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NORCAL EDITION NOVEMBER 2019 VOL. 10 ISSUE 172


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layoff time is back. The fall postseason begins in the North Coast and Sac-Joaquin Sections as early as Monday, Oct. 21. The SJS will be hosting its five divisional girls golf qualifying tournaments at various locations while the NCS will hold its Division II Girls Golf Championships at Beau Pre Golf Course in McKinleyville. (Fun fact: I played Beau Pre a lot during my time attending Humboldt State University. I may have even lobbied the pro shop to name a tree after me because I could never play the course without hitting it. Ever. There are a lot of trees at Beau Pre, but this one knows which one it is.) But back to playoff time. They come fast and furious after golf gets going. Section golf championships come Oct. 28 followed by girls volleyball, water polo, girls tennis and football arriving over the first week of November. This year I’m especially intrigued by the new format for NCS football. When the California Interscholastic Federation announced in 2018 that section runners-up would no longer be eligible for state bowls, the NCS had to re-evaluate its format that allowed for two of its four Open Division teams (and no Division I team) to advance to CIF play. In doing so, it built a format that should help rekindle a passion among schools for winning a SECTION title rather than seeking so-called state glory. The new format introduces seven divisions, the most NCS has ever used. It did away with the Open Division and now features Div. 1 through Div. 7. Division 1 is the smallest with just 13 schools while Div. 3 has the most with 18. I’m excited for this format for two reasons. First, by breaking off into seven evenly-split divisions based on enrollment and competitive equity, there are several more teams who will have a shot at chasing a banner. And second? Eight-team brackets! For years, my colleagues and I have bemoaned 16-team brackets that simply line up overmatched schools (many who may have qualified with a losing record) to be throttled by frontrunners. Those firstround games were rarely competitive, and many times flirted with being unsafe. It was refreshing to hear Concord High principal and current NCS Board Of Managers President Renee Pfaltzgraff raise that latter point when we talked to her for an article on football safety this past August. “We can implement these rules about reduced contact time and concussion protocol,” Pfaltzgraff said. “But if we’re still going to put kids in situations that are unsafe because of a bracket we’ve set up and used for how many years, those rules can kind of become irrelevant because you’ve got this David and Goliath matchup.” With that Round of 16 gone, we should have the top half of each division battling it out from the getgo. I can’t wait to see how it plays out and the success stories it has a chance to create. I think football fans throughout the section will be pleasantly surprised. ✪

YOUR TICKET TO CALIFORNIA SPORTS ADMIT ONE; RAIN OR SHINE This Vol. #10, November 2019 Whole No. 172 is published by Caliente! Communications, LLC, PO Box 741, Clayton, CA 94517. SportStars™© 2010-2014 by Caliente! Communications, LLC. All rights reserved. Receive FREE Digital Subscription in your inbox. Subscribe at SportStarsMag. com. To receive sample issues, please send $3 per copy, or $8 total for bulk. Back issues are $4 each. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission of Publisher is strictly prohibited. The staff and management, including Board of Directors, of SportStars™© does not advocate or encourage the use of any product or service advertised herein for illegal purposes. Editorial contributions, photos and letters to the editor are welcome and should be addressed to the Editor. All material should be typed, double-spaced on disk or email and will be handled with reasonable care. For materials return, please enclose a stamped, selfaddressed envelope. SportStars™© and STARS!™© Clinics are registered trademarks of Caliente! Communications, LLC.

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ramonni cook COSUMNES OAKS-ELK GROVE - VOLLEYBALL - SENIOR The Wolfpack’s senior middle hitter opened October on a tear. In the team’s first four matches of the month, Cook compiled 67 of her team-high 339 kills (through Oct. 10). Over that four-match stretch to open the month, Cook was averaging more than five kills per set. Cook finished one kill shy of her season-best with 21 kills in wins over both Rio Americano-Sacramento on Oct. 2 and Davis on Oct. 10. Stats were not available for Cosumnes Oaks’ four games at the Stockton Classic Invitational on Oct. 12, but it’s safe to say that Cook played a major role in the Wolfpack going 3-1 and winning the Bronze Bracket championship. The team’s lone loss at the tournament was to NorCal No. 1 Marin Catholic-Kentfield.

