Sheldon High School quarterback Nolan Merker had a great tweet the other day. He was reading off the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff field in football - "Jesuit, Oak Ridge, Pleasant Grove, Folsom. Oh wait. That's our league."
Indeed it is. So we asked Merker to size up the field a but as his Huskies also competed in the Delta River League, going 4-6. Merker, a senior honors student, shattered Huskies school records, including 30 touchdown passes this season. His assessment on the D-I teams with a peek at D-II title contender Elk Grove (a team Sheldon faced):
"Jake Browning is a very good quarterback made extraordinary by his supporting cast. His offensive line is probably the best in the section, as it is rare for him to be touched. They give him enough time for his receivers to run extended routes that take time to develop. He is extremely accurate, and the timing between him and his receivers is unparalleled. Troy Knox is one of the best route runners in the section,
as is Will McClure. Their defense is solid, and Sam Whitney and Lukas Hendricks apply consistent pressure. The one curious spot is their corners, but they hide them with coverages. As a team, they are head and shoulders above everybody else in the section."
"The Eagles are one of the most athletic teams across the board. Their corners have gone from being their weakest spot last year to their biggest strength. Esley Simmons, Sedrick Thomas and Dre Terell are all vastly improved. Wyatt Demps is the key to their defense as a ball hawking safety, and he covers ground very fast. Earl Chism and their D-line are tough to handle. Offensively, their line is strong enough to
pound the ball, and mix in enough passes to keep the defense honest. It's hard for teams to respect the pass with Demps and the quarterback run with Dre's speed. The best and most dynamic special teams we played all year, from punt and kick return to kickoff."
"Not the most athletic team, but make up for it with outstanding discipline. An extremely smart football team with high football IQ, and play to their responsibilities. Their defense is always in the right spot to make the play. Also the biggest team we faced all year, they won't be pushed around by anybody. Their linebackers are their defense's biggest strength. They are all solid tacklers. When his offensive line is providing enough protection, Ian Book is lights out. He only makes bad decisions when his line allows pressure. He has a huge and reliable target in Justin Priest, who has great hands."
"Jason Elenberger is the fastest quarterback in the section. He can extend plays with his feet as well as anybody. He has two fast and physical running backs that are difficult to contain in Ben Parietti and Beau Bisharat. Their defensive line is dominant at times, with Malcolm Harvey a beast. They have the confidence they can beat anybody and are well coached, making them a tough matchup as a 12 seed. Outside of Folsom, they can beat any team."
"We played and beat them in a scrimmage before the season. They are an overall good team, but benefited greatly from a weak league. They had a decent quarterback, and one very good receiver who was shifty and had good hands. Their line on both sides was solid. Disciplined and played their assignments well."
"The best defense we faced all year. They are fast and physical, and fly around like no other team. They rally to the ball incredibly well. Wadus Parker is a tough back to bring down, especially with a full head of steam, but they have other capable backs as well, including Spencer Sheff. Their offense lulls you to sleep with run after run, and then hits you with a deep play action bomb by Tommy Arnold. Their offensive
line isn't overwhelmingly big, but they handset and control the line of scrimmage. On the defensive line, they are very undersized but not outmatched. B'won Canada is very difficult to contain, and their best linemen is actually their bruising nose tackle. Noah Letuligasenoa, Sheff, and Arnold form a hard-hitting and athletic linebacking core."