This Saturday, 400 football student-athletes will descend upon Vacaville Christian High School, intent on proving themselves in the only way possible during a fall season stripped away as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Preps Showcase is one of the most stringent and compliant showcases available to student-athletes, following strict protocols and not allowing any contact drills, maintaining social distancing and mask compliance at all times, unlike many of the showcases we have seen pop up this fall. But it is also run by the most reputable of all organizations, a cast of recruiting gurus that includes 247 Sports National Recruiting Director Brandon Huffman, National Preps Western Region Recruiting Director Gary Howard, National Preps Western Region Scout Paul Gregorian and National Preps Western Region Scout Trent Herzog, who is also the head football coach at St. Vincent de Paul-Petaluma.
In a year where players have not been able to accumulate game film with which to impress college scouts, a reputable showcase such as this one holds tremendous value for a number of athletes looking to increase their visibility for the next level. One such athlete is Cardinal Newman senior wide receiver Tsion Nunnally, who had 770 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air as a junior and is also a standout on the hardwood.
“I really want to showcase what the North Bay has to offer,” Nunnally said. “I am currently playing basketball as well as football, so most days I have practice for one or the other, or even both. I am also getting in extra work on the field with some of my teammates, and working out with guys who share the same mindset and goals as I do is a huge reason why I have become the player I am today.”
Nunnally is hardly the only current senior looking to raise their recruiting stock, especially in case the proposed season does not start in January. Other top names who will be at the showcase include Acalanes senior quarterback Brady Huchingson, who threw for 2,646 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior, and Clayton Valley senior running back Omari Taylor, who ran for 1,428 yards and 12 scores in the 2019 season. The afternoon will even feature some committed athletes, such as Moreau Catholic senior outside linebacker Kaleb Elarms-Orr, who is headed to Cal-Berkeley after high school.
The senior class, however, will be joined by an outstanding group of underclassmen. One of the headliners for that group is Serra-San Mateo junior Hassan Mahasin, an all-around weapon for the Padres who also transfers a high grade-point average into his visible intellect on the field.
“To know that all the hard work I have put in is starting to get recognized is truly a blessing. But I must remain humble and keep working,” Mahasin said. “The thing I am looking forward to the most on Saturday is just competing.”
A few more standouts from the junior class who will display their ability include Benicia defensive end Miles Bailey, who holds offers from Fresno State and San Jose State, along with St. Mary’s-Stockton speedster Jadyn Marshall, the top-ranked returning hurdler in the country, El Cerrito’s two-way standout Robert Freeman IV, who had eight interceptions and was named the TCAL-Rock Defensive MVP as a sophomore, and De La Salle receiver Zeke Berry, a dual-sport standout who also excels on the baseball diamond.
And while the cast of outstanding juniors at this event will run especially deep, also including Rocklin lineman Bobby Piland, Jr., San Ramon Valley quarterback Jack Quigley and outside linebacker Tanner Salisbury, St. Helena linebacker Ivan Robledo and Miramonte linebacker Sam Ross, they are followed up by an equally deep group of sophomores from the Class of 2023.
Former Liberty, now Pittsburg High quarterback Jaden Rashada, is ranked as the top dual-threat signal-caller in the class, and he will have fellow sophomore Israel Polk on hand with him, after Polk transferred from El Cerrito to Pittsburg in the off-season. Those names stand out alongside others such as Lincoln-Stockton quarterback Kenyon Nelson, Branham defensive lineman Mateo Poso and Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Jerry Mixon, who shined at the National Preps Showcase down in the Central Valley earlier in the fall.