High school football notes: Unbeaten Placer still faces questions

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 - 4:12 pm

Sixth-ranked Placer is undefeated and has three players who have verbally committed to play at four-year colleges, including national recruit Eddie Vanderdoes.

They also are Cal-Hi Sports' front-runners to play in the inaugural CIF Northern California regional playoffs Dec. 7-8.

But with No. 14 Center (8-1, 4-0 Pioneer Valley League) coming to Auburn on Friday night, the Hillmen (9-0, 4-0) still haven't won everyone over.

There are questions about the Hillmen's suddenly sputtering wing-T offense that averaged nearly 53 points through the first six games and just 16 points in the past three PVL games. That includes a 14-7 win over Bear River and a 10-7 win over Lincoln, in which Dominic Granieri kicked a late game-winning field goal.

Although they beat rival and two-time defending league champion Colfax 24-7 Friday, the Hillmen's defense starred by forcing six turnovers and making five sacks.

Placer's defense has 34 sacks, 18 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries. Leading the way have been 6-foot-3, 302-pound defensive tackle Vanderdoes (eight sacks); 6-4, 225-pound defensive end Stone Sander (six sacks), who has made a verbal commitment to Sacramento State; and 6-4, 185-pound back Isaiah Piniero (eight interceptions).

In recent weeks, Center has has showcased the more dazzling offense.

Behind speedy running back D'Juan Bellaire and quarterback Tyrel Anderson, the Cougars averaged 36 points against Lincoln, Colfax and Bear River.

Center routed Bear River 36-0 on Oct. 19 as Bellaire rushed for 173 yards and four touchdowns and the Cougars forced five turnovers and had six sacks.

In the Cougars' 34-14 win over Colfax on Oct. 12, Bellaire and Anderson combined for 308 total yards and six touchdowns.

"We have great overall team speed," said Center athletic director John Gallagher, a former Cougars football coach. "We have only two or three linemen over 220 pounds, but we are quick off the ball and able to create seams for the running backs. … It will be the classic speed vs. size battle. It's what makes high school football fun to watch."

Thunder contributor – Rocklin senior Daniel Kniffin started the season at quarterback before being sidelined by shoulder issues.

His backup, junior Logan Webb, has since developed into a star for the No. 10 Thunder, throwing for four touchdowns in each of the past three Sierra Foothill League games.

But the 6-3, 180-pound Kniffin, who coach Greg Benzel says is perhaps the team's best athlete, is still a big contributor now that he's healthy.

He had five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown in a 42-17 win over Woodcreek on Oct. 19 and seven catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-14 victory over Roseville on Friday.

Tow's big game – Union Mine's Sean Tow entered the season looking to become the first running back in section history to have three successive 2,000-yard seasons.

But he missed the team's first two games with injuries, and Union Mine doesn't have the formidable offensive line of past seasons.

On Friday, though, Tow surpassed the 1,000-yard mark with a 370-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 53-28 win over El Dorado, only the Diamondbacks' second victory in nine games.

Tow has a career rushing total of 5,540 yards entering Friday's season finale against No. 16 Vista del Lago.

Falcons soar – Jalen Walker caught three touchdown passes, Avante Yarber rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Brendan Gormley had an interception and one of eight sacks for Christian Brothers in its 48-28 win over Casa Roble in a Capital Valley Conference game Saturday at Hughes Stadium.

One season after finishing 1-9, the Falcons (5-4, 2-2) can qualify for the postseason with a win Friday over Bella Vista at Hughes.

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