Rocklin senior quarterback Richie Watts is shown here running it up the gut last season in a non-league win over cross-town archrival Whitney
Courtesy: Lenie's Pictures

NorCal preseason rankings: No. 14 is an intra-sectional tie

November 22, 2020

As we continue the countdown to the No. 1 team in Northern California we have the second tie of the rankings after three teams tied for No. 25 in the initial post that featured Nos. 16-25. In this tie we have two teams that had solid seasons last year but faltered in the first round of their respective section playoffs. One is from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and the other is from the CIF North Coast Section.

13T. Rocklin (7-4)

The No. 4 team in the Sacramento Bee pre-season rankings lands in the same spot in these rankings and a lot of it has to do with the fact they tied for second place at 4-2 in the Sierra Foothill League. That kind of performance in what most analysts feel is the toughest league in Northern California, coupled with some solid returners, lands them in a tie for the No. 13 spot.

The Thunder posted a 28-22 win over Oak Ridge, and like that team they lost to Folsom, but Rocklin also suffered a 21-14 loss to a Del Oro team that Oak Ridge beat. Besides a close loss to Nevada No. 7 Damonte Ranch-Reno, the other loss came in the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs when the top-seeded Thunder were upset 28-6 by a cross-town archrival Whitney team they defeated 27-17 early in the season in a non-league contest.

The line has two players returning that made the National Preps list of top recruits, San Diego State-committed two-way senior lineman Ilaisa Gonebure, and junior defensive tackle Bobby Piland, who has an offer from Northern Arizona and interest from others, including Boise State, Cal, Fresno State and Nevada.

Rocklin also boasts one of the top kickers in Northern California in Iowa State-committed senior Cole Becker. Other key returners are senior quarterback Richie Watts, who passed for 1,605 yards and ran for 244 additional yards, senior wide receiver Jaylen Pickens (39 catches, 541 yards, 3 TDs), and senior linebacker and second-leading tackler Cian Slone (77 tackles, team-high 6 sacks).

The Thunder will need someone to step up at running back. Besides Watts, Pickens is the only returner with any rushing yardage and it was less the 100 yards last season.

Should we be able to start on January 8, the Thunder will open at home against defending CIF state Division 1-AA champion Central-Fresno

13T. San Ramon Valley-Danville (7-4)

After all is said and done, the Wolves may be higher than this in the pecking order for two reasons. First, they had a ton of injuries last year but even so they tied with cross-town archrival Monte Vista at 3-2 in the EBAL-Mountain Division.

Similar to Rocklin, the Wolves had a split with their rival. San Ramon Valley beat Monte Vista 17-16 in double overtime to complete the regular season, and then after a bye week, the No. 4 seed in the CIF North Coast Section Division I playoffs hosted fifth-seeded Monte Vista in the first round and lost 9-6 on a late field goal

The second reason is with all the injuries last season, Wolves Coach Aaron Becker was able to get the younger players experience. On top of that, according to sources, the JV team was loaded.

The top three returners are San Diego State-committed senior tight end JP Murphy (22 catches, 476 yards, 8 TDs), junior WR/DB/LB Tanner Salisbury (21 catches, 249 yards receiving, 3 TDs), who has some small school offers with interest from Cal, Texas Tech and USC, and pro-style quarterback Jack Quigley (1,502 yards passing, 15 TDs), a junior who is on most of the recruiting lists.

Both Salisbury, who competed with the linebackers, and Quigly, attended the National Preps Collegiate Showcase at Vacaville Christian on November 21 and looked sharp.

One question is who will step up to fill the gap at running back where the Wolves graduated over 1,000 of the team’s 1,200 yards rushing? One player to look for is senior Charlie Tagliaferri. He had 138 yards rushing and 183 yards receiving last season.

If things get started on January 8 and teams can play outside their own county, San Ramon Valley opens at home against Vintage-Napa.

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