Joe Davidson

Dude, check it out: Prep football playmakers flourish

Bear River’s Austin Baze (29), a standout at running back and linebacker, tries to ward off Marysville defenders.
Bear River’s Austin Baze (29), a standout at running back and linebacker, tries to ward off Marysville defenders.

High school football teams tend to hitch their championship hopes onto the broad shoulder pads of their most talented, versatile players.

Across this region, coaches rely on these athletes with this message to opponents: “Stop him if you can.” Whether on rushes, throws, catches, defense or special teams, these playmakers generate recruiting interest and pine for league and Sac-Joaquin Section championships.

“We call guys like that ‘Dudes,’ and there are some serious dudes out there,” Monterey Trail coach T.J. Ewing said.

Here’s a look at 10 who fit the “Dude” mold:

Austin Baze, Bear River: The 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior is the craze in Grass Valley, already deemed the most dominant player in the program’s 30-year history. Despite limited carries to protect a sore shoulder, Baze has rushed for 271 yards and five touchdowns for the Bruins, ranked 20th by The Sacramento Bee. His most dazzling run was a 90-yarder for a score against Union Mine. At linebacker, he has had games of nine, 11, 14 and 11 tackles

“It was inhumane what Baze did on the lower-level teams here, and he’s getting better,” Bear River athletic director Duwaine Ganskie said.

Guys like that, you just want to get them the ball and let them make plays.

Kris Richardson, Folsom coach, on Bulldogs senior Drake Stallworth

Lorenzo Burkes, Jesuit: The 6-2, 225-pound junior runs with power and speed, and he’s an effective linebacker. He has rushed for 491 yards, averaging 8.0 yards a carry, and five touchdowns for the No. 7 Marauders.

“He’s quite a dude, the real deal,” Marauders coach Marlon Blanton said.

Alex Cook, Sheldon: The 6-2, 185-pound senior has sizzled for the No. 12 Huskies, off to the program’s second 4-0 start. Headed to Washington, Cook has rushed 15 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 359 yards and five scores. As a defensive back, he made 15 tackles in a 27-22 win over Monterey Trail last week.

“When your best player is your hardest worker, you’re in good shape,” Huskies coach Joe Cattolico said.

Elijah Dotson, Antelope: The 5-10, 185-pound senior has rushed for 688 yards, averaging 14.0 yards a carry, and scored nine touchdowns, including three of 60 or more yards. He also has 1,152 all-purpose yards for the No. 8 Titans, including a national-record tying 99-yard kickoff return against Ponderosa last week.

“He’s scary good,” Antelope coach Matt Ray said.

Lawrence Hardy, Grant: The 5-9, 170-pound senior has had three games with 200-plus all-purpose yards as a deep-threat receiver and special-teams return man for the No. 2 Pacers. Against Franklin last week, Hardy caught three passes – each for a score – totaling 209 yards. Overall, he has nine touchdowns – six on receptions and one each on an interception return, a punt return and a kickoff return.

Tariq Hollandsworth, Sacramento: A 6-foot, 205-pound mix of power and speed, the senior earned the game ball by rushing for 268 yards in a 32-27 win over Folsom that ended the Bulldogs’ state-leading 48-game regular-season winning streak Sept. 16. He has run for 611 yards, averaging 8.7 yards a carry, and is a threat on special-teams returns for the No. 4 Dragons.

Robert Holt, Monterey Trail: The 6-3, 195-pound senior triggerman for the No. 13 Mustangs’ run-heavy veer attack has passed for six touchdowns and run for five, and he has three interceptions as a defensive back. “I live for this.” he said.

When your best player is your hardest worker, you’re in good shape.

Joe Cattolico, Sheldon coach, on Huskies senior Alex Cook

Mason Hurst, Del Oro: The 6-1, 190-pound senior fuels the top-ranked Golden Eagles with his penchant for big plays and ability to reach the end zone. He is averaging 19.7 yards on his 30 receptions with five touchdowns, and he has had all-purpose games of 188, 241 and 154 yards. He had 101 kick-return yards in a 16-14 win over Bay Area powerhouse Bellarmine of San Jose on Sept. 9, when his two two-point conversions were the difference.

Zach Orman, Galt: The 6-foot, 210-pound senior has quietly carved out some big numbers, averaging 188.4 rushing yards per game this season. In his last three games, he has run for 245, 273 and 252 yards and 11 touchdowns. At linebacker, he is averaging 8.2 tackles for a program seeking its first winning season since 2005.

Drake Stallworth, Folsom: The 6-2, 190-pound senior electrifies as a receiver (averaging 26.0 yards on 16 catches with eight touchdowns) and kick-return ace for the No. 5 Bulldogs. In his career, he has scored on receptions, rushes, special teams and defense.

“Guys like that,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said, “you just want to get them the ball and let them make plays.”

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD