When the Central Section football season begins next week, Jalen Cropper will be the highest-profile player in a new uniform.
Cropper spent the past two seasons on the varsity level at Sanger High. He’ll finish his high school career this season at Buchanan, which opens the season Friday, Aug. 17 at home against Paso Robles.
Cropper transferred to Buchanan in March, but his eligibility wasn’t confirmed until this week after section commissioner Jim Crichlow was satisfied Cropper was part of a family move from Sanger to the Clovis Unified district.
Aaron Cropper, Jalen’s dad, said he talked to his son before the move to make sure “it’s not going to be something you’re going to look back at. It’s something you’re going to take advantage and take the good with the bad and you’re going to move forward. We took our time when it came time to making that decision.
“It was a good time (at Sanger). It was not an easy decision to make. I can honestly tell you that. But at the end of the day, I have no doubt it was the right decision.”
Jalen Cropper said one of the differences he expects to see is “the higher competition” on a Buchanan schedule that includes a Sept. 21 date at home against national power De La Salle-Concord and a run through the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
Plus, “The academics they got here will get me ready for college and life ahead after high school,” he said.
Cropper helped Sanger win the 2016 section Division II championship and reach a state championship game.
The 6-foot, 174-pound senior recently announced his top five college choices: Boise State, Cal, Fresno State, Utah and Oregon. He said he’ll make official visits during the season and will “start narrowing them down once the season starts” and “hopefully midseason I’ll pick my top school.”
Cropper said this season he’ll play wide receiver and cornerback, but added colleges want to see how he does as a receiver.
“This season will be something special,” he said. “This is my last season in high school and I’m going to try to make my mark and show people what I can do.”
Cropper will try to help Buchanan overcome two defeats to Central last season, including 29-7 in the D-I championship game.
“They came up short and that’s the biggest chip on their shoulder,” Cropper said. “They want to get them this year, and we added some pieces this year, and hopefully we can get that (win) this year.”