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Pushing Back The Bell

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t may take some time for school districts around Northern California to see whether a new state law that makes California the first state in the nation to require later morning start times for high schools will have much of an impact on sports. The bill, that was known as SB-328 and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom right before midnight on Oct. 14, mandates that the state’s middle schools can start classes no earlier than 8 a.m., and high schools can’t begin instruction before 8:30 a.m. There are some high schools we know of in the region that have first periods as early as 7:10 a.m. Most that we know of start before 8 a.m. This new law doesn’t take effect until the 2022-23 school year to allow school districts plenty of time to decide how to change their schedules. It also needs to align with already signed labor contracts. It doesn’t apply to schools that are in more rural areas or for a zero period, elective-style class. Obviously, there are implications for high school sports. Student-athletes are sometimes required to attend practices before the school day starts. The amount of instruction time won’t change due to the late start. So, late afternoon contests, especially in late fall, may be hard to complete since a potential later start time would lead to lesser available daylight. There also could be transportation issues and instances of facilities being stretched as all student-athletes finish their classes later than before. The California Interscholastic Federation wasn’t supportive, but didn’t issue any objections about the new law. “The CIF did not take a position with SB-328 pupil attendance: school start time, as it applies to more than just athletics,” said executive director Ron Nocetti in a statement. “As customary, the CIF will be a resource for our member schools as they plan for implementation for the 2022-23 school year.” Groups such as the California Teachers Association and school boards generally opposed the new law for reasons relating to local control. Most teachers and coaches we know just seemed to like the idea of getting done with their day earlier. On the side of the students getting more sleep and a later start time are the American Academy of Pediatrics and California Medical Association. They cited scientific research that shows a teenager’s brain isn’t wired to go to sleep until well past 11 p.m. and that they need eight hours of sleep per night for optimal performance in class. For those of us involved in high school sports, we always say it’s about the kids. So if that’s true, and you accept the science behind these later starting times, then this new law should be supported at least to the extent that it should be tried. After five or six years, however, if more research suggests it doesn’t make a difference — and the hardships involved have been severe — then it should be shelved. That seems fair. “Our children face a public health crisis,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Anthony Portantino of La Canada Flintridge in a statement. “Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier.” While the new law is the first of its kind for an entire state, there have been numerous school districts around the nation that have already made the switch to later starting times — and with limited impacts for athletics. The parents, coaches and student-athletes have adjusted. “If there’s a group of people who know how to adjust to change, it would be coaches,” said athletic director Mike Obsuszt of Barrington, Illinois, in a 2017 article in The Atlantic. “Even though there may be coaches who don’t prefer, personally, the later time, they will adjust.” Barrington also has one of the top softball programs in Illinois and its head coach, Perry Peterson, added that he “can make it work” because he believes it’s going to be beneficial to his players. Some might believe that decreased practice time for high school sports could be a result of these later starting times and then that could lead to poor performance, even more injuries. The other side of that, however, is that better sleep has been shown to improve performance and focus, and thus less injuries. Yes, we get it that it might be inconvenient for some to have the school day start later and end later. But most of that inconvenience is for adults. If it’s better for the kids, that’s the side folks involved in high school sports should be on. ✪

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

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E

ven opposing coaches are raving about Elk Grove senior quarterback Carter Harris. “He’s phenomenal,” Jesuit-Carmichael coach Marlon Blanton stated. “That’s all that needs to be said.” Harris, who has become the most dangerous player in the Delta League this season, was keyed on all afternoon during the teams’ Week 7 matchup in Carmichael. And the Marauders’ defensive game plan was simple — don’t let No. 2 beat them. “They took advantage of our defense at times, but we didn’t let him (Harris) beat us,” Blanton said. Harris had 10 carries for 56 yards in the first half against Jesuit. But he also lost a pair of fumbles. And as successful as the Marauders were for three quarters, Harris still managed to score what was then the go-ahead touchdown with 3:23 left in regulation on a 17-yard scamper up the gut to put the Herd up, 35-31. “No. 2 is phenomenal and if you don’t get a hold of him, he’ll run all over you,” Blanton added, following his team’s comeback win in the waning seconds of that contest. Anointing Harris as the Delta League MVP this early in the year would be foolish. It’s far too soon to give that award out, especially after the Herd’s eventual loss to Jesuit, 38-35. But looking at the numbers, you’d be hardpressed to find a more impactful player.

