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NOVEMBER 2020 NORCAL EDITION VOL. 11 ISSUE 187


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11.16.13 Davis High water polo goalie, Jeff Stark, rises to stop a shot during the Blue Devils’ 13-9 win over Jesuit-Carmichael in the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I championship match. Stark would go on to attend Army and star for its club team. Photo by James K. Leash

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ack in August, I used this space to suggest a Plan B should the CIF get to Halloween and realize that its dates of Dec. 7 (practice) and Jan. 4 (first contest) may not be attainable. Well, here we are. As we cross the five-weeks-out plateau, I’m not sure any alternative plan could be reasonably manifested by leagues and schools at this point. Which means if those dates have to be moved, it will most certainly mean games lost for the fall sports (football, boys/girls volleyball, boys/girls water polo, cross country). And that means that the next couple weeks will feature a lot of hand-wringing. There are a few signs pointing to good news. Most importantly, California is one of the few states which hasn’t seen a drastic increase in COVID-19 infections over the past month. In fact, eight Bay Area counties opened the last week of October by seeing their Watch List status improve. There’s also good news in the fact that high school sports have not been reported as superspreader events in the states that are currently allowing them. The bad news is that we’re just five weeks away from the practice start date and these things are all true: — There are areas of the state that are still fighting serious infection rates. — A vast majority of school districts — especially public ones — remain in full distance learning; many have already made the decision to stay that way until at least January. — High school and youth sports are still under strict health guidelines when it comes to doing any sort of workouts. They must remain in pods of 12 which can’t mix, and equipment sharing (like, balls for instance) remains extremely limited. One school district only just approved those types of workouts to start on Oct. 26. So, yeah. Things are growing dire. What needs to happen? It’s simple, the state government needs to enter the chat. Governor Newsom and state health officials need to speak on behalf of the CIF’s timeline and whether it can proceed as scheduled. If so, the state needs to quickly provide new guidelines for team gatherings and release COVID-19 protocols for both practice and game settings. The CIF did its part in July by giving schools and districts some sort of road map for high school sports to resume. Now the state needs to step up and provide direction too. Until then, there’s going to be no shortage of nerves from kids and parents alike. “It’s tough. And I’m being NICE in saying it’s tough,” Moreau Catholic boys basketball coach Frank Knight said. Keep in mind that basketball isn’t even supposed to start until late February/early March. “I’ve never seen this level of anxiety from both kids and parents. Ever.” The state has provided guidance for the return of college sports and even allowed for 20 percent capacity in pro sporting venues. It’s time to lift some roadblocks, or annonce further road closures. Keeping kids in limbo — even in an abundance of caution — isn’t fair to all involved. ✪

YOUR TICKET TO CALIFORNIA SPORTS ADMIT ONE; RAIN OR SHINE This Vol. #11, November 2020 Whole No. 187 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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From left, Erin McFall, Daniel Wu, Colin Nguyen, Blake Bouchard, Devon Kost, Luke McFall, Will Sadler, Justin Hanson and John Bouchard.

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“In terms of us playing games, who knows if that is going to happen? We have learned from this point to not take something for certain.” — LUKE MCCALL

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fter tremendous flashes of exceptional success, the Amador Valley High boys volleyball team is asking for one thing: One final shot at greatness. After an eyebrow-raising North Coast Section Division I championship victory in spring 2019, the Dons seemed destined for another NCS run when their season was abruptly halted by the Coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of high school campuses and sports. Just like so many others, a team with endless potential — boasting a 6-0 record in one of Northern California’s top leagues — could no longer compete. That makes seniors who are the foundation of the team so eager to get a final chance. It doesn’t matter this season would start with mid-December practice and wintertime matches, as opposed to boys volleyball’s traditional spring season. “We lost a great opportunity this spring, so we are hoping to compete for another NCS championship,” coach Erin McFall said. “We hope we can have a good end to the nice run they have had together,” he said. The Dons gear up for a potential season with most of the impressive cast returning, though setter Jacob Kim graduated and is now at Vassar. The core of the Dons have been together since middle school, where they also played under McFall. They are led by McFall’s son, Luke McFall, who is committed to Princeton. He has fingers crossed

