PDPreps Insider: 1st-time football player is one to watch

FOOTBALL1He has never donned pads for a high school football game, but Analy’s Malcolm Jenkins qualifies as a “player to watch.”

If his name sounds familiar, it’s probably because of his exploits on the basketball court. Jenkins was a first-team All-Empire selection after leading the Tigers (and ranking among the top scorers in the region) with a scoring average of 16.1 points last winter.

Analy football coach Daniel Bourdon finally convinced Jenkins to give football a shot, and he is excited about the senior’s athletic ability. Jenkins will play wide receiver, where he can use his height and leaping ability.

“We’re trying to get him up to speed,” Bourdon said. “He can be special. The guy runs. He’s fast.”

Here come the Ugly Eagles

Cardinal Newman football fans are focused on the season opener against Churchill County (Nev.) on Aug. 30, and if they’re looking ahead, it might be to a North Bay League matchup against defending champion Casa Grande or traditional rival Montgomery.

But the toughest game on the Cardinals’ schedule might be a Sept. 13 preseason tilt when it hosts Clayton Valley Charter. The Ugly Eagles — that’s their name — have been a dynamo since the school hired Tim Murphy as head coach in 2012. Murphy had built Clovis East into a Central Valley dynasty, and he seems to be doing the same at Clayton Valley. The Ugly Eagles were 2-3 in the Diablo Valley League the year before he arrived; they are 10-0 in league play under Murphy.

“That guy, he’s gonna be tough to beat in Division 2 the next 10 years,” Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin said. “He’s gonna have quite a program on his hands. He did the same thing at Clovis East and Ygnacio Valley before that.”

Clayton Valley got a little tougher over the offseason when Kahlil McKenzie — one of the most highly recruited defensive tackles in the nation and the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie — transferred from De La Salle.

Purged by fire

Easing the sting of last season’s disappointing end, Healdsburg football players burned the remnants of that campaign that concluded with an upset defeat in the North Coast Section playoffs.

After a day of conditioning and drills during a Greyhounds preseason overnight camp, players — returners and newbies alike — were given score sheets from a year ago. First they tore up the pages. Then each took turns tossing the paper shreds into a campfire.

The ritual completed, players renewed their focus on the 2015 season and returning to the section playoffs.

Crowded backfield at Newman

Cardinal Newman has its two top running backs from 2013 returning — seniors Craig Lucey and Zach Stoltz. But those two will have to make room for at least one more runner, junior Michael Ortola, who could emerge as one of the Cardinals’ impact players this year.

Newman coach Paul Cronin says that the stocky Ortola, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 185 pounds, could have played for him on defense last year, except he lost a year of varsity eligibility after transferring from Ukiah High. So Ortola played JV ball instead.

“He’s a really good player,” Cronin said. “He deserved to be playing varsity football.”

This year, Ortola is filling in at linebacker in the early going while Bryce McChinak recovers from a minor injury. And he’ll get his share of carries in Cardinal Newman’s crowded backfield.

Division I pipeline

The Gauchos have sent a handful of players to Division I college football programs in the past few years and there are several more players on this year’s squad that will likely be playing Division I football next season.

Currently, Casa Grande alumni playing Division I football include: JaJuan Lawson (QB, New Mexico); John Porchivina (RB, Cal); Nick Sherry (QB, UNLV); Elijah Qualls (NT, Washington); and Kahlil Keys (RB, Yale).

This year’s team, according to Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog, has four prospects currently being recruited by Division I schools: Matt Abramo (K, accepted a full scholarship from Washington State); Casey Longaker (LB, scholarship offers from Air Force and Sacramento State, and interest from several Ivy League schools); Brendan Jackson (OL, interest from Boise State, Cal, San Diego State, Colorado and several mid-majors); and Peter Parrick (OL, interest from Idaho, New Mexico, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona).

Press Democrat staff writers Phil Barber and Michael Coit and correspondent Richard J. Marcus contributed to this report.