They hardly knew each other beyond name recognition. But the more Ryan Robards of Elk Grove, Jake Jeffrey of Folsom and Trey Udoffia of Del Oro talked about their high school football seasons during a photo shoot Monday, the more they came to realize they’re a lot alike, not just similar in size at 6 feet, but also with similar dreams.
Robards is The Sacramento Bee’s All-Metro Player of the Year for 2015 after one of the most remarkable seasons in Sac-Joaquin Section history as an all-purpose player. Jeffrey, who steered the section’s top team at quarterback, is the Offensive Player of the Year. Udoffia, who turned games into his team’s favor from his cornerback position, is the Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Golden Eagles to the region’s only CIF State championship this season. Del Oro’s Casey Taylor is the Coach of the Year.
As juniors, all three players were known mostly as receivers, and all three entered their senior seasons eager to broaden their work load.
“We all had a great year, something we’ll always remember,” Udoffia said.
When Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon scanned his roster last summer in search of a new running back, he went with his team’s most talented athlete. Robards became a dominating player, leading the section in touchdowns with 43 and rushing with 2,884 yards, third most in regional history behind John Bordenkircher (3,458 yards for Dixon in 1997) and Onterrio Smith (3,125 for Grant in 1998).
Robards had 3,460 all-purpose yards, tops in the section excluding quarterbacks, and four interceptions and two fumble recoveries as a defensive back. In all, he scored 50 touchdowns, including two receiving, two on interception returns, two on punt returns and one on a fumble return. He also made 6 of 8 eight field-goal attempts, including four of 40 yards or more, and boomed 50-yard punts.
Robards said he gave everything on every play.
“You have to, because what’s the point of playing if you’re not going to give it your all?” said Robards, whose team went 13-1 and lost to Folsom 35-27 in the Division I section championship game. “You can only play this game so long. It was a great year. I’m definitely proud.”
As a junior at Folsom, Jeffrey caught 14 touchdown passes from Jake Browning, The Bee’s 2014 Player of the Year who is now the starter at Washington. Jeffrey wasn’t awed by following Browning; he embraced it. Jeffrey passed for 4,194 yards and 50 touchdowns and rushed for 974 yards and 11 scores. Folsom’s section championship four-peat was the area’s first since Cordova in the late 1970s.
“I pushed myself hard, a lot of self motivation,” Jeffrey said. “I wanted to be the best, even if it meant sacrificing my school lunch hour or weekends to get that end result. We won a section title, had an absolutely amazing team. It was an honor to play quarterback at Folsom, to keep the lineage going.”
Udoffia was perhaps the region’s fastest player, and he stretched opponents as a receiver, on sweeps and on special teams as a return specialist. He had 37 catches for 729 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 19.7 yards per catch, ran for two scores and had four interceptions. Udoffia was slowed by an ankle injury in the section Division II final against rival Rocklin, but he made an impact. He slammed into a Rocklin receiver to break up a pass, a hit that turned the momentum for Del Oro en route to a 30-20 victory that avenged a 28-3 loss in October.
In the CIF Northern California Regional Division II-AA championship at Liberty in Bakersfield, Del Oro trailed 21-7 in the third quarter when Udoffia struck again. He had an interception that set up a touchdown, and Del Oro won 28-24. He also made key plays in Del Oro’s 16-13 victory over undefeated Camarillo in the CIF State Bowl. Del Oro celebrated with a parade in downtown Loomis.
“As a sophomore, I did a lot of watching, and this year, I made it a personal goal to not watch but lead, to do the best I could, be the best I could,” Udoffia said.
All three players said they have been bolstered by team and family support, and no one pushed them as much as they pushed themselves. But only the still-growing Udoffia knows for certain he’ll play football next fall. He will sign a letter of intent with Colorado in February.
Robards, who has a 4.2 grade-point average, hasn’t received interest from football recruiters, but he has signed a baseball scholarship with Pacific, where he’d like to study engineering. Jeffrey, a 4.1 student who wants to study business finance, has received some recruiting interest but no scholarship offers.
Udoffia is perplexed why his two new friends are unsettled about their football futures.
“I don’t understand that, why they’re not getting offers, and it doesn’t make sense,” Udoffia said.
Said Jeffrey: “I’ll keep selling myself, keep working out, and see what happens.”
Del Oro’s Casey Taylor is The Bee’s Coach of the Year
When Del Oro was 2-6, coach Casey Taylor never eased up on his message: Keep competing.
And Del Oro responded, winning eight consecutive games, including its final two in the Sierra Foothill League to earn a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, and all six playoff games. The Golden Eagles are the first team with six losses to win a Sac-Joaquin Section championship and a CIF Northern California Regional title.
Del Oro (10-6) then won the CIF State Division II-AA championship with a 16-13 victory over Camarillo, which came into the game undefeated at 15-0.
