Four years ago, they led their high school teams to regional prominence as big-time players with a penchant for big-time plays.
Now, Shaq Thompson, the former Grant star, and Jordan Richards of Folsom are headliner talents in the Pacific-12 Conference at Washington and Stanford, respectively. And at this time next year, they very well could be on NFL rosters as first-round draft selections.
Thompson is a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior linebacker with speed and power. He will also take some handoffs as a tailback for Chris Petersen, the Huskies first-year coach with regional roots. Said Petersen during Pac-12 Media Day last week: Shaq makes things happen.
Thompson first displayed his versatility at Grant in 2011 as The Bees Player of the Year, the Pacers leading rusher and quick-strike safety for the states top-ranked team for 13 weeks that fall. That campaign came to a humbling halt in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game in front of an overflow crowd at Sacramento State.
In performing his own versatile act for Folsom running with and catching the ball when he wasnt on defense, Richards led the Bulldogs over the Pacers en route to a CIF State Bowl title.
A preseason All-America strong safety for Stanford, Richards said he needs to be even more disruptive as a senior this fall as key defensive players have graduated. A two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection, Richards is on the Nagurski watch list for the nations top defensive player chosen by the Football Writers Association of America. He and Thompson are on the Bednariklist for the top defensive player selected by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia.
With the departure of 2013 Cardinal defensive leaders Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and safety Ed Reynolds, Richards has to be heard as well as seen making plays.
It will be a different type of leadership, said Richards, whose team opens the season against UC Davis on Aug. 30. Im a quiet guy, so it might take me out of my comfort zone. But we have to adapt.
AROUND THE REGION
• Sad to hear of the recent passing of Mike Nishio from pneumonia. The kind-hearted Nishio was a McClatchy mainstay for more than 30 years as an athlete in the 1960s and later as a teacher, coach and administrator. He was inducted into the McClatchy Hall of Fame in 2013.
• Reggie Harris, the wildly animated and beloved defensive coordinator and athletic director at Grant, has moved to Florida to be closer to family and where his son, Savion, will compete for the quarterback job at Palm Beach Central High. Mike Alberghini, the longest-tenured coach in the region, returns for this 23rd season with the Pacers. He has 18 returning starters this season.
• Paul Martinez, who led Del Campo to the section baseball championship in 2013, is the new Oakmont coach. A program builder, Martinez won league titles at Mira Loma, San Juan, El Camino, Rosemont and Del Campo.
• Derick Milgrim has been named the interim football coach at Cosumnes Oaks, taking over for Ryan Gomes, the programs first and only coach. After leading successful teams and sending scores of players to college programs, Gomes was relieved of his football duties last month, and he said he does not know why. School administrators declined to comment. Milgrim is a longtime assistant with the program.
• Dave Johnson has been let go as the football coach at Union Mine, with principal Tony DeVille explaining the school wants to go in a different direction. Johnson is the only varsity head coach in football programs history. Johnsons son, Davey, a former player for the program, is the interim coach.
• Tanner Woods, last years Bees co-Defensive Player of the Year from Del Oro, will play college football after all. The defensive end planned to join the Marines, but a lingering shoulder problem was deemed too serious for entry. Hell play at Sierra College.
• Cody Creason, Folsoms 6-4, 300-pound All-Metro lineman, has verbally committed to Arizona. Bee Player of the Year Jake Browning earlier committed to Washington. Folsom returns most of its 14-1 team, ranked No. 1 by The Bee, from last season.
• The East-West All-Star Football Classic for graduated seniors from Napa, Solano and Yolo counties, was played in the summer for the 42nd and final time last month. Low attendance and the absence of top players forced game directors to move the game to late December, starting this winter, according to co-game director Chuck Reiland. This follows the path of the Optimist All-Star Game that for decades was played in the summer in Sacramento before switching to December following the 2012 season. The 42nd East-West game was halted with 1:12 to play, with the East leading 12-0 on four Julio Deharo (Napa) field goals, as tempers flared among players.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.