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Despite his 5-foot-6, 155-pound stature, Harris has posted eye-popping numbers during the team’s 6-1 start. Those numbers include 786 rushing yards, 13 yards per attempt, 12 rushing touchdowns and three more through the air. All while fueling the highest-scoring team in the league. If he’s able to stay on that pace, and his team gets back on the winning track, he could very well end up worthy of MVP recognition. “From a mental standpoint, he’s really upped his game,” Elk Grove coach John Heffernan stated. “He’s a coach’s kid, so a lot of that is his dad’s influence. We sit down and talk about the mental aspect — here’s what we want to check to against certain looks — but if he sees something, we’re letting him check to it and go.” That free range at the line of scrimmage has allowed Harris to flourish in his second full season as the Herd’s quarterback. For the first time under center, he’s changing plays at the line and getting his team in the best possible situation. Heffernan says that’s been a big reason for the team’s success after going 6-6 and 4-2 in league play last year. “I’ve given him some freedom to check plays, change direction of plays or go from one play to a different play if he sees something the defense gives him,” Heffernan explained. “I’ve told him to get us in the best play. And he’s doing that, and he’s having fun with it. “At that point, it becomes a video game. He’s out there calling the shots.”

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Last year, Harris won the team’s quarterback competition prior to the season, and as a junior he started all 12 games and led the team with 207 carries, 1,268 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. That was year two under Heffernan’s new triple-option offensive approach, a system which the coach brought over after eight notable years at Burbank-Sacramento. “They were primarily a power run team before we got here, and they obviously had a lot of success with that. So we knew we had pieces that would fit what we wanted to do,” Heffernan said. “They already had the size on the line, and it fit with our athletes because we didn’t need to have a traditional quarterback to run it.” Unlike many conventional, spread offenses around the section, which require a prototypical quarterback with a big arm, Elk Grove can utilize its speed instead. They pressure the edges and trick defenses with a flurry of fake handoffs. But it’s up to the quarterback to make the correct read. “You need a guy who can make a splitsecond decision, and he seemed to be a natural fit,” Heffernan stated. As someone with multiple years of experience playing running back, Harris’ transition to quarterback in a triple-option scheme was smooth. Which is exactly what his coach was hoping. “This offense allows us to put athletes at quarterback and develop them into a passer,” Heffernan added. “That’s been good for us, and in their third year, the kids are really starting to understand the concepts and the details of what we’re trying to do.” During Heffernan’s time at Burbank, he compiled a 49-35 record and made the playoffs multiple times. Interestingly enough, he coached against Carter’s father, Mike Harris, who was coaching at FlorinSacramento. In a roundabout way, that experience has helped the young quarterback learn the nuances of Heffernan’s system. “My dad ran the triple option when he was in high school and he’s coached it,” Carter Harris recalled. “So when I was a kid, he would be watching film and he’d ask me what the proper reads were. I’d have to answer, ever since I was 6 years old. “He still coaches me on the side, so he’s taken a behind-the-scenes approach, but Jesuit-Carmichael coach it’s worked out.” Marlon Blanton Nowadays, Mike Harris can be found helping coach the Elk Grove baseball program during the spring. Carter was a starting infielder for the Herd in 2019 and finished second on the team in runs (18) and first in stolen bases (11). But on Friday nights in October, Mike is tracking his son’s reads on the gridiron. And lately, those have led to big plays. Against Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove in Week 6, Harris connected on a 59-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Hall late in the first quarter, ran for a 64-yard touchdown in the second and put his team up 54-21 thanks to a 48-yard run in the third period. In all, he accounted for 251 yards. “When we execute correctly, it should be a touchdown every time in this offense,” Carter Harris admitted. “There are three options and you can’t stop all of them.” Through seven games, that plan has worked out well. Only a red zone fumble in the final minute of a close game with Inder-

He’s

phe nom enal. that’s all that needs to be said.

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Senior running backs Tre’von Frazier (pictured at top) and Hunter Hall (above) each had impact performances during Elk Grove’s 38-35 loss to Jesuit-Carmichael. Frazier scored on a 10-yard run and Hall scored on runs of 16 and 48 yards. kum-Sacramento, and a failed final drive in the last two minutes at Jesuit has stopped this team. “We put an emphasis on execution — we’re going to try to do a few things really well and try to out-execute our opponent,” Heffernan added. Beyond Harris, senior running backs Tre’von Frazier and Hunter Hall have also made a big impact this season. Hall had a pair of scores from 16 and 48 yards against the Marauders. And the return of fullback Damian Allen, who missed last year due to injury, has helped the Herd’s rushing attack as well. “The kids have really bought into this system and they’re playing for each other, and that’s a big key with this system,” Heffernan pointed out. “It’s not a one-player dominated system. It relies on everyone doing their job. … You can’t be selfish.” On defense, Kade Jordan (eight solo tackles, two sacks), Cruz Bartazar (21 solo tackles) and Khalani Riddick (15 solo tackles, two interceptions, one sack and a fumble recovery) have led the way. Following the team’s first league loss, Elk Grove dives back into Delta League action against Franklin-Elk Grove on Oct. 18 and finishes with a critical home game against Cosumnes OaksElk Grove on Oct. 25. ✪ 14

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Story By Mike Wood | Photos By Chace Bryson 18

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here’s much to the Foothill High girls volleyball team. Great passing, serving, defense and the ability to stay calm under pressure. And there is 6-foot-4 Grayce Olson, the Pleasanton school’s amazing sophomore force at outside hitter. All those factors added up to a 25-20, 22-15, 25-13, 26-24 Falcons win at Monte Vista-Danville on Oct. 8 in a key match within a typically tight East Bay Athletic League race. Olson comes from an exceptional sports family, drawing expertise from both parents having been athletes and coaches at high levels. Her father, Greg, is the Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator. Greg played quarterback at Central Washington before beginning a lengthy NFL coaching career in 2001 as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach. Her mother, Lissa, was an All-American high jumper at Washington State. She made NCAA history in 2001 when Purdue hired her as the head coach of both its men’s and women’s track and field programs. Grayce’s twin brother, Kenny, plays wide receiver and safety and runs track for Foothill. Growing up in a family so entrenched in sports and coaching shows in her maturity and drive. “She knows what it means to have a strong work ethic, and being a good teammate comes naturally to her,” Foothill coach Dusty Collins said. “I had seen her play club and in elementary school since she was young, and even then she was always smiling and great with her teammates.” She wowed the East Bay Athletic League her freshman year. She helped the Falcons win the league title outright for the first time since 2010 and shared firstteam All-EBAL honors with senior teammate and league MVP, Emily Haskell. The team went 30-7, reached the NCS Division I finals and the CIF NorCal regional semifinals.

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Senior setter Ishana Ram (right) and junior outside hitter Naya Williamson (below) are the backbone of Foothill’s leadership core and make up two-thirds of the team’s captains. The third captain is senior libero Emma Collins. The Falcons’ roster has just five seniors total, making the future especially bright. But this season was cast in doubt in July when Olson had heart surgery. She said she was born with a weak aorta. “It’s kind of a miracle that she is playing right now,” Greg Olson said. With her sophomore season likely written off, her dedication to the team shone through. “We were assuming we weren’t going to have her the whole year. Maybe (she’d) come back for the playoffs, but we were prepared that we weren’t going to have her,” Collins said. “Her thought was ‘Do I still get to be part of the team?’ And we said “Yes, of course you do.’ She tackled the challenge with utmost determination and confidence, and great faith in her recuperative ability. “I was supposed to be out six months and I came back after two. I am still supposed to be out,” she said. “Honestly I took everything as not that big of a deal. I wasn’t very scared. Most people would be. I went into it thinking: I know I heal really fast. And so I wasn’t really worried.” After missing six games, Olson returned to the court, much to her teammates’ delight. “We didn’t think she was going to come back in time for this season,” senior co-captain and setter Ishana Ram said. “We were all really concerned, and then happy to know that she was having a speedy recovery.” In his 23 years at Foothill, Collins has coached plenty of talented tall players. Most notable of 20

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them was 6-foot-3 Betsy Sedlak, a 2008 graduate who played at Oregon and Davis and is now Cal Volleyball’s director of operations. Collins said Olson plays like she’s even bigger than 6-4. “Her standing reach is probably more than a normal 6-4 athlete,” Collins said. Monte Vista coach Sara Dukes Johnson said: “She is a skilled all-around player. She is a force at the net and she can play the back row, too.” Dukes Johnson, who played for Carondelet-Concord and Stanford, sees a trend of taller players who are long on skills, too. “You are seeing a lot of taller girls who are well-rounded players,” she said. “When I played and being 6-1, I thought I was pretty tall. Now there are multiple girls across the volleyball scene who are 6-1 or taller. Both Grayce and our (6-foot-3) Grace Wuischpard are excellent players. They can play the back row and they are just great assets to their teams.” Without Olson, Monte Vista beat Foothill in the first meeting 23-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 15-6 on Sept. 5. Carondelet-Concord also beat the Falcons in five sets on Sept. 12. With Olson back, the Falcons won their next seven league matches, starting with a five-game win against California-San Ramon and culminating with the win in the Monte Vista rematch. That rematch was as competitive as it gets. No team held a game-one lead greater than three points until the finish. The pattern held in the second game, then Foothill went up 16-10 before Monte Vista rallied to take that set. The Falcons surged to win game three, but in the fourth, Monte Vista repeatedly fought back, going up 24-22. But the Falcons held tight and with Ram on serve delivering devastating back-to-back aces, the game was over. “My mindset was we’ve really got to get this one,” Ram said. “Again, no one wanted to go to five sets, so we were really thinking we have to push harder.” The league win streak ended on Oct. 10, when California-San Ramon beat the Falcons 2519, 25-16, 25-18. Had they won, Foothill could have created a three-way EBAL tie with two regular season weeks to go. Instead the Grizzlies took a one-game lead over Monte Vista and two over Carondelet. Foothill dropped to three games back after an Oct. 15 loss to Carondelet. Notably, Cal High hosts Monte Vista on Oct. 22, but nearly every match is a big one. “I think you are going to see a lot of really good volleyball over the next two weeks,” DukesJohnson said. “You have four teams who are so close that it makes it exciting in that anything

