SportStars Magazine

Inderkum Football: Depth Charge

Inderkum football, Raymond Brown, Johnny Williams

With No Obvious Superstars, Inderkum Football Has Used Its Widespread Talent To Carry On A Tradition Of Excellence •

As November arrives, high school football looks to the postseason and gridiron news also centers on student-athletes making commitments to colleges. Inderkum football has been at the center of both of those things for over a decade. 

Inderkum football, Terry Stark

Inderkum football coach Terry Stark has led the Tigers to at least 10 wins in 12 straight seasons. (James K. Leash photos)

Coach Terry Stark’s teams have won more than 85 percent of their games and won at least 10 games in 12 consecutive seasons while sending numerous players to Division I programs. 

Recent players like Trajon Cotton, Josh Falo and Isaah Crocker had the measurables to attract Pac-12 scouts while the Tigers rolled through Tri-County League play to the tune of 62 wins in 64 league games from 2006-2017.

The 2018 season brought a new league as part of Sac-Joaquin Section realignment, and no big names on the roster to bring the recruiters to the Natomas neighborhood campus. But, that has not stopped the Inderkum football program from measuring up to the standards and expectations the program has established.

The Tigers reached the 10-win mark for the 13th consecutive season with a 10-0 regular season, including a 6-0 record in the Capital Valley Conference for the program’s 11th league title over the 13-year span. And they did so with quantity over quality in 2018.

That’s not to say that the Tigers lack talent, or the program’s trademark speed. It’s that they are doing it with a volume of talent rather than several standouts supported by a strong supporting cast. The 2018 Tigers can all assume lead or supporting roles depending on the night and opponent, with a different star emerging in any given game.

 

Inderkum football, Johnny Williams

Logan Benoit, left, congratulates Johnny Williams following a touchdown against Woodcreek-Roseville.

“I’m excited with the way that we are running the ball. We have a hard running team and a quarterback that is coming around,” Stark said at the midway point when his Tigers trounced Woodcreek-Roseville in a showdown of CVC unbeatens. “It’s coming together.”

That midseason assessment appears to be an understatement now that Inderkum has run the table in the regular season and set the Division II playoffs to run through Natomas. The Tigers beat opponents by an average score of 51-7 as their depth and speed on both sides of the ball proved more than any team could handle.

“We just know that we have to come and fight because no one is going to lay down for us,” senior running back Raymond Brown said. “We go week by week and don’t overlook any teams.”

Brown is the statistical leader of a running-back-by-committee that has worn down opposing defenses and would drive fantasy football fanatics crazy at the NFL level. Brown eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in the Tigers’ eighth game and led the team with 14 rushing touchdowns through nine games. But he is just one of four running backs who have recorded at least one 100-yard rushing game as part of a Wing-T ground attack that raced to 3,526 yards rushing and 10.3 yards per carry in the team’s first nine games.

Brown’s “supporting cast” includes seniors Johnny Williams (591 yards, 13 rushing TDs, two 100-yard games) and Savien Pressley (356 yards, seven rushing TDs), and junior Aaron Espero (807 yards, seven rushing touchdowns, and two receiving TDs). Waiting in the wings to make his mark is freshman Dino Watson, who has averaged 15.9 yards per carry in limited action while scoring four times on the ground.

Inderkum football, Jojo Mills

Jojo Mills is part of a stingy Inderkum defense that has allowed just 8.2 points per game this season.

In all, the Inderkum football rushing attack has recorded 11 100-yard games with four separate ball carriers reaching the mark. Brown has led the speed merchants with six triple-digit efforts, including a 223-yard explosion in a win over Lincoln.

“There is no one player to key on,” Stark said. “It’s really four backs in our backfield, in our starting group.”

Add to the mix junior quarterback JJ Ray, whose game has improved throughout the season, and the offense is as lethal as ever. Ray threw for 871 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions through nine games, but has improved his completion percentage and TD-to-INT ratio in the second half of the regular season.

Inderkum’s defense has mirrored the offense in its all-for-one approach where a new star can emerge any given week. And the lack of a need for measurables is epitomized by junior linebacker Josiah Tyes, who leads the Tigers in tackles despite standing just 5 feet and 7 inches tall. While he has not likely made it onto the radar of big college programs, he has racked up 10 or more tackles in four of the team’s first nine games. What he lacks for in size, Tyes more than makes up for in speed and determination.

Fellow linebacker Shamar Brown is just 5-foot-10, but is second on the team in tackles and has recorded six sacks in nine games. Senior defensive ends Devon Williams and Brandon Knott are the closest Tigers to a collegiate defensive prototype standing at 6-foot and 6-foot-2, respectively. They combined for 71 tackles and 11.5 sacks through the Tigers first nine games..

Inderkum football, JJ Ray

Junior quarterback JJ Ray looks for an open receiver during the Tigers’ win over Roseville.

Despite a considerable height disadvantage against Woodcreek, Inderkum’s defense depended on its speed to neutralize the Timberwolves. Woodcreek’s explosive offense was shut down to the tune of zero points and two first downs in the first half (both of which came by way of penalty). “I think that our defense is probably the best in our league,” Williams said at the time.

The continued improvement on both sides of the ball throughout the season has resulted in Inderkum impressing with the most important measurable for a team — victories. While some thought the Tigers would be challenged and might stumble in a “stronger” league, they have just continued with business as usual in the CVC.

“I think that a lot of people didn’t realize how good the league was that we came from because we won it so many times,” Stark said. “Nobody thought it was a very good league, but they are finding out that it was a hell of a league.”

And the Tigers are one heck of a team that keeps moving forward and winning games. With the playoffs ready to begin, though, the biggest measurable Stark and his teams have yet to attain stares this year’s team right in the eyes.

Despite the long-term success and wins coming at a steady pace, a Sac-Joaquin Section championship has continued to elude the Inderkum football program. 

Thus, will quantity beget quality? Will this Inderkum collective find a way to net the program’s most important win to date? The Tigers are ready to find out.

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