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REMEMBER THE NAME

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REMEMBER THE NAME

HIME ROMERO/


POSTED August 29, 2013 9:58 p.m.

They’ve toiled in the shadows of others. They’ve struggled with injury and doubt and distractions, and have left their pain on the weight-room floor. Through it all, they’ve kept their focus on fall’s Friday night lights, emerging as captains and leaders and MVP types. This is their time now – everyone’s sure of it – so remember the names. Introducing 2013’s breakout performers:


ALEX LAUREL
Running back, Manteca High

 There was a time last fall when Manteca head coach Eric Reis worried Laurel wouldn’t make it through the season. Though immensely talented on the field, a player capable of terrorizing defensive coordinators with his zoom-zoom speed, Laurel struggled with demons off of it. Academic and behavioral issues were becoming noticeable distractions. “He needed to make some choices,” Reis said. “Obviously, he’s made the right choices.” Laurel’s transformation is best captured through the eyes of his teammates, who believe the running back/defensive back can be the Valley Oak League’s Most Valuable Player. The Buffs will rotate in multiple backs, but Laurel, who has added 15 pounds to his 5-foot-8 frame, will garner most of the carries. His nickname is “Nitro,” and with Billy Sharmoug and Isaac McClain clearing lanes, Manteca could be off to the races this fall. “We’re so excited to see the maturation,” Reis said. “The guy has been working hard and he’s come a long way from where he was last year.” He showed flashes of his potential in 2012. Laurel totaled 650 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns, while leading the team in return yards. He also scored the game-winning TD against Sonora, reeling in a 23-
yard strike from Joe Menzel.

NICK McGILL
Linebacker, East Union High

 By all accounts, McGill’s breakout season should have come in 2012. “He was developing into something special,” East Union coach Willie Herrera said. McGill had his junior season cut short when a teammate blew threw his left leg while combining on a tackle against Weston Ranch on
Oct. 5. The aftermath was chilling and all-too graphic: McGill’s bone had burst through the skin and his Achilles’ tendon was shredded. “It was one of those injuries where you think to yourself, ‘I hope he can run again,’ ” Herrera said. McGill can do more than run. He was named to the all-camp team during East Union’s summer trip to Lake Tahoe and has emerged a leader on the field and off.  While his success – and any hope of a college suitor – likely hinges on the pins holding together his left leg, McGill, a fullback/linebacker, passes the eye test. He stands 6 feet, 2 inches, tips the scales at 190 pounds, and was clocked at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He can bench press 270 pounds and squat a small elephant. Before his season-ending injury, McGill had 33 tackles, three for a loss.

ERIC BROKER
Offensive/Defensive Lineman,
Ripon Christian High


 Ripon Christian coach Randy Fasani doesn’t invest a whole lot of stock in weight-room numbers, especially when it comes to measuring a lineman’s worth. Case in point: Eric Broker, an all-Southern League performer a season ago who has played larger than his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame. Broker is dwarfed by some of his teammates – some two grade levels younger than him – but good luck moving the third-year senior. “He’s strong like a bull,” Fasani said. Interchangeable, too. Broker will likely play every position along the Knights’ offensive line, charged with protecting junior quarterback Billy Marr and opening holes for running back Andrew Brown, the reigning Southern League MVP. But Broker’s biggest impact may come at defensive tackle, where a can-do attitude gives him Hulk-like strength. “Weight-room numbers can be completely deceiving,” Fasani said. “It’s how strong you are when you put on the pads and go onto the field. When he’s on the field with pads strapped on, it’s hard for anybody to block him 1-on-1. … He requires a double team.”  Broker had 65 tackles and three sacks last fall. His tackle totals were second most on the team.

MICHAEL YSIT
Running back/Linebacker,
Ripon High


 The highs of Ripon High’s historic 2012 season always came with one sobering reminder: Most of that talent was graduating. In June, the Indians waved good-bye to skill players Josh McCreath, Cole Herrin and Anthony Baciocco. Head coach Chris Johnson needed to find replacements. “When you graduate players like McCreath, Herrin and Baciocco,” Johnson said, “others have to step up.” Senior Michael Ysit made it easy on the coaching staff, giving glimpses of his potential during Ripon’s biggest games last fall. He had 157 total yards and two touchdowns in a 34-28 victory over Escalon and nine carries for 70 yards and one receiving score in a 52-0 triumph over Modesto Christian, yet another former state champion. His 97-yard kickoff return set the tone as Ripon ran wild on Hilmar. “Michael had his best games in our biggest games last season,” Johnson said. Ysit (5-8, 170 pounds) will cover the wide side of the field from his outside linebacker position, utilizing his speed (4.7-second 40-yard dash). Offensively, Ysit will be used all over the field – on sweeps, deep routes, screens and dump-offs. “We’re going to find ways to get the ball in his hands,” Johnson said.

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