These are the guys who, barring a transfer to another region, will give us something to look forward to on the football field for next season here in the North Santa Barbara County region.
I will call these gold mines my All-Non Senior Team.
A number of these guys made their impacts as juniors playing varsity football for the first time. While others who are highlighted showed that as sophomores and freshmen, they can hang with the older forces of nature on the field.
Here are some non-seniors who emerged as impact players…and who could be cornerstones for their team by next season:
Leondre Coleman, Lompoc: Opponents tested the sophomore Coleman by running plays in his direction. And all he did was lead the Braves in tackles and sacks during 10 regular season games from his weakside linebacker spot.
Juan De Luna, Lompoc: He’s a 5-foot-11, 250-pound menacing bull in the Braves’ front three. The junior nose tackle has become one of the hardest defensive linemen to game plan against for opposing offensive line coaches.
Ryan Morgan, Lompoc: His fellow wide receivers Shemar Savage and Johnny Manzo get more touches, but the sophomore Morgan is equally explosive and athletic when he touches the ball. Look for the multi-sport athlete to become the go-to-guy on the field next season once Savage and Manzo graduate.
Jackson Anderson, Cabrillo: The dual-threat quarterback became the highlight of what was a rebuilding year in Vandenberg Village. The junior emerged as the Conquistadores’ most athletic quarterback option since Brett Gregory.
Mason Townes, Cabrillo: The Conquistadores will graduate Ben Dixon and J.D. Czajkowski – who emerged as Anderson’s go-to options. But the junior Townes provided some key chain-moving moments for Cabrillo’s up-tempo spread attack. He should be Anderson’s top target next season.
Trevor Cole, St. Joseph: The younger brother of Cal Poly Mustang running back C.J. Cole showed his own set of wheels on kick returns and running plays. The junior will likely see an increase in touches as the Knights will lose plenty of skill position guys to graduation.
Justin Maldonado, St. Joseph: The junior is a versatile one, but he made his most impact on defense with his average of 5.7 tackles per game.
Brandon Giddings, Righetti: The junior quarterback was perfect for the Shotgun Wing-T offense the Warriors ran – due to his running ability and knack for tucking the ball and running it as a quarterback. He’ll bring those dynamics again for a fast-improving RHS team next season.
Caleb Thomas, Righetti: He emerged as one of the biggest mismatches in one-on-one scenarios with his grown man size of 6-foot-4, 260 pounds. And the junior lineman is continuing to grow.
John Rojas, Santa Maria: The diminutive 5-foot-6 wide receiver still showed his explosive side, by averaging 16.7 yards per catch as a junior. Blake Truhitte’s replacement at quarterback should find solace in knowing Rojas can be one to throw to next year.
Luis-Diego Riquelme, Nipomo: The 2019 prospect is clearly a Tony Dodge kind of guy – with his ability to run the ball and wear defenses down. He’s best known for his 218-yard night against Cabrillo.
Keyshawn Pua, Nipomo: He was one freshman who proved that he can cross paths with the juniors and seniors, proven by his 8.5 tackles for a loss from his inside linebacker spot.
Jesse Garza, Nipomo: The sophomore Garza helped re-energize the Titans on defense with his inside linebacker play.
Anthony Perez, Nipomo: As teams threw away from top ball-hawk Gage Wynn, Perez – a junior – wound up as the Titans’ top ball hawk.
Michael Bourbon, Pioneer Valley: When Bourbon becomes a repeat representative at the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table luncheon, that’s when you know the junior receiver and defensive back was an impact player for the Panthers.
Edgar Zacarias, Pioneer Valley: The junior has to have the most powerful leg in the region, with his consistency with the 40+ yard field goals.
Cash Transeth, Santa Ynez: The junior is still growing into his 6-foot, 180-pound frame. Transeth gave the Pirates their running game pulse this season.
Jasper Kadlec, Santa Ynez: The mammoth 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior will likely see loads of touches once Gabe Prendergast graduates. Kadlec has been the second best receiving option for the last two seasons at Santa Ynez, with his 79 career catches for 1,201 yards and 12 touchdowns in his varsity career.
Vinny Vacca, Santa Ynez: Forget the fact he’s 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, the junior outside linebacker developed a nose for the football.
Dominic Nattell, Orcutt Academy: Nattell will see, arguably, the greatest senior class at OAHS graduate this summer. But the 5-foot-5, 210-pounder should provide a heavy dose of bruising runs next year for the Spartans.
Alex Sutton, Orcutt Academy: He was another freshman who proved he can smash older ball carriers from his defensive end spot. His best game was an 18 tackle night in the 72-68 thriller over Cate.
Donovan Miller, Orcutt Academy: The sophomore defensive back became the top ball-hawk on a Spartans team that proved to be stout up front on the line.
Adam Aldana, Valley Christian Academy: The Lions rode the Aldana train to 18 rushing touchdowns during the regular season – as the sophomore helped lead his team to the Coast Valley League title. Oh, the 2020 prospect was also energetic on defense by averaging more than nine tackles per game and six fumble recoveries.
Ethan McCoy, Valley Christian Academy: McCoy, a junior, provided some extra muscle and brute force for a run-oriented Lions team with his average of more than eight yards per carry.
Andrew Sparlin, Valley Christian Academy: The 6-foot-4 junior added some length and athleticism to a stout Lions’ defensive line.