Upland football team will be counting on lesser known athletes

Last year the Upland High School football team boasted 10 or so Division I recruits, many of whom went on the high profile college programs.

The Highlanders don’t have quite the star power this season but veteran head coach Tim Salter thinks his team is capable of adding to a streak of four straight Baseline League titles.

“We had guys most people didn’t know but they had to play at a high speed to keep with those guys in practice,” he said. “We had very competitive practices and we’re counting on those to have gotten these guys ready to play.”

Among the departed is quarterback Tyler Hilinski, now at Washington State.

Junior Andrew Harrison has inherited the job after being relegated to backup duty last year. The biggest difference is that he is much smaller in stature than his predecessor.

Of course your chances are always pretty good when one of your returning players is Nathan Tilford. The versatile junior focused on playing running back last year because the Highlanders didn’t need him on defense with so many other players. But Salter said he will see time there this season.

The are in which there are the most returners is in the wide receiving core with Joseph Jones, Joseph Ayala and Grant Porter all returning. Porter recently committed to Washington State. Jones and Ayala can also see time in the secondary.

Upland has never had a lot of players going both ways but Salter said that with 20 players having graduated, he’ll be experimenting with players at multiple positions, at least through non-league play.

Other key players on offense are senior Raymond Matelau, the team’s most experience lineman, as well as Tavoi Hoching, perhaps the most versatile player on the squad. Salter also singled out junior wide receiver Gary Theard, who the coach says had a good spring.

On the defensive side, senior lineman Kelon Ferdinand is the top returner. Other key players are linebackers Cole McCarty, Semisi Pahulu and Sione Piutau.

Senior Isikeli Otuafo may see time in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

A couple of siblings who could be contributors. Corners Jacob Tilford, younger brother of Nathan, and Jordan Porter, brother of Grant will push for playing time. Both are juniors.

Upland opens the season on Aug. 28 at Palmdale Knight, an opponent it pummeled pretty good last season. But the Highlanders do boast top notch foes in non-league play such as Mater Dei, Venice and Tesoso.

“I don’t think you can be ready to play in our league unless you see teams of this caliber first,” he said. “You have to play those games at a high speed. You don’t want a high speed game for the first time when’ you’re just getting to league play.”

 

 

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Upland High School football boasts 10 signees

Upland football coach Tim Salter has headed the Highlander program more than two decades and he has had some good players. Never this many at once.

Upland held its Signing Day festivities this morning in the gymnasium and 10 players declared their intent. The veteran coach says that is the most he has had at one time.

Another three may sign in the coming weeks.

Here is the list:
Gary Baker, Oregon
Vince Elefante, Sacramento State
Donnie Greene, Fresno State
Tyler Hilinski, Washington State
Elijah Jones, Naval Academy
Jalen Moore, Oregon State
Kameron Powell, Washington State
Hasani Smith, Sanb Diego State
Troy Thomas, Azusa Pacific
Josh Woods, UCLA

Hilinksi was the only player not on hand for the festivities. He has already enrolled at Washington State, having graduated early.

Here’s what Salter had to say about the class:

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Upland lineman Gary Baker decides on Oregon

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Upland High School lineman Gary Baker hasn’t visited the University of Oregon yet, but he’s decided that’s where he would like to spend his college days.

Baker, a 6-foot-3, 280-pounder, made a verbal commitment to the Pac-12 power this week after the school’s coaches came for a home visit.

He plans to take his official trip to the school this weekend and expects that to further confirm his desire to play there.

“I had my grandparents there and a lot of other family and we all loved the coaches and just got a good vibe,” he said. “I am excited about the opportunity.”

Baker was a first-team All-CIF and Inland Valley selection in his only year playing for the Highlanders. He played for two years at Victor Valley but sat out his junior year after the transfer.

Not being able to play his junior year was tough but he spent it working out just as hard as if he were playing, alongside teammate Josh Woods, another transfer who will be signing with UCLA.

Baker started full-time on both side of the ball but said he prefers defense. That is where Oregon wants him to play.

Baker visited Fresno State and New Mexico. He had a trip planned to Arizona State but said he probably won’t take it.

He plans to major in business management.

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Upland’s Jalen Moore commits to Oregon State

Strong safety Jalen Moore of Upland has committed to Oregon State. He indicated that on his Twitter Saturday night while on his visit to the Pac-12 school.

He was en route back to California today.

“The coaching staff really made me feel at home,” he said. “There is nothing here but school and football so there won’t be any distractions and I can stay focused.”

Moore, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, helped the Highlanders to a Baseline League title and overall mark of 10-3. It was his first year in California, having moved here from Denver, Col.

He had 52 tackles, 1 interception, 2 caused fumbles and a blocked field goal.

Moore had one other offer, that from South Dakota State but  the trip to Oregon state was his first “official” visit.

“I am thankful for this opportunity,” he said. “It just goes to show how fast things can happen.”

Moore is the second local to commit to Oregon State, the first being Pomona High School’s Shawn Wilson.

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Upland’s Vincent Elefante commits to Sacramento State

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Upland High School football standout Vincent Elefante has committed to Sacramento State. He broke the news via Twitter today.

Elefante has been to the school twice, once for a summer football camp and another time during the regular season when it played Montana State.

He was shown around campus by former Upland teammate Trevor Wright, who is just starting his sophomore year here there.

“I really liked it there and think it’s a good place to take my game to the next level,” he said.

Elefante played defensive end the past season for the Highlanders but expects to move to defensive tackle.

He also had considered Weber State and New Mexico, both places he had official visits scheduled for later this month. Elefente says he also preferred to stay in the state.

He was a first-team All-Inland Valley and Baseline League selection. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder registered 43 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumbles caused and one fumble recovery.

He plans to major in anatomy/physiology or communications.

The Hornets went 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Sky Conference the past season.

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Upland cornerback Elijah Jones commits to Naval Academy

Cornerback Elijah Jones of Upland High School has committed to the Naval Academy.

He visited the school on Nov. 1, the weekend the Midshipmen took on Notre Dame. He also made an official visit to Yale and took unofficial trips to Harvard, Air Force, San Diego State and San Jose State.

“I thought it was the best combination of academics and athletics,” he said. “There is some job security that comes with it too because after graduation I’ll be a commissioned officer.”

Jones recorded 67 tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and fumble caused in helping the Highlanders to a Baseline League title and 10-3 season that ended with a 24-14 loss to Vista Murrieta in the west Valley Division semifinal.

Jones’ father and an uncle served time in the Army. He said he appreciated the bond he saw with the Naval Academy players when he visited.

“It’s a tight bond and a brotherhood. I really liked that,” he said.

 

 

 

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Donnie Greene of Upland headed to Fresno State

Upland High School offensive lineman Donnie Greene has made a verbal commitment to Fresno State. He visited the school earlier this week and made his commitment on the spot.

“It really seemed like a close-knit family with the players and coaches. I really liked that,” he said.

Greene, who will make the move from left tackle to center this year, said he also liked the community involvement in the football program as well as the fact its relatively close to home. The fact that the Bulldogs run a high-tempo offense is also a plus.

“Football is a big part of the community three,” he said. “The whole town is focused on it so its a great atmosphere.”

Greene is a four-year varsity player. He transferred from Victor Valley to Upland the second semester of his freshman year.

He is the fourth Upland player to commit to a Division I school before the season has even started. Greene also visited USC, Cal and San Jose State. He also went to Utah on an unofficial trip with a former teammate two years ago.

Greene plans to major in kinesiology with emphasis on exercise science.

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