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NorCal Preseason #11: Freedom NorCal Preseason #11: Freedom
We begin our 2017 Football coverage by revealing teams #20-11 in our NorCal Preseason Top 20 in a daily countdown to Aug. 24 when... NorCal Preseason #11: Freedom

We begin our 2017 Football coverage by revealing teams #20-11 in our NorCal Preseason Top 20 in a daily countdown to Aug. 24 when #10-1 are revealed in our 2017 Football Preview Special. If you need to catchup, here are links to previous entries:

| No. 20 Foothill (Aug. 14) | No. 19 Oakdale (Aug. 15) | No. 18 Capital Christian (Aug. 16) | No. 17 Campolindo-Moraga (Aug. 17) | No. 16 Marin Catholic-Kentfield (Aug. 18) | No. 15 Elk Grove (Aug. 19) | No. 14 Clayton Valley-Concord (Aug. 20) | No. 13 Manteca (Aug. 21) | No. 12 San Ramon Valley-Danville (Aug. 22)

No. 11 FREEDOM-OAKLEY

2016 REVIEW: 11-2 and #3 in our final rankings

COACH: Kevin Hartwig, 16th season

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because they’ve got speed to burn. And Hartwig and his coaching staff have proven they know how to use it. With six starters on both sides of the ball, and a talented junior class coming up, the Falcons will hope to carry the momentum of last year’s banner season into this one.

FRONT LOADED: Guys with speed need to have running lanes, or given enough time to complete their passing route. Freedom has a good chance to provide that with four of its starting offensive lineman returning from last season. Leading that group will be 5-foot-11, 285-pound senior Caelen Merryman. He’ll be joined by Taleni Lepolo, Cameron Cobbs and Tristan Rendler. Together they should help new junior QB Joey Aguilar adjust to his first varsity season. Aguilar transferred from rival school Liberty-Brentwood after quarterbacking the Lions’ JV team to an undefeated season in 2016.

TARGET TANDEM: Something else that should help Aguilar adjust — the wide receiver duo of senior Baylei Coston (63 catches, 1,337 yards, 15 TDs) and junior Giles Jackson (47, 842 and 13 TDs). The duo caused fits for opposing defenses last year, and should have similar chances to do so this year despite a new QB in the mix.

NAME TO NOTE: Jaelyn Thomas, DB, Sr. — Linebacker Kyle Harmon (now at Cal-Berkeley) stole most of the defensive headlines for Freedom a year ago. Which mean Thomas did a lot of his work out of the spotlight. But he finished with 62 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery. He was also second on the team with six passes defensed.

THE SCHEDULE

8/25 @ Turlock

9/1 v. WINDSOR

9/8 @ James Logan-Union City

9/15 @ San Leandro

9/22 v. BISHOP O’DOWD-OAKLAND

10/6 v. PITTSBURG

10/13 @ Antioch

10/20 @ Deer Valley-Antioch

10/27 @ Heritage-Brentwood

11/3 v. LIBERTY-BRENTWOOD

LAST WORD: Freedom has earned the right to be in the preseason conversation year-in and year-out at this point. The defending Bay Valley Athletic League champions and CIF Open Div. runners-up have a more than worthy arsenal to go after similar heights once again.

Chace Bryson

Chace Bryson is the managing editor of SportStars Magazine. Reach him at Editor@SportStarsMag.com

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