2016 Season: High school football in Antioch is a must watch

America's top high school running back and college recruit, Najee Harris carries the ball past defenders of Lincoln High of Stockton, Friday night, August 26, 2016. photo by Michael Pohl

America’s top high school running back and college recruit, Najee Harris carries the ball past defenders from Lincoln High of Stockton, Friday night, August 26, 2016. photo by Michael Pohl

By Luke Johnson

One of the greatest prides in the City of Antioch is high school football and the 2016 season began Friday, August 29. Antioch High School has gained a lot of attention and is expected to be one of the best teams in California, while Deer Valley High School aims to recover after going winless against the Bay Valley Athletic League the past two years.

Antioch had a miracle season in 2015 under head coach John Lucido, considering the Panthers finished a mere 1-9 two years prior. The campaign was capped off by the black and gold defeating arch-rival Pittsburg for the first time in years in a 44-42 shootout. