Who are the top kids returning this season? Here are the players who were Black Hat Football’s Underclassmen of the Year and underclassmen on our all-Black Hat Team for The 209 – from the look of it, a lot of teams have a lot of holes to fill before the season arrives:
JUNIOR OF THE YEAR
QB Jonathan O’Brien, Hilmar: When Black Hat Football visited a scrimmage at Turlock in late August, we chatted with Hilmar coach Frank Marques about this QB options. He pointed out his two choices, but said he had yet to make a final decision. That call came a few days later, and he clearly made the right choice by selecting O’Brien. The 6-foot, 187-pounder led the Yellowjackets to a 13-1 record and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 final.
O’Brien was close to flawless, completing 64 percent (143 of 224) for 2,110 yards – with 25 TDs and just two interceptions. The Trans-Valley League’s Outstanding Offensive Player didn’t throw a pick the final nine weeks, and added 506 yards and nine TDs on the ground. In a 33-21 win over 8-0 Ripon, O’Brien was 12 of 19 for 226 yards and two TDs – and ran for two scores. He also threw for 260 yards and four TDs in a 31-6 win over rival Hughson.
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR
QB Nick Price, Ripon: The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder stepped in for all-Black Hat QB Kyle Wengel in 2013. Black Hat realized Price would be a ‘difference-maker’ last July, when he was buried by Manteca’s 300-pound Billy Sharmoug at a contact camp – and bounced up, showing remarkable resiliency.
Price was resilient and so much more, completing 58 percent (109 of 187) for 1,612 yards – with 20 TDs and four interceptions for the 12-1 Indians. He was the first-team QB in the Trans-Valley League, one of the top small-school leagues in the state, and ran for 302 yards and eight TDs. His marquee game? Perhaps the Sac-Joaquin Section quarterfinal, when he completed 13 of 15 for 144 yards and two TDs in a 58-21 win over Calaveras
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
LB Seth Tennis, McNair-Stockton: The 6-foot 190-pounder has got the bloodline to keep improving and to grow into a large linebacker – his father played college ball at Idaho State – but he made a nice debut with 80 tackles and a sack.He was one of the few bright spots as the Eagles struggled though a 1-9 season. Tennis had 13 tackles in a loss to Tokay, and 11 tackles in four other games. He also had two fumble recoveries against Golden Valley.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Rich Alkire, Modesto: Taking over a program that was 1-9 a year earlier, he rejuvenated not only the players – but the campus and the community. The result? The Panthers went 7-4, won the Modesto Metro Conference title and handed potent Stagg of Stockton its only regular-season loss.
Alkire installed new schemes on both sides of he ball, exploiting the Panthers’ speed and athleticism, and overcame one of the greatest obstacles that any first-year varsity coach could encounter: He did all of this despite being an off-campus coach.
“From our administration (and especially Athletic Director Donnie Wallace), to a great bunch of men on my coaching staff, to my parents, and mostly the kids on our team, everybody seemed to “buy in” and were always willing to putin the extra work necessary for such a steep learning curve,” Akire said. “The only way we overcome the obstacles of a “new regime” is by a whole lot of selflessness from everyone involved. The character traits I witnessed from the Mo High community were impressive.
“Our team accomplished in one year what I had a goal of doing in two years. I was blessed to be surrounded by a lot of good people and players who were big on service and sacrifice, and small on personal glory. They didn’t use our obstacles as an excuse, they just found ways to put in the work. I learned quickly that Modesto High is a great place to be and I am blessed to be there.”
RB Nate Jones, Tracy: The 5-foot-8, 186-pounder was one of the many weapons that coach Mark Shrout turned to during the Bulldogs’ 9-2 season. He rushed for at least 115 yards in each of his last five games and was the San Joaquin Athletic Association Player of the Year. He averaged just 10 carries, yet averaged 10.4 yards on those runs – his most significant performance was a 12-carry, 166-yard, 3-TD game to beat longtime rival Lincoln. He also had 32 tackles and an interception for the Bulldogs.
OL Colten Mallette, Lincoln-Stockton: There was no shortage of competition when the 6-foot-2, 290-pounder stepped on the field – his Trojans played the most difficult schedule of any team in The 209. While the Trojans struggled to an 0-5 start against that fierce lineup of foes, they went 4-1 and averaged 42 points in their five league games.
That helped make Mallette the San Joaquin Athletic Association Offensive Lineman of the Year, giving the Trojans reason to be optimistic about next year’s team when the school joins a new league that includes St. Mary’s, Tracy and Tokay.
OL Jacob Wall, Tokay-Lodi: The 6-foot, 237-pound junior guard was a first-team Tri-City Athletic League selection, after having played at Chavez as a sophomore. He was a building block for an offense that averaged 36 points and400 yards a game – and scored a school-record 71 points in one game.
With Wall leading a strong offensive line, Tokay also scored a school-record 396 points this season and its eight wins were the most since 2002. The rushing total of 2,692 yards was 9 yards of the school record, and the Tigers’ offense piled up a school-record 4,516 yards – the old record was 4,016. He also spent some time playing defense for the 8-3 Tigers, getting 27 tackles – three for a loss.
OL Tristen Taylor, Stagg: The 6-foot-6, 285-pound juniorhttp://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/3268142/ played an exceptional left tackle and a first-team, all-Tri City Athletic League selection as one of the cornerstones for one of the The 209’s most dynamic offenses. Didn’t miss a game or a practice, Stagg coach Don Norton said, an he has surprisingly good feet for a kid who is still growing into his body. This offseason will be crucial for Taylor, as he hits the summer camp and combine circuit – hoping his combination of height and bulk will draw looks from recruiters. With Baker playing tough up front, Edison held six opponentsto 14 or fewer points in 2013.
