One week remains in the regular season, and then the real fun starts with a six-week sprint to CIF State championship weekend.
Here’s a peek at some of the top players, coaches, themes and trends that have shaped the regular season:
Top player – In a show of regional depth, the area’s most impressive players have not necessarily been at skill positions.
The most versatile and dominant player I have witnessed this season is Tucker Fisk of Davis, a Stanford-bound tight end who also plays defensive end and defensive tackle, takes handoffs on short-yardage situation and splatters foes with blocks on special teams. He is the son of 1980s Davis star Jason Fisk, who played 12 NFL seasons as a defensive tackle.
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Said Pop, now a Davis assistant coach, “Tucker’s a much better athlete that I was.”
Others game changers who don’t need to have the ball to turn a game: Sheldon defensive back Alex Cook, headed to Washington; Burbank defensive end D.J. Johnson, headed to Miami, and Roseville tight end-linebacker Jimmy Jaggers, off to UCLA.
Most explosive player – The quickest, most dazzling player has been wide receiver-cornerback Lawrence Hardy of Grant. He has scored on receptions, fumble returns and interception returns and on special teams. Also in that versatile, difficult-to-cover mode: wide receiver-defensive backs Mason Hurst of Del Oro and Drake Stallworth of Folsom.
Best running back – Elijah Dotson of Antelope, which is fitting since the same was true for his father, Robert Dotson, when he played for Grant in 1992. Son wants to match father with a section championship.
Other bruiser and cruiser backs – Lorenzo Burkes of Jesuit, Tariq Hollandsworth of Sacramento, Tyree Marcelle of Grant, Graylon Lindsey of Sheldon and Zach Orman of Galt.
Best passers – Brent Schaeffer of Vista del Lago is shattering school records, Joe Curry of Folsom is the latest in the Bulldogs’ amazing legacy of signal callers, Tyler Vander Waal of Christian Brothers has a cannon arm and runs over opponents on keepers, Calvin Brownholtz of Jesuit thrives in pressure games, Jayden Machado of Elk Grove makes the Thundering Herd hum, and Marco Baldacchino of Oak Ridge and Stone Smartt of Del Oro can buckle teams with their arm or legs.
Best hands – Gavin Reinwald of Elk Grove makes catches in traffic and in one-on-one coverage, and also can pull away for 50-yard gains. Other good hands: Davon Owens of Sacramento, Chris Volek of El Dorado, Brenden Hall of Vista del Lago and Jonathon Amadi of Jesuit.
Musically inclined – Ben Holbrook did it all for Foresthill on Friday, as he does most game nights. He strummed the national anthem with his guitar, in uniform, then rushed 32 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns against Western Sierra.
Coaching impact – A coach who gets his team to believe is one thing. The coach who can get his team to also execute can elevate a program. Justin Reber of Sacramento has a championship team despite just four senior starters, and Joe Cattolico immediately has turned Sheldon into a rising power. The Huskies can win the Delta League title with a win over Elk Grove on Friday.
Streaking – It also has been a season of defining streaks. Sacramento halted Folsom’s 48-game regular-season winning streak, and Mira Loma snapped a 31-game skid. Defending Division VI state champion East Nicolaus is riding a 20-game winning streak. Grant extended its ongoing Sac-Joaquin Section record streak of consecutive playoff berths to 26, while Bear River’s run of 29 consecutive non-losing seasons ended.