on prospects for a senior season. “In terms of us playing games, who knows if that is going to happen?” Luke McFall said. “We have learned from this point to not take something for certain.” As it stands, the Dons would play a shortened season, with the East Bay Athletic League slated for eight league matches rather than 18 and divisional play strictly by county, either Alameda or Contra Costa. “I’m really hoping for a senior season even if it is shortened, without fans,” said senior Devon Kost. “Honestly, everyone is expecting a season.” Only the unexpected seemed to overwhelm the spring 2020 team, which went 6-0 in its first six EBAL games. Amador Valley was an absolute beast, sweeping five opponents and just losing one set to De La Salle-Concord. It all came to a screeching halt after a March 12 sweep of Dublin. “It was certainly abrupt, and when it happened, initially I still had hope it would be a brief shutdown,” Erin McFall said. “We really have been feeling a sense of loss for last year.” “We were doing phenomenally,” added Luke McFall. “Our coach was saying that the Dublin match might be the last one, so we went in thinking it was like a championship match.” Then came the stoppage. “We were hoping like everyone was that it was temporary,

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but then two weeks turned into a month, and we never went back (to playing).” The roots of the 2019 NCS run came from Pleasanton Middle School. It was there where Erin McFall began coaching a host of future Dons players. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had coaching, because there is so much learning going on,” said the coach, who played basketball in his youth, but began to play volleyball himself as an adult. When he coached the 2019 Dons team to the NCS championship, there were seven whom he coached at middle school. Some now are in college ranks: Colton Brooks plays at Loyola-Chicago. And Kim is at Vassar after his brief senior season. Luke McFall, Kost and Will Sadler are back for one last potential go-round. By 2019 that core of middle school players helped Amador Valley become the No. 2 seed in the NCS Division I playoffs, leading to an eventual title clash with No. 1 Monte Vista-Danville, which had beaten the Dons twice in regular-season matches. The Dons won the title match 25-14, 25-22, 25-18, though it didn’t seem likely early on that night. “We had a solid all-around team that kept improving, but to a lot of people it was a surprise that we beat Monte Vista for the championship since we had lost to them twice,” Erin McFall said. “They had a really strong team, very well-coached. We had prepared for that match for several weeks.

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Blake Bouchard sets the ball during an outdoor workout as Erin McFall looks on.

“We were down seven points in the first game, and we called a timeout and settled down,” he said. “And from there, we won three straight games to win the championship.” It was a win that made the Dons believe in themselves. “It was crazy, because we went into NCS thinking we were going to lose, not that we wanted to lose,” Luke McFall said. “It was one of those matchups where nine times out of 10 that one team wins, but we got lucky to win that one out of 10. The first 20 or so points went as expected and then we turned it around.” Though the Dons’ run ended in a NorCal sweep by No. 1 seed Monta Vista-Cupertino, it was evident special things were in store for spring 2020. “Personally, I felt we had a better team than the 2019 team; everyone was a year older,” Kost said. “It was a big bummer we couldn’t finish it.” 14

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But talent rings true, even without action on the court. Luke McFall was selected in June for the USA Volleyball Boys Youth National Training Team, though any activity has been on hold due to COVID-19. He said everything clicked for him at age 15 when he was invited to the USA High Performance program in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “When I went to High Performance I was raw and underdeveloped,” McFall said. “The experience started shaping me. I had a light-bulb moment where all these things came together for me.” As a longtime teammate, Kost is struck by the effort McFall puts forth. “It’s about how hard Luke works,” Kost said. “I’ve seen and heard about how hard he works off the court and on it, and how he tries to be the best one there.” Kost will be putting in hard work himself. He’s trying to work out a plan among

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Sawyer Brookhart

coaches and the school to play both volleyball and water polo, even though both sports will play simultaneously. “I’d like to do it, because in both sports we have a real good chance of winning NCS or being one of the top teams,” Kost said. For now, team-bonding things like Friday team dinners are on hold. But workouts hopefully will lead to full practices. Currently, they meet once a week outdoors at a city park to work through drills while fully masked. “Right now we are getting them together in a high school experience, so they can have fun together and get some touches,” Erin McFall said. For coaches like McFall, it’s about being hopeful in uncertain times. “I’m planning on it because I am hopeful, preparing myself by scheduling matches outside of the abbreviated EBAL season, and I have no idea what rules will allow in (terms of) playing teams in different counties or allowing fans in,” he said. “So we plan on playing in a good environment and we are hopeful that the world allows it. “My only job is to prepare for the season and be ready for it when and if it happens.” ✪ Follow Us On Twitter & Instagram, Like Us On Facebook!

