So today begins our 30-day countdown to the high school football season. As we go along, Jimmy Durkin and I will do our best to predict, prognosticate and generally make fools of ourselves in taking a look at what to expect from the 2011 football season.
Today, we start with the same question we began with last year. Who will be this year’s East Bay Player of the Year?
OK, I get to do a little bragging right off the bat. Last year in this space, I predicted that De La Salle’s Dylan Wynn would win East Bay Player of the Year. As it turns out, I was right. Although, I should probably mark myself off a little for not mentioning Concord QB Ricky Lloyd, who I knew was awesome and came very close to taking the award himself.
This year is interesting, because we’ve got some ridiculously good quarterbacks in the mix. By now, you know all the names — Kline, Houston, Lockie, Watson, Anderson. Studs, all of them. At this point, you could pick one out of a hat.
For me though, I find myself coming back to the state’s best team as a starting point. And, while last year it was easy to point to a two-way stud, this time it starts under center with a guy who hasn’t lost as a varsity high school quarterback. That’s Bart Houston, and armed with a scholarship to Wisconsin and a host of talent around him at DLS, I’m thinking Houston is the guy to beat for POY this time around.
I gave some serious thought to his partner in crime, WR Anthony Williams, because Williams is going to be a force on both sides of the ball. But, in the end, I just think that a guy who has a chance to go undefeated for high school that also has the physical tools that Houston does is awfully hard to pass up.
This is always a very tough question to answer, even if Ben was dead on a year ago. The trio of talented quarterbacks in the EBAL are all capable. Only one will even be a first-team all-league pick, so trying to figure out who could emerge as an East Bay POY choice is even tougher. Last year’s pick was a two-way lineman who purely dominated, so why not look that way again.
That leads my to my choice … Salesian’s Freddie Tagaloa. The 6-foot-7, 310-pound Tagaloa is big, strong and extremely athletic. He’s still deciding between Stanford, Cal, Oregon and USC for his collegiate future, but he’s projected by many to be a future NFL prospect. He can still add size to his current frame and wreak havoc on his competition.
Here’s what’s working for him. He plays on a team that’s a heavy favorite to win its league title every year. The losses of quarterback Ikaika Woolsey and running back Aaron Prier could hurt, but Salesian should have another good season. Tagaloa plays both ways often and even though his future is as an offensive lineman, he could make an even bigger impact this season on defense. There are very few offensive lineman he’ll face who will be able to match up with him, so if he can keep his motor high defensively he could put up some numbers. It’s harder to judge a player’s impact as an offensive lineman, but he’ll provide great protection in the passing game and should open some holes in the running game. Also, the depth of talent at quarterback could lead to those players cancelling each other out and opening up the POY spot for Tagaloa.
Now here’s what works against him: Salesian plays in the BFL. Fair or unfair, that has an impact. The Pride will see teams such as Inderkum, McClymonds and Kennedy-Richmond during nonleague play, but with small schools such as Emery and the California School for the Deaf on the league schedule, the competition won’t be as great as what other players will face. That doesn’t rule him out (obviously, since I’m making him my preseason pick), but it’s something that gets weighed. He may end up being a longshot with as many talented playmakers as there are this year, but Tagaloa definitely deserves to be in the conversation to start the year.