Taylor, the only coach in the region to lead three teams to CIF State Bowl games, is The Bee’s Coach of the Year.
“It was our time,” Taylor said. “We got off to that slow start and never stopped believing.”
THE SACRAMENTO BEE 2015 ALL-METRO FOOTBALL TEAMS
Selections were based on observations and input from coaches and other local media who regularly cover high school football
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ryan Robards, Elk Grove, all-purpose, Sr.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jake Jeffrey, Folsom, quarterback, Sr.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Trey Udoffia, Del Oro, defensive back, Sr.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Casey Taylor, Del Oro
Ian Book, Oak Ridge, Sr.
Beau Bisharat, Jesuit, Sr.
Deshawn Collins, Grant, Sr.
Owen Scott, Placer, Sr.
Gavin Reinwald, Elk Grove, Jr.
Scott Henrichs, Granite Bay, Sr.
Kevin Kassis, Oak Ridge, Sr.
David Moala, Grant, Sr.
Wes Preece, Rocklin, Sr.
Jacob Capra, Placer, Sr.
Trevor Reinwald, Elk Grove, Sr.
Kooper Richardson, Folsom, Sr.
Orlando Umana, Grant, Jr.
Jonah Williams, Folsom, Sr.
Montel Aaron, Antelope, Sr.
Sam Cusano, Granite Bay, Sr.
Evyn Holtz, Rocklin, Sr.
Mason Hurst, Del Oro, Jr.
Jamarri Jackson, Christian Brothers, Jr.
Bryan Willhide, Del Oro, Sr.
Caden Voges, Sacramento, Sr.
Hunter Rodrigues, Whitney, Sr.
Elijah Dotson, Antelope, Jr.
Dante Love, River Valley, Sr.
Raekwon Turner, Inderkum, Sr.
Elijah Trosclair, Sacramento, Sr.
Devin Brocchini, Whitney, Sr.
Blake Martin, Vista del Lago, Sr.
Jack Haney, Capital Christian, Sr.
Jimmy Jaggers, Roseville, Jr.
Nick Brand, Del Campo, Sr.
Diego Cervantes, Elk Grove, Sr.
Roddy Hamilton, Del Oro, Sr.
Soape Tupou, Grant, Sr.
Puna Tongotea, Inderkum, Sr.
D’Marcus Ross, Capital Christian, Fr.
Christian McFarland, Cosumnes Oaks, Sr.
Carter Meyers, El Dorado, Sr.
Tre Green, Folsom, Sr. , Jr.
Isaiah Tenette, Highlands, Sr.
Kevin Loheit, El Camino, Sr.
Ben Purcell, Del Campo, Sr.
Quarterbacks: Braeden Bourke, Christian Brothers; Calvin Brownholtz, Jesuit; William Floyd, Rocklin; Elijah Garcia, Lincoln; Aaron Golmitz, El Dorado; Avery Gould, River Valley; Jake Lopez, Franklin; Jayden Machado, Elk Grove; Tony Murphy, San Juan; Jacob Norville, Capital Christian; Unique Perez, Cordova; Blake Rayback, Roseville; Brent Schaeffer, Vista del Lago; Stone Smartt, Del Oro; Jason Voter, Bear River
Running backs: Dale Armstrong, El Camino; Colby Carrera, Vista del Lago; Camrion Davis, Del Oro; Dante Davis, Cosumnes Oaks; Dalton Gee, Del Oro; Mike Green, Grant; Jared Halbert, Placer; Tariq Hollandsworth, Sacramento; Javone Jackson, Del Campo; Jared Kanipe, Bradshaw Christian; Andreas Litton, Bella Vista; Zach Orman, Galt; Ish Perez, Davis; Austin Rigsby, Union Mine; Devaughn Silver, Antelope
Wide receivers: Devin Baldwin, Cordova; Eric Davis, Folsom; Tommy Dunnigan, Oak Ridge; Matthew Harshman, Colfax; Christian Huber, Folsom; Caleb Kettlehut, Lincoln; Justin Kraft, Whitney; Evan Michalet, Rocklin; Da Von Owens, Sacramento; Logan Paulson, Antelope; Chris Volek, El Dorado; Grant Woodside, Valley Christian
Offensive linemen: Nick Ackey, Whitney; Louis Carcamo, East Nicolaus; Jason Demostene, Bear River; Connor Floden, Oak Ridge; Kaiden Henry, Yuba City; Nathaniel Huck, Jesuit; Kyle Hudson, Casa Roble; Parker Jenks, Marysville; Devon Franklin, Franklin; Julio Marquez, Grant; Pablo Miller, Del Oro; Austin Nguyen, Monterey Trail; Jon Pochop, Elk Grove; Brandon Ritchie, Liberty Ranch; Caleb Richards, Sacramento; Will Roberts, Inderkum; Michael Scott, Del Campo; Noah Young, Rocklin; Manny Zurita, Granite Bay
Tight ends: Tim Balmain, Oakmont; Josh Falo, Inderkum; Derek Haney, Placer; Tariq Mitchell, Del Campo; Ryan McCombs, Antelope
All-purpose: Malcolm Anderson, Christian Brothers; Terrell Barron, Kennedy;Erik Brown, Burbank; Alex Cook, Sheldon; Isaiah Crocker, Inderkum; Marlon Figueroa, Marysville; Robert Holt, Monterey Trail; Jimmie Johnson, Inderkum; Eddie Herrera, East Nicolaus; Marquez Lewis, Mira Loma; Brandon McCarter, Whitney; D’Lornn McMullen, Dixon; Clarence Pierson, River Valley; Marcellus Roberts, Center; Drake Stallworth, Folsom; Donavan Switalski, East Nicolaus; Dawson Weber, Pleasant Grove; Ben Zahniser, Roseville
Kickers: Troy Calderara, Folsom; Devin Hardaway, Liberty Ranch; Nick Hulsing, Oak Ridge; R.J. Moorhouse, Cosumnes Oaks; Hunter Petracek, Elk Grove; Andres Prieto, Placer
Tucker Fisk, Davis, Jr.
