It doesn’t matter that the D1 bound college players aren’t in summer high school all-star games anymore. It’s still a step up from traditional high school games and that does allow some players to rise up within that group and then start to think about a future playing at a four-year college either in two years or in a few months. Here’s a story about two such players getting ready for Saturday’s Lions All-Star Football Classic to be played in Tracy.
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It took less than 30 minutes watching a practice for the North team that will play in Saturday night’s Lions All-Star Football Classic to see that two of the most intriguing players should be receiver Reuben Lee from Brookside Christian of Stockton and defensive end Oyebolaji Akinyemi of Tracy.
Lee came up with one juggling catch in the end zone and made another defender miss a tackle during his practice time. Akinyemi routinely swept around the left side of the North offensive line and appeared to have the ability to be a very disruptive defender.
Lee and Akinyemi are coming into the game with similar objectives — to play for a winning team and gain experience that will help them at the next level. Their next stops in football, however, will be at different places.
At Brookside Christian, Lee emerged as a breakaway threat after a transfer from Lincoln of Stockton as a sophomore in the 2015 season. During Brookside’s run to the NorCal Division 6AA title game in 2016, Lee rushed for 557 yards on 61 carries and he had 11 catches for for 151 yards. It was during the Nike event known as The Opening Oakland Regional in May of 2017, however, in which Lee really showed his potential as a possible elite slot receiver. Some thought he was one of the most talented receivers there.
Back at Brookside last season, it was completely different. Many players from the previous season transferred out due to a coaching change. Lee stayed, but the team only went 3-7 and he wasn’t able to do much surrounded by all the turmoil.
“It was a rough year,” Lee admitted. “This is an opportunity to show my talent with other players who also might someday be D1.”
This fall, Sacramento City College is where Lee will play next. He has played both running back and receiver during Lions All-Star practices, just like he did at Brookside Christian, but admitted his future will be as a slot receiver in a spread-style four-year college offense.
“I’ll still do both as long as possible,” he said. “I’ve been looking to be a slot receiver like it’s a role for me for a long time.”
Akinyemi isn’t headed for the JC route because he’ll be what is known as a gray-shirt this fall at Oregon State. This means he’s not on scholarship, but can still be working with all of the other Beaver players.
Oregon State coaches saw that Akinyemi has outstanding first-step quickness and plan to convert him to outside linebacker. He is a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder right now who led the 9-3 Bulldogs with 80 tackles last season and also had seven sacks with 21 tackles for loss.
“I like to think of myself as a student of the game and I have a lot to learn,” Akinyemi said. “For this week I’m trying to have some fun playing with a lot of the guys I was going against before. It’s also fun seeing how the best of our area can do against a team from a different area.”
Both players agreed that one of the best aspects of playing in the Lions All-Star Game is being able to meet and stay with the other players in a college dorm, training camp setting.
“Definitely,” Akinyemi said. “At Oregon State, I’m not going to know anyone. Finding a person here to room with and getting to know the other guys for the whole week is a great experience.”
North head coach Anthony Martinez had to leave to practice on Wednesday to get medical attention for one of the players. Recent Tokay High (Lodi) grad James McClain, an offensive lineman, suffered a dislocated finger.
“The doctors just popped it back in,” said Martinez, the head coach at Lincoln of Stockton for the past three season. “(James) is fine now. He’s good to go.”
Martinez added that the week so far has gone better than his expectations.
“It’s been a good group with no problems,” he said. “We did seven-on-seven today against my Lincoln guys. So far, so good.”
South head coach Frank Marques, the head coach of Hilmar High’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI title team last season, also was contacted on Wednesday and also spoke glowingly of his players and with no injuries.
“I think the kids that we do have here really want to be here,” Marques said. “It’s cool to see how they started jelling in only three days.”
The South won last year’s game 30-17 and has gone 4-0-1 in the last five years. The North still leads in the overall series 24-18-1.