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can happen.” Then it’s full steam ahead to the NCS Div. I playoffs, which will again be chock full of EBAL standouts, plus powerhouses Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland and Campolindo-Moraga, which both moved up because of competitive equity. Carondelet appears headed for one of the top two seeds in Div. II. What’s enabled the Falcons to stay in the top pack is their unflappable style, with Ram at setter and Olson and Naya Williamson providing the outside punch. “Both Grayce and Naya are just steady players and we kind of feed off them,” Collins said. Added Ram: “We really mesh together as a team and we always have each others’ backs. If someone makes a mistake, we always know how to bring them up. We are really good at rallying and coming back during those points.” Ram, Williamson and Emma Collins, Dusty’s daughter, are the captains. “We have some girls whose playing time obviously isn’t a lot, but they are invested,” Collins said. “My daughter is a senior this year. She doesn’t play a whole lot, but is the epitome of what this team is about. It’s not who’s getting the playing time, they are all invested.” ✪

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NCVA Shares Tips To Make Volleyball Players More Recruitable

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he fall season can be an emotional rollercoaster for an unsigned/uncommitted senior volleyball athlete (and for juniors in the same situation). As the author of CollegeVolleyballCoach.com, I receive numerous emails from volleyball families who are a bit panicked because college coaches are telling them they are done recruiting, or not responding at all. Families must remember that this is the most important time of the year for college volleyball coaches; the collegiate playing season. College coaches are trying to not get fired, to secure a raise, get a contract, or pushing for a great record so they have the opportunity to move up the job ranks, etc. While recruiting never ends, the coach’s focus is almost exclusively on the players in the gym and achieving the best possible season right now. As the collegiate playing season comes to a close, the collegiate recruiting season starts. College volleyball programs will have immediate roster spots and scholarship positions to fill for seniors and juniors. From NCAA Division I to junior colleges, injuries, academics, homesickness, playing-time issues or job changes can all create immediate roster spots and scholarship opportunities which may not have been available one month ago. The active collegiate recruiting season begins in late November, when the collegiate seasons come to a close. Make sure you are ready to be recruited. Be registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center and have your NCAA ID number listed on all your recruiting literature/profile. If you are a junior or a senior, have a current copy of your high school transcript and ACT or SAT test score ready to send to colleges. Use the small window of time between the end of high school volleyball and the start of club volleyball to address any injuries or physical issues. Rest does not fix problems, it only masks them. As a senior, you need to be at the top of your game early in the club season. College coaches are looking to make immediate recruiting decisions on seniors, so you don’t have time to play your way into shape. Use practice to improve your weaknesses, but always play to your strengths in early tournaments: Show your best skills to watching college coaches. Re-examine your list of outreach schools. If you have been contacting a certain level of program and no school is getting back to you, then it is time to adjust. Responses or lack of responses from a grouping of schools, provides valuable feedback. Create a five-minute highlight or skills video of your most recent court time to have available for collegiate coaches. Don’t show clips/repetitions from September of your high school season, as it will be too old. Film the last matches of high school, or better yet, film the first few club volleyball practices. Stay active in your outreach to colleges and communication. Roster openings will be occurring all through the holidays. Even though you may have already written a school, college coaches don’t go back through all of their emails when they have an opening; they respond to the next incoming email. There is still time on the recruiting clock for seniors (and definitely juniors), but no more time to let slip by. Use these next couple of weeks to prepare for the opening of the collegiate recruiting season. ✪ — Matt Sonnichsen for NCVA 22

