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Best Bell Cow | Inside The Crowded Race For Top SJS Running Back Best Bell Cow | Inside The Crowded Race For Top SJS Running Back
Curron Borders, Lamar Radcliffe And A Guy Nicknamed “Thor” Lead The Way At The Sac-Joaquin Section’s Deepest Skill Position In 2022 • PICTURED ABOVE:... Best Bell Cow | Inside The Crowded Race For Top SJS Running Back

Curron Borders, Lamar Radcliffe And A Guy Nicknamed “Thor” Lead The Way At The Sac-Joaquin Section’s Deepest Skill Position In 2022 •

PICTURED ABOVE: Manteca senior, Blake Nichelson (David Gershon photo)

Who needs a passing game if the run can’t be stopped?

Most of the teams mentioned below are historically more one-dimensional than the Marvel TV/film franchise before Loki joined the Time Variance Authority.

Until those eight to nine guys in the box prove they can stop the run, your defensive tackle is going to continue to get ear-holed by the opposite guard ⎯ “It’s a trap!”

Thirty-eight Sac-Joaquin Section athletes surpassed the 1,000-yard mark last year. That makes trying to predict who the top SJS running back might be in 2022 quite a challenge. But we’re making the effort. Returning backs from that group and best bets for breakout seasons are all included below.

It’s our deep dive into the incredibly deep SJS running backs pool. Let’s take a look at the talent most likely to bolt for long scoring runs and absurd box score totals over the next four months. 


Borders was averaging over 200 yards a game last year, until he ran into stalwart Central Catholic in the SJS Div. II semifinals, and watched the previously undefeated Titans get drubbed 35-0. It was still a breakout season for the back, who eclipsed 300 yards in three games.

Since that game, Borders has turned up the heat.

“He had a great offseason, and grew in every measurable,” second-year Antelope coach Mike Byerly said. “He is much stronger and he ran track, so he got quicker and also matured in his understanding of the game.

“If he can stay healthy, we are expecting great things this year.”

Curron Borders, SJS Running Backs
Curron Borders rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2021. (David Gershon photo)

Borders was an explosive part of Antelope’s use of both triple option and run-pass option offensive schemes, but with a full year inside Byerly’s system, expect more wrinkles that get him involved in even more unconventional ways.


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“We have been looking at some Wildcat formations and yesterday he threw a pass in practice and just pointed to me like, ‘See that, Coach?’” Byerly said. “The thing we also didn’t utilize last year is using him as a receiver, up in the slot, running in motion.

“We have a new, young running back (Zion Simmons) that is aggressive, strong and explosive, so we may be able to put (Borders) at wide out and explore some options there.”

It’s the kind of versatility that makes Borders a serious threat to emerge as the top SJS running back this season.


Though tagged a four-star “linebacker,” the athlete dubbed “Thor” may be our top pick to snare the SJS rushing title, especially if he builds off the momentum of a 2021 campaign that saw him amass a section-high 2,231 yards across 208 carries with 36 touchdowns. 

Nichelson’s prestige was probably most defined by his final output, a 344-yard game (three scores) in a 35-21 defeat to Wilcox in the CIF 2-A NorCal regional playoff. The senior is already rostered to the Army All-American Bowl and the Polynesian Bowl after the prep season, and has offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, Cal, Florida State, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington and Washington State, according to

LAMAR RADCLIFFE, Jr., Sacramento

One of the top sophomore running backs in California last year surpassed 100 yards on nine occasions, including the squad’s playoff loss to Manteca. He finished with a 141.9 yards-per-game average and bagged 38 touchdowns. Those are certainly top SJS running back credentials.

Radcliffe has offers from USC, Arizona, Cal, Colorado State and Fresno State, according to For good reason.

He was co-MVP of the running back division at the Oakland ESPN 300 Elite Underclassmen Camp in May and is poised for a dynamic third varsity season after winning nine games with Sacramento last year. The team also returns eight starters on offense and nine on defense, leaving Radcliffe plenty of opportunities to shine.

