SFL will dish up stiff competition

By: Mike Ray, Loomis News Correspondent
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Over the last several years, the Sierra Foothill League has gained a reputation for being — from top to bottom — one of the toughest high school football leagues, not just in Northern California, but in the entire Golden State. And if the SFL’s win-loss results in the just-completed preseason are any indication, the league is more than living up to its advanced billing as a top flight circuit. When the dust had settled last weekend after the end of non-league games, the SFL had posted a glittering 22-8 record against outside opposition. Four of the SFL teams completed their non-league slates at 4-1, and two others were 3-2. Even more impressive, the SFL’s fine, overall non-league showing didn’t exactly come against cream-puff type opponents. Included among the SFL’s vanquished were the likes of Clovis West; McQueen, of Reno; Reed, of Sparks; Clovis East; St. Mary’s, of Stockton; Del Campo; Chico; Whitney and Casa Roble. Even the SFL non-league defeats drew style points as Del Oro fell to CIF Southern Section power Westlake, Granite Bay succumbed to Vacaville, Roseville was defeated by Pleasant Grove and Nevada Union was clipped by Elk Grove. Now, the reward for all six SFL teams is getting the chance to beat up on each other for the next five weeks to determine the league championship. Also at stake — with each SFL game played — will be each team’s trying, at the least, to gain two leagues wins, the minimum required by the section to reach the CIF playoffs. Here’s how the SFL should shape up this season: Del Oro (4-1) — The Golden Eagles started gaining a head of steam midway through the 2010 season when the Black and Gold carved out a piece of the SFL crown, then followed that up with a CIF Div. III section crown. Winners in 12 of their last 13 games, Del Oro has built a wave of momentum heading into SFL play and rate as the favorite to defend its crown. But it’s not going to be easy. “This is as tough of a league this season that I can remember,” said Taylor. “There are no weeks off.” Del Oro has been paced by a nice 1-2 running punch in the form of Brandon Monroe (554 yards) and Nick O’Sullivan (552 yards). Quarterback Bobby Heatherington directs the offense and has passed for 892 yards and 11 scores. On defense the leaders are Alex Bertrando, Russell Smith, Tanner Huber and Ashwin Cardneas. Granite Bay (4-1) — Circle Oct. 21 on your calendar. That’s when the Grizzlies travel to Loomis to take on Del Oro in a game that could draw 10,000 fans. Quarterback Brandon Keeney has Div. I size, at 6 feet4 inches and 195 pounds, and has thrown like it for 676 yards and 11 touchdowns in the air. His primary receiver is Adam Wayner, who has 14 catches for 232 yards and four scores. Granite Bay’s running attack is led by Arik Bird, who has dented opponents for 584 yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, the likes of Jimmy Malamatenios, J.R. Caldon and Nick Bermudez have been leading the way. Another key component for the Grizzlies is 6-foot-6-inch, 320-pound standout tackle Gavin Andrews. Nevada Union (4-1) — Talk about a rude welcome back. Nevada Union, after returning to the SFL last season for the first time since 1982, didn’t win a league game in 2010. You can bet that didn’t sit well with Dave Humphers and his squad, and the Miners look to make amends this season. One factor the Miners have that wasn’t present a year ago, is the ability to throw the football. Quarterback Kyle Cota, a junior, has already thrown for 760 yards and six touchdowns. Meanwhile, Gabe Humphers leads a balanced rushing attack while Tanner Vallejo, Hank Humphers and Connor Fuller are the defensive standouts. Rocklin (3-2) — Despite some early injuries, the Thunder could be this season’s “sleeper” pick in the SFL. Quarterback Daniel Kniffen (7 TDs) is efficient and, along with standout running back Brandon Crotts (427 yards), gives Rocklin threats in the air and on the ground. Raymond Kendall and wide out Cory Burmeister are other key Rocklin standouts. The Thunder showed they can play defense, as well, by virtue of a win over Del Campo and a 21-7 loss to a tough Oak Ridge team. If there’s one additional factor in the Thunder’s favor going into Friday’s big SFL opener at home against Del Oro, it’s the equation that Rocklin has defeated the Golden Eagles in their last three head-to-head meetings. Woodcreek (4-1) — The Timberwolves lost some style points in a loss at Bear River two weeks ago but gained them back last Friday in a 35-13 rout of Whitney. Depending on which team shows up for coach John Hildebrand, don’t count the west Roseville gridders out. Dual quarterbacks Shaun Mize and Stephan Nogosek are perhaps the two most athletic signal-callers in the SFL. Sophomore running back Michael Layton is a load, while the defense is keyed by Tommy Torres, Josh Sowray, Kevin Wedman and McCade Hunt. Roseville (3-2) — Are the Tigers really a sixth place team? If quarterback Zach Cuhna ( 905 yards, 10 TDs) and running back Casey Lambert (903 yards, 9 TDs) have any say about it, you can push Roseville up a few notches. Cosy Linder is the team’s top receiver with 22 grabs for 612 yards already this season. McCory LeDesky and Dominic Hernandez lead the defense.