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Area football stars played their way into history books

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Andrew Brown set offensive records for Ripon Christian this season.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

POSTED December 3, 2013 1:54 a.m.

Andrew Brown scored eight touchdowns as a freshman on Ripon Christian’s sophomore team in 2010.


On Monday night, he honestly didn’t know how many times he visited end zones in this his senior year.

Well, it’s a few more than eight.

Brown is among the handful of area athletes who amassed video game-like numbers at a record-setting pace this past season. His name will be stamped alongside the Sac-Joaquin Section and state’s all-time greatest touchdown scorers.

Sierra senior Jake Pruitt is likely the city of Manteca’s all-time passing leader and three of his receivers are joining him in the school record books.

Meanwhile, Manteca High running back Alex Laurel has a chance to add to his single-season touchdown total — believed to be a school record — this Friday when the Buffaloes meet Sacramento at Lincoln’s Spanos Stadium in Stockton in the SJS Division III championship game.

As for Brown, his 335 points (55touchdowns, three PATs) are good for most in the SJS and second in the state behind Mendota’s Edgar Segura, who trails California’s career TD king Lorenzo Booker of St. Bonaventure (Ventura, 1999-2001) by three — 134 against Booker’s 137 — heading into this week’s Central Section Division V title game.

Brown is also the SJS rushing leader with 2,781 yards, although Central Catholic’s Matt Ringer (2,017) could surpass him with as much as three games remaining for the reigning small-school state champion. Central plays Hilmar on Saturday with the Division IV banner on the line. A win vaults the Raiders to a second straight appearance in a NorCal Bowl Game, and they would be heavily favored to return to Carson to defend their state title.

Brown’s season ended Saturday at the Grape Bowl in Lodi, where the Knights mounted a wild second-half comeback that fell short against Bradshaw Christian, 35-28, in the SJS Division VI final.

“It makes me feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity play with the coaches and players I had,” Brown said. “I accomplished way more than I ever expected out of myself. I have learned a lot about setting goals and the hard work it takes to accomplish them.”

Some question his accomplishments because of Ripon Christian’s schedule.

To be fair, Brown did produce against quality opponents, and he was sidelined for the second halves of blowouts.

Brown scored twice and rushed for 156 yards in a loss to Ripon, a section Division IV semifinalist. It was the only time in the regular season that Ripon’s stout defense gave up triple-digit yardage to a single rusher.

In the Week 10 Southern League championship game against Le Grand, he scampered for 121 yards and a touchdown and had a long run to pay dirt called back by a disputed blocking penalty. Le Grand won that game 47-14 and on Saturday captured its fourth straight SJS Division V crown.

Also Saturday, Brown piled up 155 yards and three touchdowns and added six receptions, 47 yards and another score through the air in the loss to Bradshaw Christian. And he did so with a sprained MCL in a knee.

All told, his 5,909 career rushing yards may be a new high in the San Joaquin County, and his 126 career touchdowns rank him fourth on the state’s all-time list and No. 1 in the SJS.

He passed up some big-name athletes from the section this season:  Louis Bland of Central Catholic (107 career TDs, 2004-07), Onterrio Smith of Grant (99, 1995-98) and Frank Strong of Franklin and St. Mary’s (84, 1995-97). All three are NCAA Division I scholarship players. Smith and Strong went on to play in the NFL.

“Really?” Brown said. He really didn’t know.

“That’s extremely humbling. I don’t even know what to say to that. I’m real honored right now to be in that category.”

Pruitt also had a chance to reflect on his achievements on Monday, as Sierra held its year-end banquet. The Timberwolves’ Offensive MVP obliterated the program’s single-season and career passing records.  He finishes as the fourth most prolific quarterback in the section this season with the top two — Folsom’s Jake Browning and Sacramento’s Caden Voges — vying for SJS titles this week.

Pruitt compiled 3,260 yards and 38 touchdowns (against eight picks) while completing 249 of 360 passes for a 69.2 completion percentage — all school records. Mikey Garcia (2007) was previously Sierra’s top passer with 1,960 yards and 19 TD tosses.

Pruitt’s two-year career numbers are: 354 completions on 544 attempts (66.9 percent), 4,886 yards, 46 TDs, 13 picks.

“It shocks me,” Pruitt said of his 2013 stats. “I knew we were going to be around 2,000 yards (passing), but I didn’t see us breaking 3,000.”

It was the perfect storm for Sierra’s spread offense to explode through the air. With record-setting running back Anthony Cota graduated, the Timberwolves’ returning playmakers were in the passing game. Included are Lucas Widmer (60 receptions, 1,012 yards, 12 TDs), Hunter Johnson (46-878-12) and Bryson Sanders (71-717-6).

Widmer is Sierra’s new record holder in single-season receiving yards and is the first Timberwolf to break the 1,000-yard barrier. He and Johnson share the single-season touchdown record, and Sanders has the most catches.

“Everything just worked out well for us,” Pruitt said. “We had a young offensive line but they stepped up big all season. Coach (Jeff) Abrew was a great play caller. And our receivers, what can I say? Even when I threw a bad pass they’d come back and get those YAC (yards after the catch). The stats would show a 50-yard touchdown pass, but it was really a 3-yard pass that they turned into 50. It was nice having that much talent to work with.”

Manteca’s Laurel is having what his coaches believe to be a record season. Much of the program’s historical data has been lost over time, but head coach Eric Reis, who takes great pride in his alma mater’s traditions, is certain that Laurel’s 45 touchdowns tops the list.

Reis has coached some of the program’s best teams and players since 2002, and no has touched 30.

Laurel is chasing Andre Patterson’s 2006 rushing total of 1,727 yards, a modern-day school record. Laurel has 1,630 through 13 games but also has 355 receiving yards. Of his 45 touchdowns, 32 were scored on the ground, eight on pass plays and five on special teams.

What’s impressive is that Laurel has accumulated much of these totals over the second half of the season. Just twice did he have 20 or more touches and 100-plus rushing yards in Manteca’s first eight contests, and that is a nod to the Buffaloes’ depth of talent.

But in the Buffaloes’ last five games there is no question who the featured back is in this power-run attack. In four of those five games Laurel has no less than 25 carries, and each time out he rushed for more than 130 yards.

“I take pride in (being the featured back) but it all goes to my line and my teammates,” Laurel said following Manteca’s 45-36 semifinal win over Inderkum.

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