FB: California will grind it out

Los Medanos Scrimmage Wrap-Up

In the opening drive of their first scrimmage Friday night at Los Medanos College, preseason No. 25 California looked like they might do some real damage to De La Salle.

California was on offense first and marched 40 yards and scored right out of the gate. Of course the Spartans defense stiffened and California could only muster a handful of yards on the next four possessions and lost 5-1 in the touchdown count.

Even in defeat, and in a 3-0 TD victory over James Logan, I saw some things I really liked but also saw some weaknesses in the arsenal of De La Salle disciple and head coach Eric Billeci.

One of the biggest strengths is at quarterback. Cameron Owen is still only 6-0, but he’s up to 190-pounds, looks stronger, improved his accuracy, and has matured in the way he handles things on the field and in the huddle.

On that first series he hit CJ Cornwell twice in traffic and also found 6-5, 235-pound junior tight end Matt Snyder, before running back Blake Bierwith (6-0, 220) broke four tackles and bulled his way into the end zone from eight yards out.

One things is for sure and that is California has size but it really has no speed. The result of having a huge line, bruising running back, a big tight end that can block, and a quarterback that ran for over 400 yards and nine TDs last season, is Billeci is going to have to tailor an offense that can grind out the yardage.

Seniors Dan Heinz (6-0, 255), Jeff Huettenhain (6-2, 235) and Mario Diaz (6-2, 270) and 2012 All State Sophomore Tyler Whisenhunt (6-4, 280) are going to be the ones making the push up front.

No. 47 James Logan lost all three scrimmages, but based on the preseason rankings that’s what was supposed to happen.

Logan never recovered after it was caught in horrific traffic and had to take on host Pittsburg with no time to warm up while everyone else had more than half an hour to get loose.

Still, despite losing, there were bright spots for head coach George Zuber in the scrimmage I saw against De La Salle.

Nevada-committed running back Ahki Muhammad had a few nice runs against the Spartans; junior quarterback Christian Leota (6-2, 210) showed a decent arm and an ability to run effectively; wide receiver Victor “Mose” Fualaau got good yardage and showed nice speed on an end around; and big Yoesphe Alebachew (6-3, 300) held his own against Sparta.

El Cerrito will be a force

For anyone that doesn’t think No. 27 El Cerrito will be a force in Division III in Northern California this season, all they have to do is look at what happened last Friday when they scrimmaged Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland.

The Gauchos have more Division I college-level talent than anyone in the Bay Area. They’re led by 6-1, 175-pound Cal-committed wide receiver Jalen Harvey, defensive back Adarius Pickett, who has over 20 college offers including Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC, and USC-committed 6-0, 215 pound linebacker Derik Calhoun. Quarterback Keilan Benjamin returns with his twin brother wide receiver Keith Benjamin.

“All I can tell you is they didn’t score,” said head coach Kenny Kahn in a voice that led me to believe he was smiling broadly.

Sources tell Cal-Hi Sports it was 4-0 in the TD count. Benjamin threw for three and Picket ran for one.


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