SportStars Magazine

2017 Football’s First Pick

It’s not until the hot days of August that Northern California football teams will start official practices, but for us at Cal-Hi Sports the kickoff of preseason for many years has been the annual Nike-sponsored camp for Northern California’s top college prospects that is now known as The Opening Regionals.

This year’s event was held on the same Sunday in May that SportStars was hosting its All-City honors program at Raley Field in West Sacramento. For the second straight year, the site was the fields and stadium at De Anza High-Richmond.

One aspect of the NorCal Nike camp we keep in mind while watching everything is to look for players from a particular team that could be on teams that will be ranked high for the next preseason rankings.

Based on what we saw, both Pittsburg and San Ramon Valley-Danville should be loaded and we can guarantee that both will be in the top 10 among those teams from Northern California that will appear in our preseason State Top 50.

We kidded around with San Ramon Valley quarterback Clark Baker and linebacker Tristan Sinclair about their team, which returns multiple starters from a group that came within a made two-point conversion of beating mighty De La Salle-Concord last season. Of course, DLS ramped it up later in the season and still ended up dominating as usual in the CIF North Coast Section playoffs, but Baker and the Wolves are itching for their next shot at making history.

“We know they’re going to be real good, but so are we,” Baker said. “We’re gunning for them.”

If the Wolves are successful in their Week 10 showdown at De La Salle, it would be the first loss the Spartans have suffered to a Northern California opponent (not including the CIF Central Section) since 1991. They had ties in 2004 against both Palma-Salinas and Clayton Valley-Concord, but no losses and it’s a streak that includes 25 straight NCS titles.

Baker and Sinclair were joined at the camp by big-time offensive line teammate recruit Blake McDonald and top-notch receiver Rob Funkhouser. All four looked good, but McDonald, a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder, is probably going to get the most college offers.

Pittsburg, meanwhile, may be even more highly regarded. While San Ramon Valley only finished 6-5, the Pirates went 9-2 and were one of the four teams in the first-ever NCS Open Division last season. Their returning talent looks so good they may be the No. 2 team behind DLS in the preseason NCS rankings and perhaps all of Northern California to start 2017.

One Pitt player who did especially great at the Nike event was 6-foot-2, 275-pound junior-to-be defensive tackle Jacob Bandes. His first-step quickness was perhaps unmatched by anyone. Other Pirates who were on hand and looking strong included wide receiver Jaden Tauanu’u, wide receiver A’jae Boyd, defensive back Willie Harts III and linebacker Jack Lacy.

The only De La Salle player who came to the camp was junior tight end Isaiah Foskey, who was among the best at his position. Next season’s team returns rushing leader Kairee Robinson, one of the top defensive linemen in the nation in Tuli Letuligasenoa, and many other starters.

Other than Pittsburg and San Ramon Valley, it was more difficult to get a line on any other teams that could be among the best in their sections based on players who were seen. Anyone who thinks that Inderkum-Sacramento, however, is going to go away due to the graduation losses of QB-DB TraJon Cotton (Oregon State) and TE Josh Falo (USC), then they’ll be wrong. Two Tigers coming back who have major college talent and who both were among the best of the day were receiver Isaiah Crocker and linebacker Leevi Lafaele.

St. Mary’s-Stockton running back Dusty Frampton also had a good day. He had the highest SPARQ rating with a 117.30 score, which is a measurement of speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness. Frampton, who rushed for 2,345 yards last season in leading St. Mary’s to the CIF Division I state title game, didn’t have the best SPARQ rating of the day, but no other running back came close and it was the best SPARQ rating among any of the players from California.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder of Cal-Hi Sports, and publisher of Contact him at and follow him on Twitter, @CalHiSports.

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