Memorial stacked: No team in the section is as deep in college prospects as Memorial.
Wide receiver/cornerback Johnny Johnson, only a junior, has been offered a scholarship by Stanford; senior offensive tackle David Keller has committed to Fresno State; nose tackle Jaylen Ruiz, another junior, is being pursued by Southern Methodist and several schools in the Pac-12; senior linebacker Tyler Tyson has virtually his choice in the Ivy League; and there's no question running back Chris Brown will play on Saturdays.
Further, receiver/safety Jordan Stallworth and two-way lineman Robert Garcia rank with the section's best at their positions.
"We knew last season we'd be a year away," says coach Anthony Goston. The Panthers went 10-4 last year and reached the Central Section Division II championship as a No. 5 seed, losing 13-10 to Tehachapi. "Getting as far as we did and really having a good chance to win the Valley made us more anxious this year. We have as good a chance as anybody to make a run and win the whole thing."
Memorial, ranked No. 7 in the section overall and No. 1 in D-II, opens tonight at home against Yosemite.
Offensively, Stallworth has returned to wideout from quarterback given the presence of junior Nic Kinder behind center.
Kinder, as a Clovis West transfer, played junior varsity for the Panthers last year.
"We played more passing tournaments this summer to get him reps throwing the football," Goston says. "He's a very intelligent kid with a desire to be good. With him pulling the trigger, throwing to the guys we have, along with our running backs, we're going to be very hard to stop."
Tulare, a year later: With 13 starters returning – six on offense, including All-Bee receiver William Stallworth; and seven on defense, led by linebacker Xavier Stephens – Tulare is ready for its second season as a D-I program, beginning tonight at Golden West.
Coach Darren Bennett believes his Redskins are better prepared for the promotion after suffering a 20-7 first-round playoff loss last season as a 9-1, No. 6 seed to Clovis East, a team that entered 3-7 and 11th-seeded but was clearly the stronger squad.
The Timberwolves outmuscled Redskins lines that were athletic but undersized.
Bennett says he won't make that mistake again: "We've retooled our philosophy on the lines and we're putting bigger guys there. Hopefully, them being a year older and more mature will help us be more physical."
He said it: "We're not putting them up here because we need people, we're putting them up here because they can play football." – El Diamante coach Mark Rogers on six sophomores expected to make an impact for the four-year reigning West Yosemite League champ. They include three probable starting defensive linemen in Justin Valenzuela, Jake Newbrough and Garian Martin.
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Demetrius Warren, Bullard: A year after his Knights lost 49-0 at then-state No. 13-ranked Valley Christian-San Jose, the senior gets another shot at the Warriors in a Saturday special at McLane Stadium. Warren delivered 249 yards and three touchdowns in a 62-7 win over Independence-San Jose at the same site last Saturday. Valley Christian brings in a running back, Byron Marshall, with considerably more recruiting attention (see USC, Stanford, Boise State, Notre Dame, etc.) than what Warren has garnered.
OTHER GAMES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Bakersfield (1-0) at Edison (1-0): This will better help interpret last week's results – the Drillers 38-13 over a Timpview-Provo team ranked No. 8 in Utah and the Tigers' 21-0 domination of a Clovis East program that has faded into the new decade after dominating for most of the previous. Grab your stopwatches, because this promises to scorch the Sunnyside Stadium turf with a possible preview of a section D-I final.
Atascadero (1-0) at Clovis (1-0): Not a good idea for the coastal Greyhounds to slide into Lamonica Stadium with sand in their cleats, facing a Cougars outfit top-ranked in the Central Section and having lost to the Southern Section's Atascadero four times in the past five years.
Kingsburg (1-0) at Dos Palos (0-0): Many a subplot, namely the Vikings – section D-III and D-IV champs the past two years – marching into Broncos pastures with yet another QB Bray (Austin as opposed to older brother Tyler) and facing a Dos Palos team now led by coach Frank Lemos. He replaced 23-year coach Mike Sparks. Bray, a 6-4, 215-pound senior, passed for 426 yards and six TDs in rallying Kingsburg to a 45-40 win over San Luis Obispo last week.
Tehachapi (1-0) at Garces (1-0): Many expected D-II contenders this side of Kern County (i.e., Memorial, Clovis North and Madera) will be following this one for sure.
Minarets (0-1) at Sierra (0-0): From North Fork to Tollhouse, the first in a mountain series.