Thursday Sep 03 2009
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
Wolverines loaded with local talent as they look to defend their Valley title
ROCKLIN — During his stellar senior season at Colfax High, Jeff Divine kept close tabs on Sierra College football down the hill. He couldn’t help but cringe when Valley Conference rival Reedley edged the Wolverines last November on a field goal in the final minutes, shattering Sierra’s hopes of playing for the NorCal championship. “As a fan, it was hard watching that,” said Divine, who joins the Wolverines as a freshman wide receiver. “We have a great team this year, though. We’re excited.” Sophomore Justin Chastain, who caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead Sierra last fall, is focused on the positive. “You can’t dwell on the past,” said Chastain, one of three Colfax products on the Wolverines’ 2009 roster alongside Divine and sophomore tight end Mike Cody. “We knew what we needed to do. We didn’t get it done. That’s just more drive. It fuels the fire to try to win the conference outright instead of sharing it like we did last year.” Despite losing superstar running back Lamon Muldrow, now at San Jose State, and quarterback Alex Rump, the Wolverines return a solid core from their first team to win consecutive Valley titles, a squad that also made its eighth straight bowl appearance under veteran head coach Jeff Tisdel. “Every year in JC football it’s a high turnover rate,” said Tisdel, who is 70-17 at the helm and has lost only seven games in the past six seasons. “Every one of my teams has been different and this team is faster than any I’ve ever had. We’re extremely fast, top to bottom. I’m anxious to see the kids play.” Supplying much of the speed will be tailbacks CJ Woodbury and Deonte’ Williams, a duo Tisdel plans to rotate every down. “I think they’re two Division I backs and they’ll complement each other very well,” he said. Woodbury, a strong, powerful bruiser, carried 93 times for 511 yards and five touchdowns behind Muldrow last season. Williams, whose running style relies more on slashing, was the leading rusher at Northern Arizona last year. He’s one of 11 transfers suiting up for the Wolverines this fall. Those additions include two former Elk Grove stars — linebacker Lincoln Togiai, the Mid-Empire Conference player of the year at Sacramento City last season, and Kevin Frank, who redshirted at Washington State and will start at left corner. “He’s the best cornerback we’re ever had, and it’s not even close,” Tisdel said. “He’s the best man coverage kid, the hardest working kid in practice.” Freshman punter Barry Nobles, a recent Del Oro graduate, has taken notice. “You just get better around guys like that, guys from Division I colleges,” Nobles said. “We have a lot of great athletes and I think we can go a long way with the talent that we have.” All-American Paul Vassallo, an Arizona commitment, returns at outside linebacker. Perry Jackson joins him up front as the only sophomore returning on the defensive line. “The rest are all freshman,” Tisdel said. “We have athleticism, but that’s such an unknown entity until you play a game. Now, we’re extremely talented, it’s just that they haven’t played.” Quarterback Jeff Nelson, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore from Summit, will run the offense. He attempted only 17 passes as Rump’s backup during the regular season before finishing the 2008 PremierWest Bank Bowl 10-for-27 for 114 yards. “He’s big, fast and strong, so he’s going to get the job done,” said Chastain, who will share receptions with Brandon Michalkiewicz, a wide receiver from Granite Bay who caught 32 passes for 588 yards and six touchdowns last year. “He’s throwing the ball well so far.” Will Olson, a Whitney product, will back up Nelson. “All they have to do is manage the game,” Tisdel said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons around them.” The Wolverines, who are ranked sixth in the state preseason poll, open with three road games at Diablo Valley, Sacramento City and City College of San Francisco before playing American River in their home opener on Sept. 26. “It’s going to be three very challenging games so we’ll see what we’re made of,” Tisdel said.