This high school football season has been a real struggle to say the least. Since spring ball was shut down in March, high school football has been on and off again with different counties having different regulations.
High schools have been forced to keep all football activities in-house and even private organizations have found it hard to put on football camps for the athletes. That is why the National Preps Collegiate Showcase was so critical not only for recruiting exposure but for football morale in the area.
The Showcase was held at Vacaville Christian High on November 21, and featured some of the only football that was played in Northern California during the fall. The camp showcased 560 players from the classes of 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, and I was one of them.
I am a senior at Branham High School in San Jose and the starting quarterback on the football team. Just like the rest of the ballplayers, the National Preps camp was a place to showcase my skills and finally play some football.
The camp put us through several different physical drills before we went into specific football skills. The drills include a broad jump, 40-yard dash, and a star drill - an agility and change of direction drill - and featured areas where I think I need to improve.
Then we went into our specific position groupings to go through football drills that are recorded and sent to college coaches across the country. Drills such as movement and throwing for quarterbacks, and route-running for wide receivers. This is where I feel I excelled alongside the top quarterbacks in Northern California and I landed on the list of Top 180 players at the camp.
Competing against these players forcibly raises the level of play, because if you don’t match their level, you get left in the dust. I was able to throw the ball well with accuracy and pace that would stand out to college scouts, and that was my goal and the goal for many players at the camp, to get on the radar of college scouts.
I spoke with Mateo Poso, a teammate of mine at Branham and a highly rated defensive end, about the experience. He told me: “The camp felt great. I love to compete and getting back on that field after all the work in the offseason felt really good.”
Mateo is a sophomore and already has an offer from Arizona State. His older brother Frank just finished his freshman year at the University of Nevada.
Mateo also found his name in the Top 180 players at the National Preps Showcase. He is in the same boat as many rising players that were looking forward to using this offseason to raise their stock in the world of recruiting, but have found it harder and harder to do so because of the lack of opportunities.
“I have a long way to go but being able to show what I can do at camps is huge," Mateo told me.
Players like Mateo and me have been doing anything and everything to get skill tape out because of the lack of camps and a season. We have been limited to making our own highlight reels, doing drills, and self-reporting new measurables. That is why it was so important to be able to showcase skills in person because a college scout can only evaluate so much via video.
The National Preps Showcase was just as important to the player not looking to get recruited as it was for the player trying to get recruited. It was amazing to get the feeling of competition back - not only for me but for all the other high schoolers who have been waiting for a season. The pure joy the players felt just being on the field was evident from the start. There were many guys who I talked to that were just happy to be out there and the sense of normalcy it gave them.
As football players, we are used to being a part of a team and this year we have been forced to isolate even during our limited team practices. The National Preps camp brought back the togetherness we all have been missing.
So where is the state of high school football in Northern California as of today? As the initial start date for the season, January 8, passed and COVID-19 cases are rising in the area, it seems that time is running out.
According to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), counties must be in the “red tier” to play football and as of today, only four counties meet this requirement. However, the people of California are not settling for the on and off again schedule the state government is imposing.
A newly formed Facebook group named “Let Them Play California” is advocating for the start of not only football but all high school athletics. The group was created on December 31 and today has over 23,000 members.
There are prominent figures in high school athletics contributing to the group including Serra head football coach Patrick Walsh. He posted a 30-minute video encouraging parents, players, and others alike to pressure their state representatives into hearing out the idea of returning to play by writing letters and making phone calls. The group writes, “It is TIME for accountability from our officials. It is TIME for change. It is TIME to play!”
It feels like finally there is a push for us current players to get back on the field. For most of the first semester, it felt as if everyone had given up on the idea of playing football and it has given us players a surge of hope that our hard work will eventually pay off.
A teammate of mine, senior Carson Ledesma, is not a player who is looking to play football at the next level. He is a high school student who loves to play ball with his friends and for his community. He summarizes the emotions he felt over the first semester,
“Not playing this year has been mentally challenging,” Carson told me. “I’ve always looked at football and sports as an outlet after school, and a lack of a season makes having fun super difficult. I miss seeing everyone come together like a family and morale has been very low.”
The clock is running out on a football season, and now more than ever, the people of California want to see their kids play and we the players want to have a season. We the players need to have a season.
Nick Bandanza is a senior quarterback for the Branham High School football team. He has agreed to write a journal for Prep2Prep as part of his involvement with the Prep2Prep Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides scholarship opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in sports.