This is NOT an all-state freshman football team, but here’s a list of some promising ninth grade nominees we came across through researching the 2013 all-state underclass teams.
One of the reasons we don’t choose an all-state freshman team is that in our 30-plus years of covering the state it’s obvious that many promising freshman players are still on lower-level teams (mostly ninth-graders on sophomore teams or JV teams) at top programs like Long Beach Poly, De La Salle, Mater Dei and many others.
Still, we think the following players who were on varsity teams this season are worth checking out for next season and beyond (all listed in alphabetical order):
Aaron Banks (El Cerrito)
We actually saw Aaron on the basketball court last week, playing for the Gauchos’ varsity in a game at Cal against Sacred Heart Cathedral. He’s about 6-foot-6 and 280 and was all-league in football as an offensive lineman.
Manny Berz (Citrus Hill, Perris)
Career kicking records may all be his if he keeps up pace from this season. The freshman was voted All-Inland Area by the Riverside Press-Enterprise after he made 11 field goals and went 66 of 67 on PATs for 99 kicking points.
Montell Bland (Central Catholic, Modesto)
Freshman running back was the difference in Raiders’ win in CIF Division IV state bowl game. He ended the season with three 100-yard games and also had 57 tackles as a linebacker on defense.
Braxton Burmeister (La Jolla Country Day)
The younger brother of 2013 grad and three-year starter Sage Burmeister had a strong start to his career for the Torreys. He passed for 1,168 yards in 11 games with 13 TDs and five interceptions and he also rushed for more than 500 yards.
Armando Herrera (Redlands East Valley)
REV head coach Kurt Bruich took a chance on Herrera when senior Mark Nielssien went down with an injury. In seven games, the 6-foot, 160-pounder passed for 1,800 yards with 16 TDs and 10 interceptions.
Darnay Holmes (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village)
Younger brother of Darick Holmes at Oaks Christian and cousin of all-state junior Desean Holmes (played last season at Alemany) started and played a key role for Lions’ 8-3 team.
Tyjon Lindsey (Poway)
He scored on a interception return, punt return and pass reception within six minutes of one game for the Titans. The speedster was a Pomerado News Player of the Week and already is getting recruiting interest.
Cory Maddox (San Ysidro)
Another freshman running back, Maddox earned high praise from head coach and athletic director Terrence Tucker. He had two 100-yard games and ended with 61 carries for 528 yards and four TDs.
Bear Tennis (McNair, Stockton)
No kidding, Seth “Bear” Tennis had 80 tackles (14 for loss) as a 6-0, 190-pound starting defensive end for the Eagles. He was named all-league and that’s the same league as St. Mary’s of Stockton (although McNair only won one game). Our friend, Rich Estrada of Black Hat Football, chose Tennis as the top freshman in the southern area of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. Bear is no relation to the Tennis family that founded and still runs Cal-Hi Sports, but we’re obviously very intrigued by how good he can get.
Nathan Tilford (Upland)
This is another ninth grader we’ve seen in person. Most of his yardage as a running back (nearly 500) came in garbage time, such as the TD he had in the game we saw (which was a loss to Oaks Christian). But Nathan did have 21 carries for 111 yards and one TD in a playoff win over Santiago of Corona. Tilford reportedly received an offer in the summer from USC before he even stepped on the Upland campus.