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Ellie Bushnell

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O

n Oct. 14, Anika Varna shot a two-under-par 70 across 18 holes at the Timber Creek Golf Course in Roseville to lead Granite Bay to its fifth straight Sierra Foothill League title. It’s a stellar achievement for any prep golfer, but Varna, a 15-yearold international superstar, measures success on a global scale. Just a week earlier and 7,641.47 miles away (as the birdie flies) at the DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurugram, India, Varna finished with the top amateur score at the Hero Women’s Indian Open, a Ladies European Tour event. She was fifth overall with a 3-under par aggregate of 285 across 72 holes (four rounds). Varna was also two-under par (70) on the final day. The Grizzlies sophomore, who moved to the Granite Bay area last year, is considered to be India’s best amateur golfer. She won the All India Junior Girls Championship when she was just 13, has played in competitive golf since she was 8 and represents India’s national team throughout the year. She’s also a big reason — along with freshman sensation Ellie Bushnell — why Granite Bay hasn’t dropped off the NorCal golf map after three of the program’s top golfers moved on to compete at the collegiate level. Granite Bay coach Jason Sitterud said Varna immediately fit in with a program that is gunning for a third consecutive top-5 CIF finish, among other things. “She just has a good, fun personality,” Sitterud said. “I think golf helped her fit in, be— Granite Bay coach cause she had something in common with the Jason Sitterud other girls on this team, so they had a common ground to build conversations.” Success also helps. Though two-time CIF qualifiers Vanessa Richani (Long Beach State), Yena Jang (Pomona College) and Hailey Rietz (Morehead State) are all gone, the Grizzlies return 2018 state veterans Yewon Jang, Hanna Montgomery, Hannah Harrison and Sarah Rietz. They are all capable of sub-80 rounds. Granite Bay even collectively averages under 38 strokes across nine holes in match play.

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“(Anika Varna) just has a good, fun personality. I think golf helped her fit in, because she had something in common with the other girls on this team, so they had a common ground to build conversations.”

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LEFT: From left, Hannah Harrison, Ellie Bushnell, Anika Varna, Sarah Rietz and Hanna Montgomery pose together after finishing second to Dougherty Valley-San Ramon at the Poppy Ridge Tournament. RIGHT: Hannah Harrison tracks one of her putts during an Oct. 8 match with Whitney-Rocklin at Granite Bay Golf Club.

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Hanna Montgomery On Oct. 14, the group carded a 385 at Timber Creek Golf Course in Roseville to kickstart a postseason loaded with promise. The team returns to Timber Creek for the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I Championships Oct. 21 and looks to become five-time SJS Masters champions the following week at the Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. Bushnell, who shot one-over-par 73 Oct. 14, has matched Varna most of the season, and ties her 35-stroke average across nine holes. Bushnell shined at the prestigious Poppy Ridge Tournament on Sept. 23, shooting a four-under-par 68 on the par-72 course. Varna (71), Harrison (74), Montgomery (76) and Rietz (82) also contributed to a second-place score of 371. Dougherty Valley-San Ramon, the reigning NorCal champion and CIF runner-up, won the event with a remarkable score of 363. Bushnell’s poise is understandable, considering her pedigree. Months before she enrolled at Granite Bay, Bushnell was second at both the IMG Academy World Championships and Future Champions Golf World Championships (13-14 division). She’s only been golfing for four years, but Bushnell is smooth and precise on the links. “I like the quietness of golf,” she explained after a match win over Whitney Oct. 8 at Granite Bay Golf Club. “I like how peaceful and calm it is compared to other sports.” Bushnell admitted the calming effect is directly dependent on her performance. She completed her round alongside Montgomery, who is looking to improve upon 84-stroke scores that closed out her 2018 campaign. She has averaged 40 strokes across nine holes this year. She hopes to use her CIF experience to strengthen the team’s postseason prowess. “On the way to tournaments I want to make sure everyone is mentally prepared and ready to put in their best effort,” Montgomery said. “I think just going in you need to know that however you do, try to be happy with your shot, because there is always the next one. “You have to stick to your game and do what you know how to do.” Granite Bay should be heavy favorites at the SJS Masters. The Grizzlies were 48 strokes better than second-place St. Francis-Sacramento in 2018 and have combined to beat the SJS runner-up by 96 strokes over the last four years. The team is still chasing its first NorCal title. Despite scores of 77 (Yewong Jang), 80 (Harrison) and 84 (Montgomery), the squad fell two strokes shy of NorCal champion Dougherty Valley last year. The Grizzlies edged Dougherty Valley in 2017, but finished second to Valley Christian-San Jose. Granite Bay has also been fourth overall at state for two consecutive years. “Dougherty Valley is the biggest challenge we have in Northern California and they are always strong,” Sitterud said. “We are hoping to close the gap and hopefully win state.” Bolstered by an international star, a 14-year-old phenom and four excellent returners, the Grizzlies could bring home a championship scorecard from NorCal or CIF tournaments. It will take five great scores and a little bit of luck. No mulligans allowed. ✪ 28

