Cen­tral, Buchanan lead pre­sea­son Top 10

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY AN­THONY GALAVIZ [email protected]­nobee.com

Cen­tral Sec­tion high school foot­ball kicks off this week through­out the cen­tral San Joaquin Val­ley.

There’s one game Thurs­day (Din­uba at Porter­ville), a slew of games Fri­day (high­lighted by Cen­tral vs. Edi­son at Rat­cliffe Sta­dium) and three Clo­vis schools en­ter­tain­ing out-of-area op­po­nents (Paso Robles at Buchanan and Cen­tral CatholicMo­desto vs. Clo­vis West on Fri­day and Modesto at Clo­vis on Satur­day).

The Cal­i­for­nia In­ter­scholas­tic Fed­er­a­tion moved up the start of the ath­letic year one week, mak­ing this the ear­li­est kick­off ever for most schools. Sec­tion cham­pi­ons in seven di­vi­sions will be crowned in Novem­ber with state cham­pi­onship games in early De­cem­ber.

Also new this year: Two Cen­tral Coast leagues join the Cen­tral Sec­tion.

Here’s a look at The Bee’s pre­sea­son over­all Top 10:

1. Cen­tral Griz­zlies (12-2 in 2017) – The Griz­zlies cap­tured their first sec­tion ti­tle in 82 years af­ter a 29-7 vic­tory over Buchanan in the Divi­sion I fi­nal at Wayne Koli­gian Sta­dium.

Cen­tral wel­comes back se­nior quar­ter­back Trent Tomp­kins, who suf­fered a bro­ken left hand in sum­mer base­ball but is good to go in the opener. Also back: se­nior wide re­ceiver/de­fen­sive back Tyrell Grayson and se­nior safety Noah Gon­za­les.

And the Griz­zlies have five trans­fers, in­clud­ing four from Edi­son: ju­nior of­fen­sive line­man Dwight Ta­tum, se­nior de­fen­sive line­man Ricky Cor­reia, se­nior wide re­ceiverde­fen­sive back Milton Cle­ments and se­nior de­fen­sive back Thaiger Flow­ers. Se­nior run­ning back/line­backer Tre Maxwell is from Roo­sevelt.

2. Buchanan (10-3) – Five-star re­cruit Ken­dall Milton is one of the toprated ju­nior run­ning backs in the nation and makes the Bears a fac­tor.

Milton is joined by se­nior wide re­ceiver Jalen Crop­per who trans­fered from Sanger. The ros­ter will also fea­ture ju­nior line­backer Matt Mer­ritt, se­nior de­fen­sive back Brock Jones and se­nior quar­ter­back Car­son Bai­ley.

3. Bak­ers­field (6-6) – The Drillers were 5-6 in 2015, 11-3 and sec­tion champs (beat­ing Cen­tral 21-14 for the ti­tle) in 2016 be­fore last year’s bust, but fig­ure to ride the roller-coaster back up this sea­son. Se­nior de­fen­sive backs Cameron Wil­liams and Carl Jones, ju­nior de­fen­sive back Isaac Jer­na­gin, se­nior de­fen­sive line­man/ line­backer Ja­cob Zeimet and ju­nior run­ning back/ safety Cey­on­tay Bell are the lead­ers.

4. Lib­erty-Bak­ers­field (6-5) – The Pa­tri­ots grad­u­ated 17 play­ers in­clud­ing eight starters af­ter a 5-0 fin­ish in the South­west Yosemite League, but welcome back plenty of se­niors.

Notable re­turnees are of­fen­sive line­man/de­fen­sive line­man Daniel Viveros, de­fen­sive tackle Brycen Lindsey, line­backer An­thony Vil­lanueva and se­nior run­ning back/ line­backer Sam Ste­wart Jr.

Quar­ter­back Hec­tor Gon­za­les comes in from Red­wood and wide re­ceiver Ramon Hen­der­son from In­de­pen­dence.

5. San Joaquin Me­mo­rial (11-3) – The Pan­thers are com­ing off a D-III ti­tle with a 45-31 vic­tory over Tu­lare Western.

Me­mo­rial has a lot of key starters com­ing back on of­fense, in­clud­ing quar­ter­back Alec Tru­jillo, run­ning back Leonard Glass, wide re­ceiver Jalen McMillan and wide re­ceiver/de­fen­sive back Josh Kelly.

Ju­nior de­fen­sive line­man Tobin Phillips trans­ferred from Clo­vis North and ju­nior line­backer/run­ning back Ateir But­ler comes in from Edi­son.

6. Clo­vis West (9-3) – The Golden Ea­gles lost many key starters on of­fense and de­fense but welcome back ju­nior quar­ter­back Dante Chachere who fin­ished the sea­son com­plet­ing 276 of 440 for 3,462 yards and 22 touch­downs against eight in­ter­cep­tions. He also had 59 car­ries for 441 yards.

Lineback­ers Cameron Hicks and Thomas Cur­ran re­turn. Ju­nior wide re­ceiver Dwayne Ben­jamin is a trans­fer from San Pe­dro.

7. Tu­lare Union (13-1) – Gone are run­ning back Kazmeir Allen and wide re­ceiver Emoryie Ed­wards, but the Tribe gets back Nathan Lamb who di­rected the un­de­feated reg­u­lar sea­son and 49-21 win over Din­uba for the sec­tion D-II ti­tle.

Last sea­son, Lamb had 3,810 pass­ing yards to go along with 39 touch­downs with just two in­ter­cep­tions.

The de­fense is led by Fresno State com­mit Randy Jor­dan Jr. who will play cor­ner­back. Also re­turn­ing are se­nior safety/line­backer David Dai­ley and ju­nior line­backer Bear Nun­ley.

8. Bullard (6-6) – The Knights fig­ure to move be­hind se­nior run­ning back Mar­cus Fulcher (341 car­ries for 1,780 yards and 18 touch­downs, 13 re­cep­tions for 168 yards and two TDs) and rely on a de­fense led by se­nior line­man Tommy Slatic.

Three play­ers are vy­ing at quar­ter­back, in­clud­ing Carter An­der­son (who played wide re­ceiver last sea­son) and trans­fers Jaden Pierucci from Shafter and Vin­cent An­drews from Hoover.

Se­nior wide re­ceiver/ cor­ner­back D’an­dre Gree­ley trans­ferred from Edi­son.

9. Tu­lare Western (11-2) – Ju­nior quar­ter­back Eli­jah Bur­rell gives the Mus­tangs rea­son to hope for a step up from D-III run­ner-up. Also back are ju­nior run­ning back Tairyn John­son and ju­nior tackle Aaron Te­jada.

It’s to be de­ter­mined if se­nior wide re­ceiver Keshon But­ler, who fin­ished with 1,357 yards and 13 touch­downs last sea­son, will see the field.

10. Clo­vis (7-5) – The Cougars bring back plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence led by se­nior de­fen­sive back Chris­tian Lo­era who fin­ished with 12 in­ter­cep­tions last sea­son.

Sopho­more de­fen­sive line­man Keanu Wil­liams will help an­chor the line. In 2017, he fin­ished with 56 tack­les and five sacks, and An­thony Al­dape led the team with eight sacks.

Ju­nior wide re­ceiver Matt Sanchez re­turns. He’ll also play free safety, Cougars coach Rich Ham­mond said. Reef Dove and Grant Lake will join Sanchez as re­ceivers.

The Cougars weren’t set on their quar­ter­back be­fore Fri­day’s scrim­mage with Merced. In the mix are Jake San­ders., Chris Ry­land and Bullard trans­fer Isa­iah Robles.

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