20-11.

This rematch will have a good mix of national recruits on both sidelines. Grant will have highly recruited offensive tackle Darrin Paulo anchoring the line. The 6-foot-5, 344-pound mauler holds 11 scholarship offers including Arizona, USC and Wisconsin. Linebacker Carl Granderson has shined during his senior season, as the 6-foot-6, 185-pound 'backer has 151 tackles, 14 sacks and two interceptions. Offensively, DeShawn Collins figures to be the next big recruit for the Pacers. The junior currently has 2,255 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.

On the Rams' side, they'll try to counter the Pacers' running attack with the state's leading tackler Khalil Hodge. The senior and 6-foot, 220-pound defender averages 18.6 tackles per game, has four interceptions that ties him for the team lead and recently added a new offer from Weber State of the Football Championship Subdivision. Defensive end Myles Cunningham - despite being undersized on the line at 6-foot, 208-pounds - leads the Ram pass rush with 11.5 sacks.

Offensively, wide receiver Demetrius Ferguson is another national prospect with a New Mexico State offer and interest from a few Mountain West and PAC-12 schools. The 6-foot-2, 158-pound senior leads the Rams with 754 yards and an average of 20.4 yards per catch.

Running back Marcell Spady and cornerback Javonte Norman have been late bloomers on the recruiting trail. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Spady has 950 yards and 21 touchdowns. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Norman is the Rams' top secondary playmaker with four interceptions.

Saturday, Dec. 6 


Where: Lincoln High

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Oakdale brings an offense averaging 42.3 points per game. The Mustangs are also senior heavy with 24 upperclassmen on their roster.

Inderkum, though, will look to claim the section's DIII title with its backfield duo of Austin Thurman (5-foot-11, 180-pounds) and Larry Hardy (6-foot-1, 185-pounds). Both seniors have combined for 2,611 yards and 35 touchdowns. Hardy is the Tigers' top receiving option too, with team-high's in receptions (20), yards (565) and touchdowns (eight).

Colorado commit N.J. Falo leads the Inderkum defense. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker has 50 tackles and four sacks. Hardy is IHS's top ball hawk with six interceptions. Cornerback Tyrique Carter adds some aggression to the Tiger secondary with his press ability and cover skills. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Carter has eight pass deflections and three blocked field goals on special teams.


Where: Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium

Time: 7;30 p.m.

Folsom is aiming to snatch its third consecutive section title (won the DII crown in 2012). Tracy, though, will look to end the Bulldogs' reign with a power running scheme in this DI match up.

Tracy averages 209.2 yards per game with 35 touchdowns. Leading the Bulldog ground game is 5-foot-8, 190-pound senior Nate Jones, who has 1,263 yards and 18 touchdowns. Defensively, Jacob Alvarado leads Tracy with nine interceptions.

Folsom scores at will on offense. Leading the undefeated Bulldogs is Washington commit Jake Browning. The senior quarterback has a ridiculous touchdown to interception ratio of 76-4. He has a talented receiving duo in Cole Thompson and Josiah Deguara. Both have over 1,400 yards and more than 20 touchdowns this season.

Central Section 


Where: Sunnyside High School (Fresno)

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Liberty slayed its biggest dragon last week in Bakersfield High. The 41-10 rout over the Drillers ensures that there will be a new Central Section and state DI champion this season.

But the No. 1 seeded Tigers will have what some players call their version of a "fashion and talent show": speed, athleticism and national recruits.

Leading the Tigers are two dynamite athletes Tyler Horton and A.J. Greeley. Both have damaged offenses, defenses and special team units with their ability to stretch the field. Horton holds 10 offers including Cal, Fresno State and Houston. Greeley is currently committed to Fresno State as a cornerback.

Running back Khai Williams, wide receiver Kam Lewis and offensive lineman/inside linebacker Vance Sams are the other Tiger seniors who hold a scholarship offer. Williams and Sams have received pledges from Eastern Washington of the Big Sky. Lewis holds a University of Nevada offer.

The Patriots, though, have their own national recruiting gem: Arizona commit Anthony Mariscal. He's quadrupled as a running back, slot receiver, safety and return ace. The best match up will be who covers Mariscal one-on-one. Wide receiver Braylin Scott takes pressure off of Mariscal with his 6-foot-3 frame and team-high nine receiving touchdowns.

The Pats' offensive line is anchored by big 6-foot-5, 290-pound tackle Ruben Guerra. He'll have a key battle against one of the Tigers' top rushers in Xavier Hamilton.


Where: Ridgeview High

Time: 7 p.m.

It's the third straight time that these two teams will battle each other for the section title - and the contests haven't been close.

Ridgeview took the 2012 game away from the Marcus McMaryion-led Emperors 55-14 for the DIII title. But the future Oregon State Beaver quarterback and DHS returned the favor the following year in Dinuba, with the Emps coming out on top 45-14.

