With First Practices Two Months Away, And Little Better To Do, SportStars Writers Have Some Fun With Some 2021 Early Football Predictions •
We’ve officially entered our NorCal football 2021 Season Preview mode. Because it’s not like anything else is happening. So it’s time for some early football predictions.
Before we start our deep research dives for this very strange winter football campaign, we asked some of our writers to take some “educated” guesses on a few things. We’re calling the series “Staff Stabs.” It will be a mix of lightheartedness and early analysis with the intent of spreading good vibes and conversation about the upcoming season.
We’ll post a new one every Thursday in October. This week is Ike Dodson’s turn on the hot seat. Here we go!
TOO-EARLY PRESEASON TOP 10
1. DE LA SALLE-CONCORD
Because: Our editor is a De La Salle “homer” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Untrue.]
No, really though: The best team in Northern California returns about half its starters, including quarterback and Sacramento State commit Dorian Hale, Pac-12 CB recruit Zeke Berry and two-way star Lu Magia Hearns (committed to Cal). It just doesn’t get any better than the team good enough to inspire a movie.
2. OAK RIDGE-EL DORADO HILLS
Because: Rumor has it gold is hidden in them thar’ hills
No, really though: The real treasure is 3,000-yard passer Justin Lamson (pictured at top) and receiver Brandon Barthel, who grabbed six catches and a touchdown in the CIF Div. 1-AA NorCal championships that Oak Ridge lost to eventual champ Central-Fresno. Oak Ridge is looking to establish new rule over the Sierra Foothill League.
3. CLAYTON VALLEY-CONCORD
Because: My nephew is named Clayton, and he’s a crack shot with a Nerf.
No, really though: It’s been 12 years since Clayton Valley had a sharpshooting passer (Joey Lavine, class of 2008) who put up numbers like senior Jake Kern. The squad also returns 1,400+ yard rusher Omari Taylor, top receiver Erik Christoffersen and some solid defensive starters. Clayton Valley is also a returning CIF state bowl champion, having won the big game in Div. 2-AA.
4. COSUMNES OAKS-ELK GROVE
Because: Someone else might suggest the Wolfpack’s rise in their early football predictions, and I want to make a point of doing it more dramatically.
No, really though: A young team in 2019, CO still had some moments of brilliance, wins over Elk Grove, Monterey Trail, Jesuit and Granite Bay. Now the squad returns a prolific QB (Anthony Grigsby Jr.), its top runner (Christian Ridgeway) and top tackler (Isaiah Bobbitt-Byars). CO has explosive potential.
5. VALLEY CHRISTIAN-SAN JOSE
Because: Famed US table tennis champion and Valley Christian alumni Ariel Hsing appeared to me in a dream, predicting their success.
No, really though: Look out for heavily recruited 6-1 sophomore receiver Jurrion Dickey to paddle opposing offenses. He caught 28 balls for over 500 yards and seven scores as a freshman. He has the kind of rare talent that could make the difference. Junior linebacker Willie Cuddie is also back after a prolific sophomore season.
6. MONTEREY TRAIL-ELK GROVE
Because: I lost track of how many teams I planned to list before Folsom.
No, really though: You have to earn some credit for knocking off the perennial power of the Sac-Joaquin Section and Monterey Trail is still rolling after a 35-23 stunner over Folsom in last year’s quarterfinals. USC-bound running back Prophet Brown is also poised to double his 1,500 all-purpose yards from a year ago.
7. SERRA-SAN MATEO
Because: All the Serras in California got together and bullied us.
No, really though: Dual threat QB Dominique Lampkin is back to run the offense after splitting duties behind center last year during Serra’s 13-2 season that ended with a loss to Corona del Mar in the CIF Div. 1-A State Bowl game. This powerhouse program also returns Louisville commit, hulking tight end Christian Pedersen.
Because: An FBI Uniformed Crime Statistic from 2008 confirmed that Folsom is the safest place to live and work in Sacramento County.
No, really though: The Bulldogs were stunned in the second round of the postseason to Monterey Trail, and graduated a host of talent, but the program has dominated one of the toughest leagues in the state, and should continue to represent one of the best programs in the SJS, behind new starting QB Ari Patu.
Because: Burgs are really cool.
No, really though: Whitney-Rocklin transfer Eli Brickhandler could help mount a powerful offensive attack this year after throwing for over 2,200 yards last year up in Rocklin. And that’s even if he wins the starting job among a talented group of candidates. However, Pittsburg also returns seven defensive starters from an 11-2 squad that only lost games to Serra-San Mateo and De La Salle last year.
Because: Alumni Stevie Nicks once pulled me up on stage and coaxed me to sing a verse of “Blue Denim.”
No, really though: Senior 5-star wideout Troy Franklin is expected to graduate early and head to Oregon before the Bears play a down this season. But M-A should still have plenty of talent at its disposal. That talent includes junior receiver Jalen Moss, who averaged more yards per catch than Franklin last season, and junior QB Matt Macleod (19 TD, 2 INT last season). Menlo won six games to close the regular season, before falling from a stacked CCS Div. I bracket last year. This team could win 10+ games this year.
NORCAL SURPRISE TEAM OF THE YEAR: Turlock
Tur-who, right? Well consider that Turlock may have been listed above if not for a “cya” from QB star Beau Green, who bailed for Mater Dei-Santa Ana. Turlock still returns 10 starters from a squad that bounced Del Oro-Loomis from the SJS playoffs. Turlock losses last year were Clayton Valley-Concord (21-7), Central-Fresno (41-13) and Oak Ridge (24-14). A good defense should lead the way here.
MOST SUCCESSFUL NEW COACH: Saul Patu, Capital Christian-Sacramento
Last year’s coach, Casey Taylor gets to take the reins of a program that won 11 straight games last year (Inderkum), but it’s probably Patu with the best opportunity for success. The Cougars return 11 starters and a strong lineman group. Patu was a standout defensive lineman at Oregon. His son, Ari Patu, is the new quarterback at Folsom.
NORCAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR FAVORITE: Justin Lamson, Oak Ridge
Lamson has a chance to enjoy a special season this year behind center. He returns with weapons and valuable postseason experience. Look out for another 3,000 yards.
NORCAL OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR FAVORITE: Prophet Brown, Monterey Trail
Call it a prophecy — the do-it-all senior will score at least four different ways this year. Let’s say pass, rush, catch and return. He will likely be the best athlete on the field. He’ll also be no stranger to plenty early football prediction lists.
NORCAL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR FAVORITE: Christian Threadgill, Sierra-Manteca
He had 19 sacks a junior and could up his recruitment profile with another big season. Remember the name.
PLAYER I MOST CONSIDERED BUT DID NOT LIST ABOVE: Brock Bowers, Napa
Bowers, a tight end/linebacker, is a two-way star bound for Georgia who tallied 1,414 offensive yards last year. He is poised for a monster season.
CAN’T MISS SEASON-OPENER: Oak Ridge @ Cosumnes Oaks, Jan. 8
Cosumnes Oaks can make a pretty remarkable statement about being for real by upsetting the top SJS squad on opening night. This is a must-see game, considering the Trojans’ prestige and the Wolf Pack’s potential.
PERCENTAGE OF CONFIDENCE I HAVE THAT SEASON WILL RUN UNINTERRUPTED: 7.3
NUMBER OF GAMES I’LL COVER THAT INCLUDE FANS: A handful.
NUMBER OF GAMES I’LL COVER IN EITHER RAIN OR SNOW: It’s never stopped me before. And I rarely step into the press box!