Even though there are some teams that have played six games, this is the week we consider as the halfway point of the 2018 football season. Games that we’ve attended have been Folsom at De La Salle, the Honor Bowl at St. Francis of Mountain View (five games), Stockton St. Mary’s at Central Catholic (Modesto), Antioch at Clayton Valley (Concord) and Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) at Bakersfield. Here’s highlights of what we learned at each stop and players we think are diamonds in the rough plus some sophomores to watch
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*The two cornerbacks at state No. 3 De La Salle of Concord were a revelation when the Spartans opened up with that 14-0 shutout of immensely talented Folsom. Amir Wallace and Taveis Marshall both played single coverage against Folsom’s receivers and made plays all night. Although the DLS defense has shown some holes since then or perhaps just got a little gassed against a tough schedule, we counted six to seven D1 type players on that side of the ball. It’s a group led by LB Henry To’oto’o and TE/DE Isaiah Foskey, but we count Wallace and Marshall as high level prospects as well. Not like those other two, but they have been and should be getting offers.
*Folsom’s best player on the night the Bulldogs played DLS was junior RB Daniyel Ngata. And since then, he’s been showcasing Barry Sanders-style dip, dash and dodge moves in some of Folsom’s games. Despite the loss to DLS, Folsom’s offense could have the best collection of QB-RB-WR skill players in CIF Sac-Joaquin Section history. The offensive line doesn’t have a Jonah Williams type, though, and the defense isn’t as strong as the school’s 2014 squad.*It may come down to Del Oro of Loomis and Central Catholic of Modesto for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 title. Neither team is close to Folsom, but the Bulldogs are D1 in that section. If we had to pick now, based on seeing both teams play, we’d take Del Oro close. The difference may be special teams with Johnny Guzman’s kick/punt returns and Ryan Whalley kicking. When we saw Central Catholic against St. Mary’s of Stockton, however, the Raiders only used standout RB/DB Dawaaian McNeely sparingly on defense.
*It’s too early to compare this year’s Del Oro squad to others that have gotten to a CIF state final and the one that knocked off Camarillo a few years ago to win one. QB Carson Jarratt is more than solid and the program has a tradition that really goes back to the 1960s of always playing its best at the end.
*It probably would be a good idea for Central Catholic to settle on a QB between Dalton Durossette and Kyle Jackson. They’re both juniors and both athletic enough to play other positions, but just a hunch that both want to be quarterbacks. A junior to watch for the Raiders is 6-0, 190-pound RB/DB Minaya Olivo. His dad was a catcher in the major leagues and he can make plays on both sides of the ball.
*De La Salle’s defense probably spent all summer on playing Folsom’s offense in that first game. For next year, when DLS has to go to Folsom, the Folsom offense should spend all summer designing plays and working on how to attack the DLS defense. Both units will have significant players to replace. Two sophomores to watch as possible D1 recruits from DLS down the road would be WR Lu-Magia Hearns and LB Chad Tasi (6-0, 245).
*Serra of San Mateo wasn’t impressive in its first game last year but ended up winning the CIF D2-AA state title and wasn’t impressive in its first game this year against Serra of Gardena at the Honor Bowl. The Padres showed signs they have come together this week with a surprising rout of Archbishop Mitty. A junior for the Padres who looked like a D1 prospect and debuted strongly against the Cavs was WR/DB Terence Loville. His uncle, Derek Loville, played in the NFL. A senior linebacker at Serra who deserves stronger consideration as a top-tier D1 prospect is 6-0, 210-pound Edmond Lahlouh. He went out in the second quarter in the game we saw, but he’s super-smart, can get to the edges and hits like a truck.
*It ended up being a bittersweet night for Serra of Gardena at the Honor Bowl. Junior QB Doug Brumfield (6-5, 200) shined with a strong game and did some nice things, but will need to get more consistent to move up among the list of top junior QBs in the state (which is rather incredible we might add). Watching four-year varsity player and standout Max Williams suffer a knee injury and how his teammates reacted to him gave us the sense that it wasn’t a good injury. It wasn’t as since then Max has had surgery and is now wondering which colleges are still going to sign him up. There will be one and he’ll hopefully come back strong.
*Since the Honor Bowl, Serra of Gardena has lost to Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) and Narbonne (Harbor City) with wins against Long Beach Poly and Cathedral of L.A. There were a lot of top sophomores (and even some freshmen) on that team’s roster, though, so head coach Scott Altenberg could be developing a special group. One soph who already looks big-time is 6-2, 185-pound DB Anthony Beavers. If he gets a lot bigger and stronger, he’d be a devastating linebacker. Another Serra player we liked a lot was 6-2, 305-pound senior lineman Lava Vatuvei.