Emperors senior running back Michael Wright returns in the third installment of this title bout, this time for the DII championship. Wright - who's received interest from a few Big Sky schools - burned Ridgeview with 196 total yards and four touchdowns in last year's DHS rout. Dinuba quarterback Isaac Leppke has been a solid game manager. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound junior has thrown 14 touchdowns, three interceptions, has completed 60.1% of his throws and has a QB rating of 106.6.

The Wolf Pack have been led by Garces running back transfer Sheldon Croney and his 1,978 yard/27 touchdown season. Croney has six offers from the Mountain West (UNLV, Colorado State, Fresno State, Boise State, Nevada and New Mexico).

MADERA (9-3) AT HANFORD (11-1)

Where: The Neighbor Bowl (Hanford) 

Time: 7 p.m.

Two resurgent programs square off for the DIII championship.

Madera once endured seven straight losing seasons before going on its section championship run this season. Jesus Jimenez leads the Coyotes' balanced running game with 1,265 yards and 16 touchdowns. Evan Rios is one of the most reliable kickers in the section. The senior can boom the 50-yard field goal.

Hanford was a combined 5-16 before its turnaround. The Bullpups have been led by junior power back Joseph McDaniel (has 1,576 yards and 20 touchdowns) and two-way threat Juwane Hughes. The junior has 36 catches, 676 yards and eight touchdowns as a wide receiver and leads the Bullpups with six interceptions.


Where: Liberty High School (Madera)

Time: 7 p.m. 

This D IV title battle will have size (CVC) against speed (Liberty).

The Cavaliers are known for their mountains on the line, and there's two towering ones in junior Blake Walker (6-foot-7, 312-pounds) and senior captain Jake De Haan (6-foot-2, 285-pounds). The CVC big men help plow the road for senior running back MacIntyre Garbani, who has 1,311 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Defensively, linebacker Tate Nelson adds size (6-foot-3, 225-pounds) and versatility for CVC. He crashes down on quarterbacks as a pass rusher and shows strong reaction skills against the run. The senior holds an offer from Idaho of the Sun Belt. Brad Taylor is a fast riser for the Cavs' 2016 class at safety. Built like a young Kam Chancellor of the Seattle Seahawks, Taylor is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound ball hawk with a team-high five picks.

The Hawks - who got promoted to D IV after winning back-to-back DV titles - will look to torch CVC's defense with their Wing-T running game. Spearheading the attack is touchdown machine Wade Wallace. The three-year senior has 45 touchdowns in his varsity career and has 1,194 yards to lead LHS. Fellow senior Richie Brandt brings an inside dimension to the Hawk offense with his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame and 15 rushing touchdowns.

Junior Jackson Watts (5-foot-6, 150-pounds) gives LHS an additional speed back with his average of 13.4 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns.


Where: Sal Gonzalez Field (Reedley High)

Time: 7 p.m.

Two balanced offenses take the field in Reedley for the DV championship.

The Panthers have 1,956 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns through the ground. But it's the air attack that looks like the strength of the team.

Senior quarterback Nico Portillo has thrown for 3,358 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His top target is junior Legary Austin, who has 73 catches, 1,109 yards and seven touchdowns.

Defensively, the Panthers are strong inside with pass rushers Desmond Curtis and Trent Olmos combining for 21 sacks from their defensive tackle spots.

Immanuel - once a combined 2-18 and 0-12 in the Central Sequoia League during the 2010 and '11 seasons - has emerged as a perennial playoff contender under third-year head coach Matt Armstrong.

The Eagles have been powered by Edison transfer Robert Grier. The 5-foot-8 running back has 1,678 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Tight end Aaron Wilson - a transfer from Clovis North - leads the IHS passing game with 32 catches and 496 yards. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Wilson has drawn interest from Wyoming of the Mountain West.

Immanuel football is now the fifth team sport on the campus to compete for a section title since Feb. 2014 (boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and girls tennis).

Southern Section


Where: War Memorial Stadium (Flamson Middle School)

Time: 7 p.m.

Five college football prospects highlight this Northern Division championship contest.

The Panthers have Darick and Darnay Holmes. The duo has scored 27 combined receiving touchdowns and holds 26 offers between them (Darnay, Class of 2017, added a Norte Dame offer earlier this week).

The Bearcats will bring the dynamic Bailey Gaither (San Jose State commit), tight end/outside linebacker Jonathan Baldwin (Northern Arizona commit) and fellow TE/OLB Josh Oliver (San Jose State commit).

Saturday, Dec. 6


Where: Angels Stadium (Anaheim)

Time: 2 p.m.

Mission Viejo will be led by USC commit Cole Smith at center (6-foot-3, 265-pounds). The Diablos offense has been on a roll with an average of 40.3 points per game in the last three weeks.

Vista Murrieta has three Class of 2015 CFB commits in Jamie Nunley (6-foot-5, 215-pound wide receiver, Arizona), defensive tackle Tevita Mounga (6-foot-1, 295-pounds, Brigham Young University) and Colin Baker (6-foot-2, 185-pound receiver, San Jose State).

Kyle Williams will headline the 2016 class for the Broncos with 1,320 yards and 18 touchdowns.

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