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a club f

or a couple years in the late 90s, one of the best kept secrets in club volleyball resided at a single high school in San Diego. Its co-founders were Byron Shewman, a former Men’s National Team player, and Kim Oden, a former Olympian. But the goal of the small club wasn’t to attract the region’s top talent. Experience wasn’t even among the requirements to join. Today, Starlings Volleyball has chapters in 21 states, Washington D.C. and even one in Juarez, Mexico. And through the continued support of the Northern California Volleyball Association and Bay Area universities, Starlings continues to expand its NorCal footprint. The mission of Starlings Volleyball is to provide athletic opportunities along with a place of safety and guidance to young girls from low-income homes and at-risk environments. Shewman was inspired to create the program, which started with just 11 girls at Lincoln High-San Diego in 1996, after volleyball helped him find his own way out of a disadvantaged childhood. “The vision behind Starlings is to positively impact the lives of at-risk girls through the sport of volleyball,” Starlings Executive Director Lucy Jones said. “We aim to provide quality skills training and competitive opportunity, and we use that platform to support them academically and

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b that Cares provide college and career counseling.” Among the statistics Starlings lists on its website include: ›› Girls who participate in sports are 92 percent less likely to use drugs, 80 percent less likely to become pregnant and three times more likely to graduate high school. ›› Just 15 percent of youth sports participants come from low-income homes due to the rising costs of participation. “The average cost per player in a regular USA Volleyball club will be about $1,500 for a full season,” Jones said. “We’re able to reduce that to as low as $500 per kid through a number of corporate partnerships that significantly reduce the overhead costs enough that families can get close to handling it. We also have various funds that allow club directors and players to apply for assistance in fees, gym costs, or whatever.” Clubs also receive help from sister college and sister clubs. All three Bay Area universities, Stanford, Cal and Saint Mary’s, work as sister colleges to provide skills clinics and other assistance. There are currently four NorCal Starlings chapters up and running. There is Starlings-Oakland, Starlings-Berkeley, Starlings-Marin (within Marin Juniors VBC) and Starlings-Vision (within Vision Volleyball in Redwood City). Jones said they are currently looking at directors to help start Starlings-San Francisco and Starlings-San Mateo. Starlings’ outreach in the area is currently stifled by the state’s strict COVID-19 protocols. Typically, communities will learn about the opportunity through school outreach as well as free skills clinics. “As soon as we can do that, we’ll be doing that in the Bay Area,” Jones said. “Either through the sister colleges, sister clubs, high schools or wherever.” In the meantime, those who want to learn more about Starlings can visit their website at Starlings.org, or call Jones directly at 760-6816813. If one is interested in donating to the program, there’s a place on the website for that as well. ✪

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ack in March, Casey Taylor was enjoying a change of scenery and entering a new phase of his life. The longtime Sacramento-area football coach was on a surprise trip to celebrate a milestone in his life — turning the Big 5-0. He was with his wife and friends in Arizona for Spring Training. Taylor believed the change of getting older was normal and that he could take it in stride. That trip turned out to be the last “normal” thing happening in his routine of family, football and friends. Taylor was ready to ramp up his preparation for the 2020 high school football season in what was going to be his fourth year at the helm of the Capital Christian School’s program when he returned to campus after Spring Break. But COVID-19 became a pandemic and states, including California, issued shelter-in-place orders as the world seemingly changed in an instant. Then, Taylor received a telephone call that further changed his world. Capital Christian administration notified its varsity football coach and physical education teacher he was being let go as part of cuts the school was making in response to COVID-19’s school and business closures. “We all thought that we would be going back to school after Easter, and then I get the call that Friday is your last paycheck,” Taylor said during a two hour-long chat in his man caveconverted garage on Oct. 22 at his home in Rocklin. “That’s kind of sobering.” Fortunately for Taylor, there were area head coach openings, and he got to work on finding new employment. After just a few days, it was evident to Taylor that he could soon be leading a new group of young men on the football field … or at least on Zoom calls.

