Video/Looking Ahead to 2018: Black Hat Ranks The 209’s Top Returning RBs + 1

Filed in Uncategorized by on December 31, 2017

With the 2017 Starbucks/Black Hat Football All-209 Team selected, let’s take jump ahead to 2018. Who are the top returning RBs for next year? 

1, Felipe Figueroa, Franklin Yellowjackets-Stockton, Jr – 1,105 yards rushing and 6.2-yard average, with 16 TDs; 37 catches, with a 14.9-yard average and 6 TDs … He’s as talented as any RB in recent memory when it comes to blending rushing and receiving – his 37 catches are a stunning amount for an RB in The 209.

2, Eugene Zaire, Modesto Panthers, Jr. — He has the size (5-10, 190) and quickness to run inside and downfield, getting 10 carries a game and averaging 6.2 yards per run. He had 17 carries for 155 yards and 2 TDs in a loss to D3 semifinalist Patterson, though the competition gets more difficult this year with Turlock and Pitman replacing Johansen and Davis on the schedule.

3, Isaac Sharp, Hilmar Yellowjackets, Jr – 1,329 yards and 9.3-yard average, with 13 TDs; 13 catches, 10.4-yard average, TD … Had a breakout postseason, with 715 yards rushing and 9 TDs in four playoff games. He ran for 249 yards and 232 yards in consecutive weeks in the Section final and the NorCal Bowl play-in game.

4, Vladik Sutherland Mountain House Mustangs, Jr – 1,396 yards and 10.3-yard average, with 13 TDs; 15 catches, 13.3 avg, 5 TDs receiving … A physical runner who rips through tackles, he’d be an effective RB at any division.

5, George Romero Robinson, Chavez Titans-Stockton, Jr. – 895 yards and 6.3-yard average, with 11 TDs; 18 catches, 20.7-yard average, 3 TDs … Can get downfield to catch passes, or run it right out of the backfield.

6, Charles Jackson, Atwater Falcons – 951 yards and 6.8-yard average, with 10 TDs … A breakaway threat, but not a factor in the passing game. He needs to be catching 2 or 3 passes a game, giving him opportunities in the open field.

7, Trabron Russell, Manteca Buffaloes – 825 yards and 8.6-yard average, with 16 TDs … A sophomore who had some explosive games, but will need to show he can get it down against front-line defenses in 2018. He ran for 204, 132 and 127 yards – but vs. lesser foes. The Buffs are rebuilding their O-line for 2018, so Russell will get that opportunity.

8, CJ Castleman, Sonora Wildcats, Jr – 1,200-plus yards offense, 14-yard average per touch, 10 TDs … He stepped in and provided plenty of big plays after explosive Kane Rodgers went down early with a season-ending leg injury — but at 5-foot-7, 175- pounds, is he a three-down back who can physically handle 20 touches a game?

9, Antonio Lopez Los Banos Tigers, Jr — 1,318 yards and 7.4-yard average, with 16 TDs … He averaged 20 runs for 145 yards a game, with four games of at least 186 yards. He can’t remain a big power runner at 5-8, 175 pounds, so he’ll need to bulk up or improve his agility to lead the Tigers next fall.

10, Raylen Carter, East Union Lancers-Manteca – 791 yards and 13.4-yard average, with 10 TDs; 16-14.1-1 … The 16 receptions is half the total that Carter will have in 2018 – he’s more effective if he can get the ball away from the interior lineman on short tosses.

11, Kaden Christensen, Escalon Cougars, Soph – 616 yards and 10.9-yard average, with 9 TDs; 11-15.5-3 … He’s the second-best small-school player in The 209, behind Hilmar RB Isaac Sharp, because he’s 5-11, 170 pounds and growing. Had 2 monster games with 326 rushing yards and 5 TDs in wins over Mountain House and Mariposa, but needs more consistency n 2018.

12, Ronnie Garcia, Pacheco Panthers-Los Banos, Jr – 888 yards and 6.1-yard average, with 6 TDs … Moving to the new WAC, without physical teams like Patterson and Central Valley, should mean another 200 yards for Garcia. He’ll also take less of a beating in league play.

13, Justin Rentfro, Hilmar Yellowjackets, Jr — He should be part of a prolific tandem with Isaac Sharp, though playing with the explosive tailback will cost Rentfro yards and carries. Here’s what Rentfro did in the four playoff games — averaging 15 carries for 90 yards and a TD each week – and that’s a reasonable expectation for next year.

14, Michael Kamps, Ripon Christian Knights – 1,244 yards and 5.3-yard average, with 21 TDs … Everyone loves a reliable runner near the end zone, though it would be interesting to see what he’d do in the TVL or perhaps even a medium-school league.

15, Javyn Drobnick Big Valley Chr Lions-Modesto, Soph – 1,608 yards and 9.1-yard average, 20 TDs … There’s not a bigger unknown in The 209. Had a monster season, playing some of the smallest schools in the state. Needs to get some good film online before he climbs higher on anyone’s list.

16, Carlos Arreola, Hughson Huskies, Jr – 858 yards and 5.9-yard average, with 12 TDs; 21-10.9-2 … His offseason emphasis needs to be on breaking big plays, whether getting stronger so he can break tackles or faster so he can run out of the grasp of defenders. He needs to average more than 7 yards a carry and 15 yards a catch, given the small-school competition.

And what do we make of …

17, Elijah Gilliam, Merced Bears, Soph – 358 yards and 5.8-yard average, with 5 TDs; 5-65-0 … He was a beast in his breakout games, when injuries to starters allowed Gilliam to get 30 carries for 239 yards and 5 TDs in wins over Atwater and El Capitan, then disappeared just as quickly. His last name is familiar to Bear fans across Merced County, and he’ll also benefit from dropping Turlock and Pitman from the schedule.


About the Author ()

Richard T. Estrada has been covering high school football in The 209 area code for more than 30 years and is the voice of authority on the game in California's Central Valley. He oversaw The Modesto Bee's high school sports coverage for a couple of decades, and also was a national award-winning business and agriculture writer. Black Hat Football not only covers the game, but emphasizes education and the need for The 209's student-athletes to prepare for college.

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