*Serra of San Mateo will likely play St. Francis of Mountain View for the West Catholic Athletic League title in early November to end the regular season. We saw the Lancers beat Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks at the Honor Bowl. The big question entering the night was how they’d look on offense without RB Darrell Page (no longer on the team who rushed for more than 2,200 yards last season). They looked fine, partly because their lines on both sides of the ball were fantastic. If you want to know why De La Salle didn’t completely roll over the Lancers later on, it’s that the Lancers can battle up front with anybody. DE Josh Pakola (6-4, 255) did nothing to diminish his all-state credentials, fellow senior Nikko Pohahou (6-5, 265) was top-notch while junior Mose Vavao (6-2, 310) has got to be one of the best in his class as an offensive lineman in the state. Somebody also better realize that WR Evan Williams may have the best hands of anybody in California. He simply nabs any passes that come close to him.
*Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks had its moments against St. Francis and one sophomore who definitely caught our attention was 6-1, 195-pound linebacker Jacob Moore. We wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of the top LBs in the Mission League despite being a soph and has the potential to be a top-level D1 recruit.
*Since its big win against Oakdale at the Honor Bowl, Archbishop Mitty has slipped back with a loss to Menlo-Atherton and then a bigger loss to Serra (San Mateo). Shamir Bey (6-2, 195) is still just a junior, though, and some other younger players still need to get better. Bey has the size and athleticism to be a D1 QB in college, but needs to improve arm strength. A senior for the Monarchs who has a great frame and quick first step as a defensive end is 6-5, 215-pound Sean Mahoney.
*Our longtime photographer, Willie Eashman, thought that Liberty of Brentwood (which we had at No. 13 in the state last week) was even more impressive when he saw them than De La Salle. We wouldn’t go that far and the Lions even after this week still haven’t really played anybody, but they have all the ingredients of being an elite level squad. Junior QB Jay Butterfield stands tall at 6-foot-6 in the pocket and could be similar as a senior to Tanner McKee, last year’s standout at Corona Centennial. Liberty’s passing game also features WR Sione Vaki (numerous D1 offers) while the running game is great too with Tyerell Sturges-Cofer. Vaki along with LB Nicky Einess and DE Thomas Vi (6-4, 230) make the defense formidable as well. We may not know completely about the Lions until they play Pittsburg in the Bay Valley Athletic League.
*It may be a little bit of a rebuilding year at Oakdale, which we saw lose to Archbishop Mitty, but a junior running back we liked a lot for the Mustangs is Leo Ayala.
*When watching St. Mary’s of Stockton play Central Catholic, we kept looking for Jamar Marshall, a player we really liked last year as an elite sophomore athlete. His name was on the roster but he wasn’t to be found. We later learned he just wasn’t playing football and he may have decided to give it up for basketball and track. Still, the Rams have other top young players and should be back among the very best in the Sac-Joaquin Section next season. The list includes junior QB Noah May, sophomore RB Tyrei Washington (5-8, 190) and junior WR Elijah Wood (6-3, 200).
*One of the most underrated NorCal QBs is Antioch’s Willem Karnthong. He started as a sophomore two years ago with superstar Najee Harris at running back. The offense now revolves around his running, passing and decision-making. We saw Karnthong play when the Panthers knocked off Clayton Valley of Concord, which was unbeaten at the time. It would be easy to say Willem should get offers from mid-major colleges, but he should at least get some late evaluations. Antioch already has one D1 senior in WR/DB Gaudie Campbell and a D1 junior in WR/DB Dejuan Butler. Another worth noting is 6-3, 305-pound two-way lineman Jake Hope. We guarantee all four plus LB Vinnie Ballardo will all be all-state nominees.
*Clayton Valley’s double-overtime upset win over Pittsburg in the first game is what sparked the Ugly Eagles to an early season State Top 25 ranking. LB/TE Cade Carter (6-3, 220) had a great night and against Antioch displayed D1 abilities as well. The most eye-opening performer that night for Clayton Valley, however, was junior RB Makhi Gervais. The 5-11, 170-pounder broke several long runs and may be one of the top RBs in NorCal next season.
*This last Friday’s win by Sierra Canyon at Bakersfield wasn’t really an upset, but it was great to learn from head coach Jon Ellinghausen that he has seven sophomores and one freshman starting this season. That helps explain early losses to Westlake and Lawndale. Those two teams have been state-ranked, but Westlake just lost to a Grace Brethren team that Sierra Canyon beat in its previous game. Sophomore QB Chayden Peery (6-2, 200) is already known by many college coaches. Two other sophomores who shined against the Drillers were RB/WR D.J. Harvey and WR/DB J.D. Sumlin. Junior J.D. Hernandez (6-0, 245) is a linebacker to watch. Senior Josh Carlin (6-5, 290) is an offensive tackle with size, frame and footwork that make him a prospect as well.
*The Bakersfield highlight for us from last Friday was just being inside Griffith Field for the first time since it was reopened last season. One of the great traditions for the Drillers is being able to come up a tunnel underneath the home crowd and they’re still able to do that and now probably will continue to do that for many more years to come. On the field, QB/DB Cameron Williams and WR/DB Carl Jones are special athletes, but they made too many mistakes on offense. Junior Isaac Jernigan also is a breakaway talent, but doesn’t nearly get enough touches on offense.
*For next week’s game, look for us at Central of Fresno to see the defending CIF Central Section D1 champions play a Buchanan of Clovis squad that lost by just 31-24 to De La Salle last Friday.
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