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“I’M NOT GIVING UP ON YOU.” — KENNEDY COACH GREG MARSHALL

J

ust a few moments after an emotionally charged loss to rival El Cerrito dealt his team its first defeat of the 2019 season, Kennedy-Richmond football coach Greg Marshall brought his team together and delivered his final message of the day in simple terms. “I’m not giving up on you.” Marshall knows one loss won’t define a group for which the joys and pains of wins and losses mean something a little bit different. The result on the scoreboard might offer a snapshot, but it can’t explain in totality a story that goes a whole lot deeper than points can quantify. At 4300 Cutting Blvd., the football field sits on the western portion of Kennedy’s campus. Players know the reputation their school has. The newspaper clippings, dwindling as they may be, tell a tale of a tough neighborhood where low-income youth confront the possibility of violence on the streets and hardship at home. Marshall is a product of Richmond, so he’s heard it all. Now in his late 20s, the De Anza High product has played a major role in Kennedy’s football renaissance. After a spell on the junior varsity level and as a varsity assistant coach, he took over the varsity team in 2018 and kept the success rolling. He led the Eagles to an 8-3 record and a spot in the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs. The record alone couldn’t provide the whole picture. “Our athletic director, Carl Sumler, lets you know when you’re hired at Kennedy you’re not just a coach,” Marshall said. “You have to be a psychic, you have to be a parent, you have to go above and beyond just to get to Friday. What you see on Friday, you don’t know what we have to go through Monday through Thursday just to get here.” Leadership from Marshall and his coaching staff has provided stability, but make no mistake, the Eagles have both the talent and experience to call on when needed. A 14-player senior class comprises over half of Kennedy’s 27-man roster and lends a steady hand when times get tough.

Story By Ben Enos | Photos By Berry Evans III 32

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Trey Baker

Do-everything athlete Camron Young plays a variety of roles for the Eagles, at times filling in at quarterback, and the upperclassmen play a major role in setting a tone they’ve helped establish as the culture of Kennedy football. “I wouldn’t trade our senior class for anything. I love this class,” said senior Trey Baker, who transferred from El Cerrito to Kennedy for his final high school season. “We’re trying to get better and be better leaders, both on and off the field.” College coaches have started to make Kennedy a stop on the recruiting trail again, and these days most are paying a visit to see highly touted junior Jermaine Terry II. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, the tight end/defensive end prospect holds scholarship offers from schools like Alabama, LSU, Florida, and most of the Pac-12. Though he can literally lay claim to such a title, the mantle of big man on campus doesn’t seem to do much for Terry. The bigger picture carries far more significance, and he speaks eloquently about the higher purpose that success on the gridiron can have for Kennedy as a whole. “This team is important to everybody. It’s really the backbone of the school,” Terry said. “Football at Kennedy brings — COACH GREG MARSHALL everybody together from different cultural backgrounds and different places. Everybody loves football and we all try to come together for one common goal — to win.” Terry’s praise for Marshall goes well beyond wins and losses. Calling him a “big brother” figure, Terry credits Kennedy’s head man for his ability to teach about life beyond football. He also speaks in glowing terms about the Eagles seniors, praising both their leadership and their talent. Of course, the reality of the situation doesn’t change just because the team is successful. That the Eagles trudged back to their bus after playing El Cerrito under mid-day sunshine on a Saturday seemed the perfect example of what it sometimes takes to ensure safe conditions to compete in. A shooting outside the De Anza-Pinole Valley game two weeks earlier caused the West Contra Costa Unified School District to alter its start times, and with the traditional rivalry be-

“THIS IS THE REALITY, AND I THINK SOME PEOPLE REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS. TO THESE INNER-CITY KIDS, FOOTBALL IS ALL THEY HAVE. SO, WHEN YOU FAIL AT IT, IT HITS YOU 10 TIMES HARDER.”