KOSTA ALEKSIC, Jr., Placer-Auburn

You really can’t break down rushing in the SJS without a look at Placer. The Hillmen routinely emerge with a top SJS running back candidate on their roster, thriving behind stalwart offensive lineman and a double Wing-T system designed to disguise a powerful rushing attack.

Though Lavelle Davis Jr., (1,908 yards, 28 touchdowns) has graduated, Aleksic is back to lead the way after rolling to 111.5 yards a game (seven scores) in the four games he played last year.

Kosta Aleksic, SJS Running Backs, Placer
Kosta Aleksis bursts through a massive running lane during Placer’s 2021 playoff win over West Park-Roseville. (Ike Dodson photo)

Since Placer typically dominates time of possession, also expect plenty of action for fullback Jaden Suggs, while Baylor Kelley and Isaiah Hanley explode out of the wing.

“We have a system that builds off itself, so each one of our backs helps each other out,” Placer coach Joey Montoya said. “It is discipline built with selflessness and the success of the guys up front, blocking.

“There are very few teams that come right at you, and it can be foreign to a lot of defenses, who are used to playing seven-on-seven all year. We force you to put your nose in there, and it is something that not a lot of defenses are used to.”

TYLER JACKLICH, Sr., (and others), Central Catholic-Modesto

One of the most historically dominant rushing programs in the SJS has a plethora of touches to hand out after the graduation of Aiden “Ponyboy” Taylor and Julian Lopez (combined for 3,515 yards and 57 touchdowns).

Our bet is that the greatest majority of those are awarded to Jacklich, a linebacker with offers from Idaho and Western Oregon ( He has the most experience among returning players and brings the kind of size and speed the Raiders need to excel in one of the section’s toughest schedules.

He will share touches with Roland Brown, Jaelen Nichols and Tiago Armstrong, who could also manage breakout seasons for coach Roger Canepa.

“Those guys are all seniors and they all have different skills,” Canepa said. “We should have a good running game. We will be able to throw and run quite a bit.

“They are all good kids.” 


Ali Collier, SJS Running Backs
Ali Collier of Monterey Trail. (Chace Bryson photo)

Arthur Draeger, Sr., Liberty Ranch-Galt (1,781 yards, 24 touchdowns in 2021)
Michael Cherry, Jr., Rosemont-Sacramento (1,595-17)
Ali Collier, Sr., Monterey Trail-Elk Grove (1,549-25)
Jack Carner, Sr., Pioneer-Woodland (1,390-18)
Sean Vincent Hansen Jr., Sr., Patterson (1,284-7)
Mateo Flores, Sr., Argonaut-Jackson (1,278-18)
JT Foreman, Sr., Turlock (1,211-10)
Asante Carter, Jr., St. Mary’s-Stockton (1,195-21)
Josh Taylor, Sr., Casa Roble-Orangevale (1,188-14)
Carlos Baez, Sr., Livingston (1,126-12)
Joe Cowan, Sr., Linden (1,063-12)
Ryker Peters, Sr., Escalon (1,020-10)
Tarell Lee-Gill, Sr., Ceres (1,006-13)


Mateo Mojica, So., Bradshaw Christian-Stockton (669-4)
Devin Green, Jr., Sheldon-Elk Grove (634-7)
Weston Wade, Jr., West Park-Roseville (448-3)
Brody Krupp, So., Woodcreek-Roseville (447-5)
Jeremiah Rosales, Sr., Elk Grove (357-3)

Ike Dodson currently works as an information officer for the California Department of Corrections. Prior to that he was an award-winning journalist with over 14 years of experience writing about the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Ike Dodson

Ike Dodson currently works as an information officer for California Correction Health Care Services. Prior to that he was an award-winning journalist with over 14 years of experience writing about the Sac-Joaquin Section.

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