Joe Davidson

Here’s where 17 local high school football stars have signed to play in college

Jehiel Budgett, right, plays running back and defensive back for Monterey Trail. He signed a letter of intent to play football at UC Davis.
Jehiel Budgett, right, plays running back and defensive back for Monterey Trail. He signed a letter of intent to play football at UC Davis. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Student athletes used to blocking, tackling, running, catching, defending and competing went with one simple move Wednesday.

Seventeen area high school football stars signed national letters of intent to scholarship programs, making for a bumper crop for the early signing period. The next signing period is in February.

Folsom seniors Kaiden Bennett and Joe Ngata signed with Boise State and Clemson, respectively, just days after leading the Bulldogs to a CIF State Division I-AA championship repeat.

Bennett passed for 4,254 yards and 62 touchdowns and ran for 13 more scores in producing one of the best single-seasons in regional history.

Ngata, one of the area’s all-time great receivers, had 66 receptions for 1,269 yards and 22 touchdowns. Clemson won the national championship in 2016 and is back in the College Football Playoffs this season.

“This is fantastic,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said while watching his two stars sign. “They’re two of the most humble, hardest-working kids. They’ll be on our Mt. Rushmore of all-time great players here like Jordan Richards, Jake Browning, Jonah Williams, Cody Creason and Dano Graves.”

Jesuit had three players sign, including cornerback Isaiah Rutherford to Notre Dame, also in the College Football Playoff.

Teammate Laiatu Latu, a linebacker and tight end, is off to Washington, where he will play for Chris Petersen, the one-time UC Davis star quarterback.

Also, tight end Connor McIntee signed with Air Force.

Latu and Rutherford were the two most heavily recruited Marauders in program history. Jesuit opened in 1963.

Monterey Trail was the third area school to have two players sign early after guiding the Mustangs to a 12-1 showing.

Zach Larrier, a quarterback and defensive back, will play at Air Force, while running back and defensive back Jehiel Budgett is off to UC Davis.

Larrier passed for 1,426 yards and 18 touchdowns and he rushed for 990 and 16. Budgett ran for 1,564 yards and 23 scores. They combined to make seven interceptions in the secondary in leading the best team in school history. Monterey Trail opened in 2004.

River Valley also had two players sign, the most for one season in program history. Quarterback Dawson McPeak is headed to Northern Arizona and lineman Dean Rice is off to Utah State

Levelle Bailey of Burbank signed with Fresno State, which has surged under second-year coach Jeff Tedford.

Bailey was one of the most heavily recruited football players in the history of the school, which opened in 1963. Bailey played quarterback and linebacker for Burbank and will play defense in college.

He passed for 1,405 yards and 20 touchdowns, ran for 722 and 15 and made 81 tackles and six interceptions for a team that reached the section Division III playoffs.

There were also some large signings Wednesday in terms of player size.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Joey Capra of Placer is headed to San Diego State after an earlier verbal commitment to Oregon.

Blake Baughman is a 6-5, 270-pounder who signed with Nevada. He teamed with Capra to give the Hillmen on of the best bookend tackles in the state. Placer went 12-1 and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III finals.

The 6-4, 295-pound Zac Welch of Oak Ridge will go to Nevada. The Trojans went 8-4 and lost to Monterey Trail in a section Division I semifinal.

The 6-3, 270-pound Logan Arnold of Yuba City, a defensive end, is headed to Nevada after having led his team to the playoffs.

Dean Rice of River Valley, a 6-4, 285-pounder, is headed to Utah State after helping lead the Falcons to their first playoff victories.

And Nathan Peterson of Dixon, a 6-5, 285-pounder, is going to Air Force after leading his team to the playoffs.

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: jdavidson@sacbee.com, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.



Where they are headed

Here’s where the 17 Sacramento-area players who signed Wednesday plan to play college football:

Logan Arnold

High school: Yuba City

Position(s): Offensive line

Headed to: Nevada

Comment: Was recruited by former Sacramento State lineman Angus McClure to make stops.

Bailey.JPG
Levelle Bailey also plays basketball at Burbank. He played quarterback and linebacker for the Titans, but will focus defense at Fresno State. Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

Levelle Bailey

High school: Burbank

Position(s): Quarterback and linebacker

Headed to: Fresno State

Comment: Also a basketball star, he’s a tough, physical playmaker on defense fits right into coach Jeff Tedford’s mold.

Blake Baughman

High school: Placer

Position(s): Offensive line

Headed to: Nevada

Comment: Having played football since his youth, he’s just now reaching his potential.

Kaiden Bennett

High school: Folsom

Position(s): Quarterback

Headed to: Boise State

Comment: Became a superb drop-back passer this season, though he can also run – and fast at that.

Jehiel Budgett

High school: Monterey Trail

Position(s): Running back and defensive back

Headed to: UC Davis

Comment: Has the ability to break 70-yard scoring sprints and to make plays in the secondary.

Capra.JPG
Placer offensive lineman Joey Capra is headed to San Diego State. Paul Kitagaki Jr. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Joey Capra

High school: Placer

Position(s): Offensive line

Headed to: San Diego State

Comment: Physical and intelligent, he’s the next Capra brother to play in the trenches at the four-year level.

Zach Larrier

High school: Monterey Trail

Position(s): Quarterback and defensive back

Headed to: Air Force

Comment: A superb student and leader, Larrier is a game-breaker at QB and in the secondary.

Laiatu Latu

High school: Jesuit

Position(s): Linebacker and tight end

Headed to: Washington

Comment: He can also block kicks, make interceptions and generally impact games.

Charlie McBride

High school: Rocklin

Position(s): Tight end

Headed to: Sacramento State

Comment: Can do it all – kick, punt, catch, block and defend. Missed most of senior season with injury and is eager to bounce back.

Connor McIntee

High school: Jesuit

Position(s): Tight end

Headed to: Air Force

Comment: Has great hands and competes for the ball, and he can run.

Dawson McPeak

High school: River Valley

Position(s): Quarterback

Headed to: Northern Arizona

Comment: A 4.0 student, McPeak was the McMan for the program’s best team.

Ngata.JPG
Folsom wide receiver Joe Ngata will continue his football career at Clemson. Brian Baer Special to The Bee

Joe Ngata

High school: Folsom

Position(s): Wide receiver

Headed to: Clemson

Comment: Fast and physical with great hands and breakaway speed, Ngata looks the part of big-time player.

Nathan Peterson

High school: Dixon

Position(s): Offensive line

Headed to: Air Force

Comment: The most heavily recruited lineman out of Dixon since the Ball brothers in the 1990s, Peterson is also a fine student.

Dean Rice

High school: River Valley

Position(s): Offensive line

Headed to: Utah State

Comment: A physical player joins a program that was among the best nationally in rushing.

Rutherford.JPG
Jesuit cornerback Isaiah Rutherford has signed to play at Notre Dame. Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

Isaiah Rutherford

High school: Jesuit

Position(s): Cornerback

Headed to: Notre Dame

Comment: Superb cover skills and has the closing speed that is ideal in the wide-open college game.

Carter Sullivan

High school: Antelope

Position(s): Wide receiver

Headed to: Navy

Comment: One of the most versatile players in the region is a big target at 6-foot-3, and he lives to compete.

Zac Welch

High school: Oak Ridge

Position(s): Offensive line

Headed to: Nevada

Comment: A relentless worker who strives to improve every day, making for a great teammate.

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