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Jermaine Terry

Sateki Lavulo

tween Kennedy and El Cerrito sure to draw a big crowd, the district made the decision to start their game at 11 a.m. on a Saturday. After all the changes, the game went off without a hitch. For many communities, those types of tough decisions aren’t part of the equation. But in a city like Richmond, football serves a purpose that most of the time runs much deeper than just gathering on Friday night. “This is the reality, and I think some people really don’t understand this. To these inner-city kids, football is all they have,” Marshall said. “So, when you fail at it, it hits you 10 times harder. “Also, living in the inner city, you don’t have the most money. They say football is the poor man’s sport. Basketball is year-round, baseball is year-round. Football doesn’t cost a lot, so I think that’s why it’s so important to some of these guys because it’s something they can do at an affordable price.” One setback doesn’t change the goal for the Eagles. In the newly defined division structure being used for the first time in 2019 by the NCS, Kennedy still ranks as one of the favorites in Division 6. A section title would be the school’s first in football since 1988 and, perhaps with the help of the often-complicated California Interscholastic Federation calculus that determines what division teams play in, might set the Eagles up for a chance to pursue an even loftier prize. Even if Kennedy makes it that far, no state trophy could ever tell the whole story. “In the past couple years, we’ve tried to change the culture and everything around the team,” Terry said. “Everybody sees Kennedy as a place that’s negative and it’s really not. “There are a lot of great people at Kennedy who want to see us succeed. Right now, we’re trying to work our butts off to change the culture and, like you can see, we’re doing that.” ✪ 34

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Behind the Clipboard by Clay Kallam

DON’T BE EXCLUSIVE

JUST PLAY I love to play basketball but everyone tells me I’m a much better baseball player. My coaches want me to play baseball year-round, and say I might get hurt playing basketball. They say that I’ll fall behind in baseball if I play basketball, and guys I’m better than now will be better than me in the spring. Are they right? Should I only play baseball? J.G., Lodi

P

lay basketball. Or soccer. Or become a wrestler. Or go skiing every weekend. Do not play baseball year-round. In fact, no teenager should play any sport year-round. OK, that’s a blanket statement, and there might be a few athletes who should devote themselves to only one activity — but “few” is the important word. First, let’s look at why there is pressure on kids to play just one sport. Coaches like to win — and they want good players, so they will push good baseball players to play baseball as much as possible. Second, some coaches make significant money by charging for offseason sports. Then there’s pressure to get a scholarship, which can possibly be worth about $250,000 — a sum that will get anyone’s attention. Peer pressure also comes into play, both in terms of having another good player for a team, and getting respect from others for doing something well. The result is the two-fold argument you mentioned: You could get hurt doing another sport and you won’t be as good because you’re not practicing as much. Both arguments are deeply flawed, especially for repetitive motion sports such as baseball and volleyball. To begin with, the repetitive stress injury risk in baseball is very high. Lots of young players now have Tommy John surgery, which makes it seem OK — but don’t forget that not only do many players never get back to their previous form, but that elbow trouble will very likely continue throughout life. Shoulder injuries are even less forgiving, and back injuries are also a product of continual twists of the torso that are the basis of throwing and hitting. Sure, you could get hurt playing basketball — but sports like basketball and soccer develop all-around coordination and athleticism, without as much risk of repetitive stress injuries. The range of movement and unpredictability of both sports force athletes to be flexible and learn to react to surprising situations. The “you’ll fall behind” argument is more insidious. First, long-term success in any sport is determined far more by talent than skills refined as a teenager. Yes, major leaguers have acquired specific abilities through years of playing, but missing three months to play basketball isn’t going to have much of an impact. In fact, many college coaches prefer twosport athletes because of the implied versatility and athleticism that comes with it. Even more important, though, is enthusiasm. Playing any sport year-round will eventually turn into a grind. Burnout is real, and has ended many more careers than lack of practice in the offseason. It’s very hard to predict when the well of enthusiasm will run dry — things can seem totally fine until one day they’re not. Once the fire goes out, it’s hard to get it re-lit. So play basketball. Or soccer. Or go skiing — one very successful college pitcher I know said he had never been skiing because his coaches wouldn’t let him, which is one of the most stupid things I’ve ever heard. Injuries happen, sure, but injuries are much more likely if you’re just playing the same sport and doing the same motion over and over again. If you’re good enough, you’ll play in college, and if you’re not, it doesn’t matter how many December practices you go to. The bottom line is that sports should be fun. They’re not a job at 15, and shouldn’t be treated as one. ✪

Clay Kallam has been an assistant athletic director and has coached numerous sports at a handful of high schools throughout the Bay Area. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at claykallam@gmail.com.

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Profile for Caliente! Communications

NorCal Issue 172 November 2019  

NorCal Issue 172 November 2019  

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