Jaelen Lewis, Antelope, Sr.
Chase Hatada, Rocklin, Sr.
Lau Ta’amu, Elk Grove, Sr.
Ray Thomas, Del Oro, Jr.
Jake Bellecci, Elk Grove, Jr.
Neville Bood, Monterey Trail, Sr.
Derrick Henderson, Inderkum, Sr.
Roger Neal, Folsom, Sr.
Matt Torres, Folsom, Sr.
Justin Burrage, Del Oro, Sr.
Trajon Cotton, Inderkum, Jr.
Lamar Jackson, Franklin, Sr.
Davaeon Johnson, Antelope, Sr.
Elijah Orr, Grant, Sr.
Jarrod Burkholder, Christian Brothers, Sr.
Michael Downen, Placer, Sr.
Xavier Forbes, Cosumnes Oaks, Sr.
Ariel Ngata, Folsom, Jr.
Wade Thomson, Vista del Lago, Sr.
Brad Jenner, Folsom, Jr.
Jemel Johnson, Grant, Sr.
Terrance March, Natomas, Sr.
Ryan MacIntosh, Granite Bay, Sr.
Kaderro Tamondong, Franklin, Jr.
Julius Fullah, Elk Grove, Sr.
Hunter Lunsford, Cosumnes Oaks, Sr.
Dave Mastrella, Bear River, Sr.
Ethan Milner, Granite Bay, Sr.
Michael Roots, Burbank, Sr.
Defensive linemen: Terrell Barron, Kennedy; Sam Collins, Jesuit; Logan Crawford, Placer; Wayne Doroen, Monterey Trail; Tyler Gore, Elk Grove; Hunter Halverson, Del Oro; Anthony Johnson, Sacramento; D.J. Johnson, Burbank; Weston Jones, Capital Christian; Maxwell Kee, Rosemont; Aleki Paea, Grant; Tito Rocha, Del Campo; R.J. Spagner, Burbank; Jimmy Vaughn, Bear River; Gunnar Simpson, Bear River; Aleki Tapa, Burbank; Taylor Tonda, Granite Bay; Jonah Wehrli, Rocklin; Phillip White, Bradshaw Christian
Linebackers: Truman Andrus, Oak Ridge; Beau Baggett, Bear River; Wesley Bennett, Cosumnes Oaks; Andrew Carrera, McClatchy; Darren Chism, Pleasant Grove; Ryan Gatoloai, Inderkum; Max Gorham, Dixon; Ty Harkleroad, El Camino; Vasiliy Kubay, Whitney; E.J. Larry, Sacramento; Miguel Ledesma, Christian Brothers; Aidan Martinez, Elk Grove; Clayton Macauley, Ponderosa; Mason McKinney, Golden Sierra; Danny Miller, Rio Americano; Mikey Passaglia, Yuba City; Trevor Reed, Union Mine; J.C. Santini, Woodcreek; John Spencer, Del Oro; Tyler Stoever, Valley Christian; Sam Van Dusen, River Valley; Rahsaan York, Franklin
Defensive backs: Isaiah Ajayi, Woodcreek; Bishop Brown, Monterey Trail; Jaulon Clavo, Grant; Troy Dangerfield, Sacramento; Christian Dyer, Jesuit; Luke Goins, Oak Ridge; Ray Griffin, Del Campo; Shawn Johnson, Folsom; Khanii Lesane, Antelope; Isaiah Lewis, Granite Bay; Damario McLean, Elk Grove; Trey Overton, Rocklin; Davion Ross, Inderkum; Dominick Sanders, Lincoln; Keoni Stallworth, Cosumnes Oaks; Cameron Stone, Oak Ridge; Andre Ward, Encina