These players, with the ball in their hands, plays unfolding, the adrenaline and pass rush all rolled into one?
They live for football.
Working with teammates, chasing championships? A charmed existence, according to two players who for months heard about each other, read about each other, saw clips of each other and now are teammates.
C.J. Spencer of Inderkum High School and Peyton Wilfley of Casa Roble will quarterback the North team in Saturday’s 57th Optimist All-Star Game at Folsom. With 15 -minute quarters, up from the regulation high school 12, imagine their glee of having so much time to cap their prep career for charity.
“Football for us isn’t just a sport,” Spencer said Tuesday, “it’s a lifestyle. It’s everything.”
Both seniors talk of giving, well beyond the holiday season. They are involved in their community. Wilfley is looking forward to going on a mission, as his older brothers did, explaining: “It’s a big priority. I love helping people.” Said Spencer, “Helping others feels good.”
Both have found that their beloved sport can be rewarding and cruel. Wilfley labored through a 1-9 season as a junior, pained by the losses at a school synonymous with success. This season, the Rams recovered nicely, going 8-4 and returning to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. Wilfley passed for 2,898 yards and 30 touchdowns and ran for 529 yards and 12 scores.
From hard-luck Rams to hard-charging ones, it’s no wonder Wilfley grins so much.
“Amazing turnaround that felt so good,” he said. “Being able to have success, winning can be a habit.”
Inderkum won at least 10 games for the eighth consecutive season. Spencer passed for 1,724 yards and 23 touchdowns and the Tigers reached the D-III section semifinals.
Spencer gave a verbal commitment to UC Davis, where he’d like to study kinesiology. He understands he is among the select few to land such a deal as studies show that less than 1 percent of high school athletes in America receive athletic scholarships.
“I do feel fortunate,” said Spencer, who has a 3.8 grade-point average. “I’m thankful to so many people for helping me.”
Wilfley is hoping to play in college, preferably on scholarship. He’s a 3.6 GPA student with a good skill set, but he also understands the competitiveness of the recruiting game. He sends emails to college coaches weekly, offering his transcripts and highlight film. Wilfley could wind up at Yale to study law. Football is rooted in his family. Brother Harrison is a defensive lineman at Cal, and another brother, Houston, played the line at American River.
So how does this Wilfley end up at a skill position?
“I’ve got all the real talent in the family,” Wilfley, the quarterback assured with a nod. “They know it.”
North coach Mike Morris of Rio Linda said he is “very pleased with both quarterbacks. They’re good. Really good.”
“Probably the best athlete out here,” Morris said.
• Austin Harmer was an unsung performer for a 2-8 Bella Vista team, playing quarterback, linebacker and cornerback. He’ll play defense for the North.
• The North defensive line is stout with Vaughn Hingano of Rio Linda, Moses Moala of Grant, Tanner Woods of Del Oro and Lincoln’s Christian Long.
• The North linebacking corps will include tackling machines in Tyler Meteer of Del Oro, Quenton Hagen of El Camino, Leo Skattebo of Rio Linda, D.J. Hollingshead of Antelope and Rocklin’s Skyler Gonzalez.
• Inderkum lineman Ken Pettis has the best nickname in this game: Black Angus.
2013 OPTIMIST ALL-STAR FOOTBALL
Sacramento area seniors.
NORTH TEAM ROSTER
Justin Holmes, Oakmont, WR; Todd Valliere, Placer, RB; Devin Jones, Woodland, CB; Joe Swen, Center, RB; Ryan Alvarez, Mesa Verde, SS/LB; Keenan Hunt, Rio Linda, WR; Tyrell Anderson, Center, QB/RB; C.J. Spencer, Inderkum, QB/DB; Peyton Wilfley, Casa Roble, QB/RB; Chas Reisinger, Colfax, WR; Jordan Thomas, Inderkum, DB; Jonathan Lopez, Roseville, WR; Dylan Kainrath, Del Oro, RB; D.J. Hollingshead, Antelope OLB/DB; Skyler Gonzalez, Rocklin, OLB; Marc Ellis, Granite Bay, WR; Aarion McNealy, Rio Linda, CB; Josh Gallofin, Whitney, DB; Austin Brown, Del Campo, RB.
Austin Harmer, Bella Vista, QB; Moses Moala, Grant, DE; David Entwistle, Foothill, TE/DE; Tyler Meteer, Del Oro, TE/LB; Leo Skattebo, Rio Linda, ILB; Quenton Hagen, El Camino, MLB; Mark Nichols, Casa Roble, OL/LB; Anthony Baumgart, Antelope, LB/DE; Vaughn Hingano, Rio Linda, DL-E; Brandon Johnson, Del Oro, C/DE; Matthew Morris, Rio Linda, C; Tanner Woods, Del Oro, DL/OL; Dillon Bolen, Woodcreek, DT/C; Christian Long, Lincoln, DL; Emileo Campos, Del Oro, OT/DT; Kolton Miller, Roseville, OT; Jason Brunet, Whitney, TE; Trey Olsen, Oakmont, DE/TE; Kenneth Pettis, Inderkum, OL/DL; Mark Mueller, Whitney, OL-C.
SOUTH TEAM ROSTER
Joey Banks, Franklin, EG RB/LB; Tommy Arnold, Elk Grove, QB/LB; Floyd Hillis-Cooper, Kennedy, RB; Nolan Merker, Sheldon, QB/P; Ernest Jenkins, Burbank, QB/DB; Dre Terrell, Pleasant Grove, QB/DB; Calvin Green, Burbank, WR/DB; Russell Williams, Laguna Creek, RB/DB; Trent Buenzli, Oak Ridge, TE/LB; Justin Priest, Oak Ridge, WR/DB; Tyler Marshall, Jesuit, WR/DB; Trevon Conerly-Smith, WR/DB; B'won Canada, Elk Grove, WR/DE; Curtis Williams, Franklin, RB/DE; Taron Johnson, Sheldon, WR/DB; Austin Gates, Jesuit, Jesuit TE/LB; Earl Chism, Pleasant Grove, TE/DL; Jason Elenberger, Jesuit, QB/DB; Robert Sanders, Franklin, RB/DB; Colton Giorgi, Oak Ridge, RB/DB.
Ian Broom, Pleasant Grove, RB; Michael McCuaig, Folsom, DB/WR; Kijafa Burgie, McClatchy, RB/KR; Eddie Flores, Folsom, LB/SS; Troy Knox, Folsom, WR; Ben Trumm, Folsom, K; Will McClure, Folsom, WR/CB; Thomas Mahlman, Oak Ridge, RB/LB; Malcolm Harvey, Jesuit, DE/TE; Prentiss Johnson, Burbank, OL; Tyriq Hickerson, Sacramento, OL/DL; Kalen McDonald, Sacramento, MLB/OT; Dior Vela, Elk Grove, E/LB; Ngalu Tapa, Burbank, OL/DE; Noah Letuligasenoa-Ta'amu, Elk Grove, LB; Joseph Kinard, Pleasant Grove, OL; Marcus Worthy, Elk Grove, OL; Kameron Schroeder, Cosumnes Oaks, OL/DT; Kyle Dixon, Pleasant Grove, OL/DL; Donovan Robinson, Monterey Trail, OLB/QB; Tyler Kaim, Vista del Lago, TE/DE; Hayden Jones, Christian Brothers, TE/DE.