“I was very grateful that there were some job openings,” he said. “I thought that there was a job out there for me, but things were strange with COVID and I wasn’t sure if anyone could really hire anyone right away.” Quickly, an opening arose at Inderkum with the departure of Terry Stark, the program’s only head coach in its short history. “Inderkum was outstanding,” Taylor said of the opportunity and the process. “We took the family down to the campus and checked it out. Terry (Stark) has done a great job and I know a lot of people down there and thought it was a good fit.” Just as the world was adjusting to its “new normal,” Taylor would also start learning his own. But not just for life at Inderkum, but what would be in store for every high school football program in California while facing a pandemic. The move to the Sacramento City Unified School District and Inderkum was Taylor’s second change of scenery in four years. In January 2017, the coach made a somewhat surprising move from Del Oro-Loomis to take over the program at Capital Christian where he won three league titles and a 2018 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship. The future was bright for the Cougars and Taylor was excited about the strides made by the team on the field and in the community. With every change of location Taylor has made, he has always stuck to his roots in regards to how he coaches. “For me, it’s all about family,” Taylor said of including his family and making his players and community part of a larger family. “We strive to get our family involved and establish relationships with the kids.”

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“It’s important for them to see my family. We need people to see us all in before we can expect them to be all in for us.” Football and family have always gone together for Taylor, and family played a role in landing his fist official coaching job. After years of coaching youth teams, volunteering as the Powder Puff coach, and giving pointers to his younger brothers, Taylor was given a chance at his alma mater, Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills. He was hired to join the junior varsity staff. “I was finishing up at Chico State, and my brother was at Oak Ridge. I went back and worked with him,” Taylor said. “I got to know the head coach Mark Watson a little bit, and he said that when I was done he had a spot for me.” Upon graduation from college in 1993, Taylor started a career in coaching that saw stops at Oak Ridge and Rocklin before getting his big break with Del Oro. The Golden Eagles were seeking a new head coach in 2002, and Taylor was one of several viable candidates for the job. “During the interview, I told them ‘You can hire me, or I can go back to Rocklin and beat you guys for years,’” he said. “I wanted them to think that they might later think ‘Yeah, we really should have hired that guy.’” Del Oro Athletic Director Dan Gallardo hired Taylor, who would benefit from the guidance and support of Golden Eagles coaching legends Larry Wyatt, Bob Christensen and John Fletcher. Those former coaching greats, along with Taylor’s first college coach, Vic Rowen of San Francisco State, were mentors and contributors in shaping the young Coach Taylor into what he is today. It’s lessons learned from those coaches that can be credited for Taylor’s success — as well as his ability to take his most recent transition with grace and enthusiasm. Despite the fact that Taylor and his staff cannot regularly interact face-to-face with all 140 players in the Inderkum program — like most area teams — and cannot touch a football or put on pads yet, the coach is excited by the prospect of building on the Tigers’ successes. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we’re all about,” Taylor said. “They (Terry Stark and his staff) have done a tremendous job. They have won a lot of games and been to four section finals, but never quite got over that hump.” “They’re close, so I hope that I can bring in something to help get them get a title.” But racking up wins and collecting section banners is not Taylor’s primary goal in taking over the Inderkum program. “It’s about the kids,” Taylor said. “The reason that I got into education and coaching is for the kids. It’s about the relationships with the kids and giving them life experiences.” Wins would be nice, but action items on Taylor’s list include engaging the players and their families, building community and student support for the program, and character development. While some might see fencing around the football field, Taylor sees branding opportunities. Concepts like a student section, a fight song, and community outreach by his players are tried and true models that Taylor has implemented at each of his coaching stops. Of course, he understands success on the field is still expected, especially from a program with 14 consecutive 10win seasons. “I know how to do it,” he said. “I hope that with a few tweaks and getting to know the kids, we will have an opportunity to get that section title. The talent is there, so I hope that we can give the kids that opportunity to win one.” In addition to the challenges that COVID-19 poses, the Tigers are starting fresh in more ways than just having a new head coach. Inderkum graduated a wealth of talent and a majority of the starters on both sides of the ball. The offense will be a question mark heading into the season as no underclassmen caught a single pass in 2019, and seniors accounted for 3,617 of 3,706 rushing yards. 2019 sophomore Vincent Wright was the biggest underclassman contributor to the offense with 91 all-purpose yards. “They were very senior-dominated last year, so there are a lot of new faces,” Taylor said. “We are very young, but we have a lot of speed, and these kids are expecting to do new things.” Stark’s vaunted Wing-T offense will be replaced with Taylor’s power running attack mixed with downfield shots. On the other side of the ball, though, Inderkum’s speed will still be its key to success. Senior defensive lineman Jalen “J.J.” Bryant is the top returner on defense after he tallied 88 tackles and 7.5 sacks in the Tigers’ last season. Senior defensive end Joshua Trezfant added 51 tackles and five sacks. Joey Rogers and Amir Lemmons — both seniors — combined for 123 tackles. Another Taylor trademark heading down the hill to Inderkum will be a challenging nonleague slate. The Tigers will face Elk Grove, Del Oro, Jesuit-Carmichael, and Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa before starting league play. “There’s always pressure to win,” Taylor admitted. “I feel like I have had a lot of success in my career, so I’m not concerned about winning games. “To me, it’s not about the number of wins you have every year. To me it’s about finding the best version of your team. My goal is to always have my team playing the best in the section finals.” The road to the section finals may be difficult for Inderkum, especially with a new coach, new offense, and the long layoff and delayed start to workouts and the season caused by COVID-19. But, you can bet Taylor is ready to pack up the whole family — his own family and the extended Tigers’ football family — and enjoy the ride. Because you never know where the road might take you next. ✪ Follow Us On Twitter & Instagram, Like Us On Facebook!

