Football: 25 players to watch in 2010
With football practice opening around the state Thursday afternoon, here are 25 of the most interesting players to keep an eye on in the region this year:
1. Dylan Sawyers, jr., RB/DB, Carson: On his blazing speed alone, Sawyers was one of the most electrifying players in the league last season. His stats were impressive enough (115 carries, 954 yards, 16 TD, 17 catches for 285 yards and 6 TD and six kick returns for 360 yards for a 60-yard average), without even considering he was a sophomore. It was no surprise he was named a first-team all-region running back and returner and Sierra League offensive player of the year in 2009.
2. Rollins Stallworth, sr., WR/DB, McQueen: Possibly the best overall senior recruit in Northern Nevada this season. He’s a slick athlete with impressive hands and a 6-2, 160-pound frame which helped him haul in more than a few circus-style catches last season. Second-team All-High Desert League pick in 2009.
3. Jevon Brown, sr., RB, Hug: Opposing teams are going to have a tough time matching Brown’s size and speed (6-2, 200). While the regional rushing title is certainly attainable, the lack of a tested QB on Hug’s roster could lead to more dependency on the ground game. That could spell a record-breaking season for Brown. Just for good measure, he’ll also be defending a state title in the triple jump this spring.
4. Tim Herman, sr., QB, North Valleys: Second-team All-High Desert League pick in 2009. If not for Reed’s Tyler Pine, Herman (6-2, 170) might have been the best QB in the region last year. He completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,048 yards and 19 TDs while scoring an additional 6 TDs on the ground. If his field vision improves at all (he threw 13 picks in 2009) he’ll be a terror on opposing defensive backfields all year.
5. Ben Bolton, jr., QB, Truckee: Bolton made plenty of noise in his first varsity season, leading Truckee to the 3A state title while completing 66 percent of his passes for 2,085 yards and 28 touchdowns. His prototypical size (6-3, 200) and strong arm have college coaches starting to take a look.
6. Nick Palko, sr., WR, North Valleys: At 6-3, 190, Palko has the next-level size and strength to give opposing defensive coordinators headaches as part of the Panthers’ wide-open passing game. He caught 38 passes for 568 yads and two touchdowns last year.
7 Zack Williams, sr., QB, Douglas: Similarly sized to Truckee’s Bolton (6-3, 195), Williams has the arm and the mobility to be a strong dual-threat quarterback. He completed 55 percent of his passes in his first year at the varsity level for 1,108 yards and 11 touchdowns while running for an additional 297 yards and six touchdowns. With a healthy core of receivers at his disposal, the Tigers could have a resurgence in the passing game akin to 2008.
8. Zach McElroy, sr., QB, Manogue: McElroy passed for 1,264 yards and five touchdowns last year despite missing several games due to injury. He’s a playmaker and a solid game manager who can pull together solid drives down the stretch. If Tim Herman is the best returning passer, McElroy might be the best returning leader in the region.
9. Ty Collins, sr., TE, Carson: Collins only caught a handful of passes last year, but his punishing blocking on the end vaulted him to first-team all-region tight end status. He will continued to be a huge part of Carson’s lethal perimeter running game and should be a suitable safety valve for first-year QB
10. Nick Shephard, sr., RB, McQueen: Noted for his speed and patience, Shephard gained nearly 1,000 yards on the ground last season as part of a two-pronged rushing attack for the Lancers. As the top returning RB on the roster, expect his carries, and his resulting yardage to go up.
11. Jeremy MacAuley, jr., OG, Reed: MacAuley will be the Raiders’ latest prototypical Division I-sized offensive lineman after posting second-team all-region honors as a sophomore. At 6-2, 270, he is remarkably still growing into his frame and could easily slide into any spot on either line.
12. Aaron Serrano, sr., WR/DB, Hug: If Rollins Stallworth is the best overall senior prospect in the region this year, Serrano is arguably the best raw athletic talent. Among the fastest players in the state with eye-popping combine numbers, Serrano (5-11, 180) could be one of the funnest players in the Northern 4A to watch this year.
11 Zach Falanga, sr., DT, Douglas: Falanga was a crushing tackler on the D-line for the Tigers in 2008, earning first-team all-region defensive tackle honors while coming up with eight sacks. He’ll be among the top defensive linemen in the region coming into the year.
12 Colton Strawn, jr., DT/OL, Reed: Yet another young, ridiculously-sized Raider lineman (he comes in at 6-2, 285), Strawn earned first-team All-High Desert League honors as a sophomore last year.
13 Derek Sanchez, sr., LB/OG, Manogue: Sanchez will be a force on the always-strong Miner defense thanks in large part to his speed and athleticism. At 6-3, 185, he was a first-team All-Sierra League offensive guard last year.
14 Collin Tuttle, jr., C, Reed: Tuttle rounds out an experienced returning core on the line for the Raiders after posting second-team All-High Desert League honors last year. Based on the line alone, Reed might be the early favorite to repeat as regional champs in 2010.
15 Austin Neddenriep, sr., WR/DB, Douglas: Neddenriep earned second-team all-region defensive back honors last season, but also led the Tigers in receiving with 30 catches for 444 yards and eight touchdowns. His athleticism and size (6-2, 165) will put him in position to be one of the better deep threats in the area.
16. Connor Beattie, sr., LB/RB, Carson: While graduation decimated much of the Senators’ devistating 4-4 defensive front, Beattie is a welcome holdover after recording 62 tackles last year to go with two sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
17. Gus Johnson, jr., DT, Galena: Johnson was an anchor on the Grizzlies’ ferocious defensive line last season and will be counted on for the same output this year. Second-team All-Sierra League defensive tackle in 2009.
18. Lane Armstrong, sr., WR/DB, Damonte Ranch: Arguably the best player on the field for the Mustangs last year. the 6-4, 185-pound second-team All-Sierra League receiver had 288 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.
19. Matthew Metz, sr., DB, Douglas: Metz was a second-team All-Sierra League defensive back in 2009 after picking off a pair of passes, including one against Galena that essentially turned the game in the Tigers’ favor.
20. Ricky McDonald, sr., DE/RB, Manogue: McDonald was a second-team All-Sierra League defensive end but he also rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns in sparing offensive duty last year. He also had a team-leading four sacks.
21. Tyler Pearson, sr., LB, McQueen: A second-team All-High Desert League pick, Pearson will help lead a loaded Lancer defense.
22 Donovan Inskip, jr., LB, Reed: Was a first-team All-High Desert League pick and is one of the leading returners in tackles (107) this year. He also had an interception and forced fumble last year.
23. August Greth, jr., T/DE, Douglas: An All-Sierra League honorable mention honoree in 2009, Greth will be an anchor on both sides of the ball for the Tiger lines.
24. Hayden Buckmaster, sr., DT/OL, Fallon: Buckmaster (5-11, 250), a second-team All-Sierra League defensive tackle in 2009, will surely be a force in the 3A as the Greenwave drops leagues.
25. Dan Gall, sr., C, Carson: Gall, an All-Sierra League honorable mention in 2009, will team with Collins in an effort to replicate last year’s dominating performance of the ground game.