Five questions and storylines sure to shape the 2015 Sacramento-area high school football season:
Q: Does football still resonate despite concussion concerns that have lowered participation at the youth and high school levels?
Yes, because the game and competition remain fun. It’s the region’s best entertainment bargain, from the foothills and other outlying areas to the city. The games also are a social epicenter for alumni and students, even if many of them wander around inside the stadium, glued to their phones. At the MaxPreps media day last month at Levi’s Stadium, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said a high school game is the only one he’d pay to watch. He takes his kids to a Bay Area game every Friday night when the 49ers are playing at home.
This is huge, man. This is high school football. It should get you fired up.
49ers coach Jim Tomsula
“We get in the car at 6:30 or 7 in the fall and just look for the (stadium) lights,” Tomsula said. “We get out, pay and go to the snack bar, and that’s our dinner.”
Tomsula’s message to prep players: “This is huge, man. This is high school football. It should get you fired up. It should be the last thing you think about before you fall asleep and the first thing you think about when you wake up. It’s the greatest time of your life, so enjoy the heck out of it.”
Q: How has football changed locally in the last 10 to 20 years?
The growth in most directions – Placer County, along the Highway 50 corridor, Elk Grove – sparked progress with more dominant, good and rising programs and more national recruits. The sport’s statewide popularity prompted the inception of the CIF State Bowl games in 2006. Area schools Grant (2008), Folsom (2010, 2014) and Granite Bay (2012) own state titles, and Del Oro has advanced to two championship games and Rocklin one. Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium will be the main host for the CIF State Bowl games from 2015 to 2017.
Some parents’ expectations remain unreasonable as everyone clamors for scholarships. Some athletes and parents still don’t understand that college recruiters look for body size, effort, speed, grades and character. College coaches have little interest in individual statistics or team success. And only about 1 percent of high school athletes receive scholarships.
Social media pitfalls also have hindered prospects. College coaches cringe when they read high school players’ complaints about teammates, coaches or teachers or the use of racial epithets and the taunting of opponents.
Q: Which teams are on the cusp of The Sacramento Bee’s Top 20?
Keep an eye on playoff regulars, including this “Next 10” of Casa Roble, Center, Colfax, El Dorado, Marysville, Monterey Trail, Ponderosa, Roseville, Union Mine and Whitney. All are led by a veteran coach, a key ingredient for success.
Q: Skill players score the touchdowns and generate the headlines, but which linemen lead the way or stop plays on defense?
It’s shaping up to be an impressive year for linemen, and the best is Alabama-bound offensive tackle Jonah Williams (6-foot-5, 297 pounds) of Folsom.
Jacob Capra (6-5, 280) of Placer is headed to Oregon, and Chase Hatada (6-3, 255) of Rocklin is going to Boise State.
Other recruits include D.J. Johnson (6-5, 230) of Burbank, Jaelan Lewis (6-6, 275) of Antelope, Soape Tupou (6-4, 325) of Grant and Phillip White (6-4, 225) of Bradshaw Christian.
Q: Coaches say nothing beats experience, but could any juniors make an impact?
Keep an eye on these six juniors:
▪ Inderkum tight end-linebacker Josh Falo is the lastest in a line of brothers, each cerebral and tough.
▪ Davis tight end Tucker Fisk is the son of Jason Fisk, one of the program’s all-time greats who played on the defensive line in the NFL and is a Blue Devils coach.
▪ Christian Brothers running back Jamarri Jackson is diminutive and quick; he scored 22 touchdowns last season, including on defense and special teams.
▪ Roseville tight end-defensive end Jimmy Jaggers, the school’s most heavily recruited player since Tedy Bruschi in the early 1990s, has offers from Pacific-12 Conference schools and Michigan.
▪ Del Oro all-purpose player Mason Hurst started at wide receiver last season and was the quarterback for the freshman team that was 10-0 in 2013; he makes plays in the secondary, too.
▪ Grant lineman Orlando Umana is the Pacers’ next major recruit. He’s fielding offers from across the country, which happens when you’re 6-5 and 325 pounds and can block downfield.