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Unanimous No. 1 and Other Rankings 1. DE LA SALLE-CONCORD Because: This is the way. No, really though: Led by three-year starting QB Dorian Hale (more on him later) and two-way WR/DB standout Lu Magia Hearns, the Spartans should have an arsenal The Mandalorian could appreciate. With a handful of new faces in key defensive spots, Hale’s offense will be key during a demanding first month of action. Even during winter, the near-30-year unbeaten streak versus NorCal opponents is unlikely to end. — Chace Bryson 3. OAK RIDGE-EL DORADO HILLS Because: Gavin Newsom wrote an Executive Order to have his new hometown’s team in the SportStars Top 3. No, really though: Senior QB Justin Lamson is probably more popular than any politician in El Dorado Hills and beyond as the Syracuse commit is a legitimate candidate for Player of the Year in NorCal. The defending SJS Division I champions have the star power and confidence to take over the Sierra Foothill League and SJS from longtime nemesis Folsom. — Jim McCue 4. MONTEREY TRAIL-ELK GROVE Because: I’m starting a rumor that members of the MTHS choir are using Zoom meetings to record a version of Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” that changes the title to “Mustang Prophet” for the team’s USC-bound speedster, Prophet Brown. No, really though: There’s no slowing that Mustang down. Brown is an electric presence on both sides of the ball, and is arguably his section’s fastest player. But he’s also not alone. Coach TJ Ewing has a three-pronged running attack that includes Brown, Otha Williams Jr. and Chris Lands. Together, the three combined to rush for more than 2,000

yards, averaged 10 yards per carry and scored 33 TDs. The defense also returns four of its top six tackle leaders from a year ago. — CB 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. — Ike Dodson 8. CLAYTON VALLEY-CONCORD Because: Any team that recognizes its own ugliness, deserves to be on this list, or any list. No, really though: This is likely too low for the Ugly Eagles, but they’ll need to secure wins against any of the East Bay Mountain League teams to convince me to move them up this list. There’s strong potential for that this season. Led by senior QB Jake Kern and returning 1,400-yard rusher Omari Taylor, Clayton Valley is poised for another CIF state bowl championship run. — Steven Wilson

