All-star thoughts

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I covered the Inland Empire All-Star Football Classic last night, a game that didn’t go too well for the San Bernardino boys, who fell 38-7 to Riverside.

The San Bernardino team, coached by Los Osos’ Tom Martinez, didn’t have the full arsenal that Riverside had, as several highly-touted, Division I-committed players who were scheduled to play during the week dropped out. Among those were Arroyo Valley offensive lineman Michael Philipp – the No. 1 guard in the nation according to Rivals.com, Los Osos QB Richard Brehaut, Cajon CB Marlon Pollard, Upland CB Osahon Irabor and Upland CB Taj Johnson. Upland QB Josh Nunes also didn’t play, as a hand injury suffered in the Central Division title game with Rancho Cucamonga hasn’t fully healed.


Many of the players who didn’t play had pretty good reasons behind that. Along with the injury, Nunes, a Stanford commit, played in the Under Armor All-Star Classic last Sunday in Orlando along with Brehaut, who has committed to UCLA. Philipp – who is considering Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, Cal and Arizona among others – also played in an all-star game last week, taking part in the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio. Pollard was on his official visit to UCLA, a visit he enjoyed so much that he switched his verbal commitment to the Bruins from Notre Dame. I’m not sure why Irabor, an Arizona State commit, and Johnson – who is being looked at by a bevy of WAC and Mountain West schools – didn’t play.

But of the players that did play, there were several who stood out. Here are some of my observations.

RB Arby Fields – The Los Osos senior, who has verbally committed to Northwestern, was an absolute pinball out there. There was one play in the second quarter where Fields took a handoff and ran right into some defenders. He bounced away from them and avoided five separate tackle attempts well behind the line of scrimmage before hitting a hole. He was tripped up for only a two-yard gain (when he probably ran roughly 55 yards in eluding Riverside defenders), but he showed an elusive quality that will suit him well in Northwestern’s spread offense. My only criticism is that he seems to run east-west rather than north-south. There were a couple of times he could have broken off sizable gains by hitting the hole and going upfield instead of bouncing out and trying to outrun defenders in the corner.

RB Walter Kazee – How this guy doesn’t have a Division I scholarship offer is vexing to me. For three years, he’s been an absolute force for Cajon and he drew raves this week from just about everyone on the San Bernardino team and coaching staff. He’s small, 5-foot-8 and maybe 170 pounds, but has good football speed and is a bear to bring down. He broke several long runs Saturday, carrying Pac-10 level defenders from Riverside like they were players at San Bernardino or Pacific. In the three seasons of watching him, I’ve never seen him go down at first contact. However, the highest praise came from Eisenhower WR Alex Jefferies, a Fresno State commit, who suggested that he was going to recommend Kazee to the Fresno staff.

FB Jayson Allmond – The Bloomington senior was under the radar a bit before committing to UCLA in October. Well, he’s not under the radar anymore. He played with a chip on his shoulder almost as big as his 6-2, 250-pound frame, just pulverizing Riverside defenders on dive plays or by blocking. Riverside was hitting with some gusto early Saturday without much of a response from San Bernardino until Allmond ran over a few unfortunate Riverside defensive linemen on consecutive plays. He seems to have developed the mean streak necessary to be a punishing fullback.

WR Alex Jefferies – I mentioned Jefferies’ praise of Kazee earlier, but the 6-1, 180-pound Jefferies was worthy of praise himself. The Ike senior scored San Bernardino’s only touchdown, a 91-yard reception in which he outjumped a Riverside defender and easily outran the remaining pursuit. Jefferies runs pretty good routes for a high school receiver and was getting separation on a constant basis Saturday. Under the radar until this season due to grade issues, Jefferies is all set in that department and looks to be a steal for Fresno State.

DT Rex Meikel – It wasn’t a banner day for most of the linemen on both sides of the ball, as Riverside was able to control the line of scrimmage for the most part. However, Meikel was a force in his limited playing time. The Yucaipa senior was disruptive up the middle, especially when he sacked Riverside quarterback Jordan Stip on a first-and-goal play to kill the Riverside momentum. Riverside eventually forced a field goal. I don’t know who is looking at Meikel per se, but he looks like a guy who could star at a Division I-AA school.

DB Trayvon Ralph – The Miller senior has been a ballhawk all year for the Rebels, coming up with 10 interceptions during the season. Ralph showed off that skill Saturday, intercepting Riverside quarterback Lyle Negron in the second quarter. He almost got one in the first quarter as well, as he was right with Geshun Harris on a jump-ball pass from Caleb Herring at the goal line. The taller Harris came up with the ball over the 5-10 Ralph, underlying his lack of measurables – which is the main reason he will be going the D I-AA or D II route. However, Ralph’s ball awareness is extremely high.

Other players that got praise from the San Bernardino coaching staff this week in practice were Serrano defensive end Kevin Pope, Aquinas FB J.P. Ragan – who has committed to Northern Arizona – and Redlands East Valley offensive lineman Orie Lupear. Ayala linebacker Lawrence Larivee and Rancho Cucamonga linebacker Daniel Fonua were also very active, while San Bernardino cornerback Dominique Williams equipped himself nicely against the bigger Riverside receivers, grabbing a third-quarter interception at the goal line to kill a Riverside drive.