|Ryan Robards exploded with six touchdowns against the always formidable Grant Pacers on Oct. 2. The dynamic Robards is a big reason behind Elk Grove High's fast start (photo credit Brian Baer).|
Most teams have now completed five or six games, which signifies that we’ve reached halftime of the 2015-16 football season.
Some teams have lived up to expectations, others have come out of nowhere and then there’s the teams heading toward a downward spiral. In the process, there’s players who are not only instrumental in their teams’ development, but have risen their recruiting stock value in the process.
Here’s some gold mine thoughts from the Northern part of the state:
ELK GROVE THUNDERS ALONG
The Thundering Herd have placed the Sac-Joaquin Section on notice, following its masterful 42-7 trouncing over traditional state heavyweight Grant on Oct. 2, placing EG at 6-0 overall.
And the ‘Herd plastered the mighty Pacers behind a star’s performance that looked reminiscent of a young Lance Briggs in an EG uniform.
Ryan Robards took the air out of Grant with six touchdowns – three of them rushing, two on defense, one on a punt return – and blistered Grant with 176 rushing yards. The Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson pointed out a similar epic night from Briggs back in 1998: when the NFL All-Pro ran for 320 yards and six touchdowns in EG’s 77-21 rout of Atwater.
Robards has reportedly had a quiet recruiting period, with the University of Pacific surfacing as the only college showing interest in him as a baseball player. On the football field, though, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Robards is EG’s most dynamic playmaker and now has 932 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns.
FOLSOM STILL A TOP DOG
The Bulldogs continue to put their paws down on any challenger in the state, as Folsom is not only 6-0, but has won 37 straight regular season games.
Folsom has transitioned nicely from the Jake Browning era with senior Jake Jeffrey at the controls. Jeffrey has thrown 1,525 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two picks through the first six games. The 6-foot, 180-pounder has impressed as a runner too, with 299 rushing yards and four scores.
Tre Green is emerging as Folsom’s most underrated college prospect. Green is not only providing balance for Folsom’s pass-happy offense with 358 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, he came home to a Cal Poly offer on Oct. 3.
BACKFIELD DUO SPARKING DE LA SALLE
De La Salle doesn’t look like it was fazed by the opening loss to Trinity (TX), as the Spartans have won four in a row behind the electrifying legs of Antoine Custer and Andrew Hernandez.
Custer, who holds four offers including a Washington State pledge, leads DLS with 573 yards and five touchdowns. Hernandez has 531 yards and four touchdowns in the DLS running game.
Both are diminutive but explosive backs who come equipped with a fast second gear.
THE ‘YOC IS ON FIRE
Antioch High – once 1-9 in 2013 – is now halfway toward a possible undefeated regular season with a fast 5-0 start.
Energizing the Panthers’ turnaround is current Alabama pledge Najee Harris, who is listed by several recruiting outlets as the nation’s top recruit for the 2017 class. Harris has run through, around and over defenders with 1,122 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Another 2017 player to watch is tight end/defensive end Joey Gray, who has done his most damage on defense. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Gray has 16 tackles and a team-high five sacks.
OLD CLOVIS RIVALRY COULD TAKE ON NEW MEANING
One Clovis school located on Fowler Ave. has been ranked No. 1 in the area throughout the year. The other school off of East Teague Ave. is trying to recapture its championship glory days in football.
Clovis High and Clovis West are a combined 8-1 heading into the brutal Tri-River Athletic Conference slate. By surviving the next four games, the annual Water Bucket game on Nov. 6 could be for the TRAC title – and possibly the top seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs.
Clovis has won with last minute heroics on offense or a rampaging defense. While national recruits Coltin Velasquez and J.J. Wills have carved up secondaries, the play of rising star quarterback Sean Kuenzinger has been the feel-good story at CHS. The little-known senior has 1,339 yards, 17 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Defense remains a staple at Clovis with Josh Hokit, Jared Hill, Tanner Rice and Trevor Hartmann all averaging above 7.6 tackles per game.
Clovis West, which endured three sub .500 seasons following its 2010 section title run, has created new enthusiasm under second-year coach George Petrissans.
The Petrissans-led Golden Eagles have taken down traditional powers Merced and Edison to lead into their 3-1 start. While Clovis West is powered by the big plays of UCLA wide receiver commit Darian Owens and 5-star linebacker prospect Caleb Kelly, CW has a future college football talent on its hands with sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound dual-threat combined for 286 yards and three touchdowns against an always stout and feisty Edison defense. He could emerge as CW’s most wanted quarterback prospect since Jeff Tuel.
RIDGEVIEW NOW THE LEADER OF KERN COUNTY PACK
It’s one thing to start the season 5-0, but when your team beats city bosses Liberty and Bakersfield High, that’s when you know life is good for Ridgeview.
The Wolf Pack have taken down both powerhouses by a combined score of 56-24. A high-powered running attack led by Darius Smith, Lawrence White and Jamar Moya have made the difference for the defending section D-II champs. The trio has combined for 846 yards and 16 touchdowns in the first five games.