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 each time out. — ID 22

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NOR CAL

FOOT BALL Just like so many NorCal high school football programs doing early-season conditioning workouts in their pods of 12, the SportStars staff couldn’t wait to get into football shape either. So we dedicated our October Thursdays to some preseason workouts. We did some prognosticator flexing and stretched our hyperbole muscles. And the result was our Staff Stabs early prediction series. Editor Chace Bryson and writers Jim McCue, Steven Wilson and Ike Dodson all took turns naming an early NorCal Top 10 along with favorites to win postseason SportStars’ NorCal Player of the Year honors. Surprise teams of the year and the most successful new coaches were also guessed at. Below are some highlights from each category. Be sure to visit SportStarsMag.com to view each writer’s full Top 10 and predictions slate.

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Defensive Player of the Year Favorite

Can’t Miss Season Opener

WILL SCHWEITZER, LOS GATOS The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Notre Dame commit can do it all from his outside linebacker position. Last season he racked up 130 tackles while posting two sacks and three interceptions for a Wildcats team that went 12-2 and claimed the CCS Div. II title. There’s no reason to think he won’t repeat or improve upon those numbers this winter. He may also take a larger offensive role as well. — CB

SERRA-SAN MATEO AT PITTSBURG, JAN. 8 If for no other reason than to see who starts at QB for Pittsburg and how many of the Pirates’ trio of signal-callers see action under center, this is a can’t-miss game. Add in a Serra defense that recorded four shutouts in WCAL action in 2019 and Pittsburg’s revenge motivation for a 58-21 beatdown at the hands of the Padres in last season’s opener, and this showdown rises above any other opener. — JM

Surprise Team Of The Year TURLOCK Tur-who, right? Well consider that Turlock may have been listed in my Top 10 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), CentralFresno (41-13) and Oak Ridge (24-14). A good defense should lead the way here. — ID

Player of the Year Favorite JUSTIN LAMSON, OAK RIDGE The Syracuse-bound Lamson has got a strong arm — the zip on his passes didn’t diminish in the cold weather last year, and that’s a great attribute for someone committed to a school in upper New York state. It’s even better for a quarterback playing outside in January this year. Look for him to post another 3,000 yard season. — SW Follow Us On Twitter & Instagram, Like Us On Facebook!

Most Successful New Coach DAVE PERRY, BISHOP O’DOWD-OAKLAND After close to 15 years of being a valued assistant on championship staffs, Perry has been given the reins to one of the Bay’s more prestigious middledivision programs. Perry was the defensive line coach for the Dragons the past two seasons, which included an NCS title in 2018. However, the majority of his coaching career has been on the offensive side of the ball. He’ll start his tenure with a three-year starting QB in Jesse Madden, and also inherits twoway talent Harrison Jenkins. — CB

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Campolindo-Moraga football and basketball player Maxwell Weaver (also pictured right) points to his official ballot for the Nov. 3 election.

Student Athletes Have Spent Much Of A Tumultuous 2020 Stuck In Their Homes, Feeling Frustrated And Following The News Closer Than Ever — Now Some Get To Fill Out A Ballot