** Quarterbacks: Damien Paulo, Patterson, jr.; Tyrone Williams, Merced, jr.; JP Wilson, Downey, jr.
** Running Backs: Jabar Byrd, Merced, jr.; Jason Nelson, Tracy, jr.; Mark Russell, Lincoln, jr.; Aundre Sherman, Buhach Colony, jr.; Brock Whiting, Oakdale, jr.
** Receivers: Jake Fulkerson, Summerville, soph.; Christian Williams, LeGrand, jr.;
** Tight end: Edrico Oliver, Brookside Chr., jr.; Jordan McMiller, Lincoln, jr.; Matt Vargas, Gregori, jr.
** Line: Oscar Calderon, Patterson, jr.; Nate Brown, Tracy, jr.; Lance Davis, Escalon; Owen Iniguez, Amador, jr.; Frankie Trent, Oakdale, jr.
** Kicker: Marcus Montano, Manteca, jr.
LB Jermon Cook, Merced: The 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior http://www.hudl.com/athlete/896784/highlights/90790388?autoplay=1 was the Central California Conference’s top linebacker and a tackling machine. The middle linebacker had 131 tackles in 11 games, including 100 solo takedowns and 7.5 sacks. He also had three fumble recoveries and blocked four kicks for the 8-3 Bears, who won the conference title with a 5-0 record.
Cook had 3.5 sacks in a 31-6 win over Enochs – a surprising stat considering the mobility of Enochs QB Shawn Munoz – and had a career-high 19 tackles in that game. He also had 15 tackles in consecutive weeks, as the Bears beat CCC rivals Pitman and Atwater in games that were dominated by Cook’s play inside.
DB Damarrio Hammonds, Patterson: The Western Athletic Conference’s top defensive back http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ely8ZswDKFo was also second in the Sac-Joaquin Section with eight interceptions. The junior also spent a little time on the offensive side, catching six balls for 73 yards for the 9-2 Tigers. Hammonds’ speed allowed him to stick with receivers across the field, and he knew how to break down to make an open-field tackle.
DB Jared Rice, Central Catholic: The 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior http://www.hudl.com/athlete/600324/highlights/63576376?autoplay=1is one of the new breed – the athletic double threat who can operate in close quarters or in the open field. The tight end-free safety was in on 64 tackles, including nine in the 17-14 win over McClymonds in the Northern California Division 4 Bowl. He capped his season by returning a fumble for a TD in the 26-23 win over Bakersfield Christian in the State D4 Bowl.
Rice made a name for himself by ball-hawking in the secondary, intercepting seven passes. Many of his picks were show-stoppers, using his height and great hands to turn apparent receptions into game-changing takeaways. He had two picks in a playoff win over Colfax, and another in the Bowl Game vs. McClymonds, and caught 15 passes for 331 yards and two TDs.
DL Landon Ichord, Oakdale: He was an all-Valley Oak League tight end, as well as one of the league’s top defensive linemen, after helping the Mustangs to a second-place finish behind Northern California Division 2 finalist Manteca. Ichord was often matched up to face larger linemen, but his strength and quickness helped him win those battles.
He was the Mustangs’ best football player in 2013, coach Trent Merzon said, and was a two-way starter. That has become rarity at Oakdale, where the emphasis has shifted to platooning to keep players and fresh and healthy. Ichord, Merzon said, was simply too good to sit down.
LB Frank Ginda, Pacheco: The 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1475361/ was a cornerstone on both sides of the line for the Panthers, but it was his stellar play at linebacker that created headaches for opponents. He was in on 81 tackles, including 10 behind the line of scrimmage and 15 of those tackles came in a 24-21 loss to Central Catholic. Ginda, aka “Frank the Tank,” also had three interceptions and three sacks.
Ginda also rushed for 1,087 yards and 17 TDs, despite finishing the season with a cast protecting his broken hand and getting in just one playoff game. He had aschool-record 306 yards, on 31 carries, in a 29-7 win over Central Valley.
LB Ruben Rosas, Patterson (junior): The 5-foot-11, 205-pound juniorhttp://www.hudl.com/athlete/2091313/ was the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, finishing with 104 tackles – nine for losses. Rosas also had two interceptions, returning one for a TD, as well as two sacks and two fumble recoveries. He was the Tigers’ team captain, and was responsible for many of the defensive calls.
Coach Nick Marchy calls Rosas ‘one of the best players I’ve ever coached’ and that one opposing coach told that their offensive gameplan was built on one premise: Moving the ball away from Rosas, rather than challenging the physical middle linebacker.
LB Alec Barcellos, Los Banos: The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1584244/ was an all-Western Athletic Conference outside linebacker and played key roles on both sides of the ball for the Tigers. He started for Los Banos as a sophomore, and parlayed that experience into a strong junior season – giving Tiger fans plenty of optimism as they prepare for the 2014 season. Barcellos averaged seven tackles a game.
LB Trevon McCray, Sierra-Manteca: The all-Valley Oak League inside linebacker (#53 on the video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIkW8_ej_jU had 88 tackles, including 69 solo takedowns, but he made his biggest impact in the opposition’s backfield. McCray was among the best in the Sac-Joaquin Section with his 13 tackles for a loss for the 7-4 Timberwolves – the four losses were to teams that advanced to at least the section quarterfinals.
Line: Ty Nelson, Downey, jr.; Jonah Ocon, St. Mary’s, jr.; EzraRuiz, Gregori, jr.;
Linebackers: Billy Kiriluk, Sonora, jr.; Lechi Nkwocha, Manteca, jr.; JoeyPatino, Tokay, jr.; Tony Romo, Atwater, jr.
Defensive backs: Will Gallo, Modesto, jr.; Jacob Taloa, Kimball, Jr.
Punter: Hunter Johnson, Sierra, jr.