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t was close to two years ago when Dorian Sanchez first registered to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles on the day he received his driver’s permit. “They asked me if I wanted to register and I realized I’d be eligible for the next presidential election,” said Sanchez, now a Dublin High senior who plays basketball and runs track. “I thought that it would be super cool.” A lot has transpired since then. Sanchez will turn 18 on Nov. 2 — the day before one of the largest and momentous presidential elections in history. It’s safe to say that Sanchez values his opportunity now even more than he thought he would back on that day at the DMV. “Honestly, I love it,” he said. “I’ve had to watch decisions be made while thinking, ‘Oh my God!’ But now I can be part of that decision-making, and not just at the presidential level but on down to the city level, too.” Maxwell Weaver knows about watching those decisions also. Last March as COVID-19 began its assault on America, he and his CampolindoMoraga basketball teammates had to cope with a decision that led to the cancellation of the CIF Div. I State Championship game they were scheduled to play in. Then he and those teammates — and nearly every other young athlete in California — spent the next several months without sports at all. “I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands,” Weaver said. “I began paying a lot more attention to the news. I started reading New York Times and Washington Post articles, and began getting a feel for just how polarized our nation had become. It really made me take interest in some different things.” Weaver’s path to collegiate sports is likely through football. The receiver and defensive back already holds one offer from Davidson College. He now says he hopes to study political science at whatever campus he eventually lands on. Student athletes, and young voters in general, definitely found the time to pay attention during their months of quarantine. And they have some questions. “The questions I’m getting in class are just crazy,” said Moreau Catholic boys bas- Dorian Sanchez ketball coach Frank Knight, who also teaches government on campus. “Stuff like ‘How many presidents have served longer than eight years?’ Or ‘What happened to Nixon?’ Or ‘What’s going on with the Supreme Court?’ “They’re asking questions they NEVER used to care about.” According to an Oct. 28 story in the L.A. Times, early voting data from across the nation had shown that more than 6.8 million people from the 18 to 29 age group have already cast ballots

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Archbishop Mitty-San Jose senior Olivia Williams, right, poses alongside her mom, Kate, at a Black Lives Matter protest in San Francisco this summer. for this election. That was nearly 2.5 times more than were cast at the same point in the 2016 presidential election. “I’ve taught government for 20 years,” Knight said. “Every year, the first thing I do with a class is to try and get them registered. Typically I get the resigned answer of ‘OK, Coach. I’ll do it for the four points.’ “This year it’s different. They’re all emailing me their registration confirmations. I think a lot of it is social media-driven and also seeing NBA players and other athletes speak out about using their voice. But I think it’s also because we have nothing to do. For student athletes, if there were sports for them right now, a lot of this stuff would make noise but then move on. Now, it’s tough.” Like Weaver, Archbishop Mitty-San Jose senior Olivia Williams also missed out on a chance to play for a state basketball title last March. But unlike Weaver, the UC Irvine-committed wing can’t vote in this election. She won’t turn 18 until January. But that hasn’t stopped her from using her voice. Williams took part in a handful of Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. “I think for me personally over the last nine months, I’ve realized how important your voice really is,” Williams said. “I’d been interested in social justice and advocacy before, but didn’t realize how valuable my voice was. I want young student athlete voters to know what our voice can do for our generation, but also the impact it can leave for the next generation after us.” Mahda Fallay plays wing for Knight’s Moreau Catholic team. Like Williams, he won’t be old enough to vote but has actively sought to make sure others in his immediate circle were registered. “I’m just making sure that I’m talking to everyone who’s eligible to vote,” Fallay said. “Family, friends, neighbors. I want to make sure their voices can be heard.” And just what’s the messaging he’s using when urging these people to vote? It’s the same he would share with anyone eligible to cast a ballot. “My message would be don’t vote because people are telling you to vote,” he said. “Do your research. Learn candidates policies and be informed. And then let YOUR voice be heard, not someone else’s” Malia Mastora was one of those athletes who found herself becoming much more informed during quarantine life. The 2020 St. Joseph Notre Dame-Alameda graduate came from a family that stressed the importance of voting, but time at home without basketball brought about a revelation. “It became more apparent than ever that the leadership in our country can directly affect everyone,” said Mastora, who now attends and hoops for Seattle Pacific University. “I think overall everyone in this country has been affected somehow over the last nine months. “Seeing that direct affect made me think, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I was already educating myself beforehand but now I wanted to take a deeper look.” Mastora cast her ballot by mail and admitted that she was quite thorough. “I spent a whole day,” she said with a touch of nervous laughter. “After I’d done all of my studying, I filled it all out and thought ‘Whew! That was a lot.’ But I did feel really accomplished. “I knew I’d done something meaningful that day.” ✪ 26

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NorCal Issue 187 November 2020  

NorCal Issue 187 November 2020  

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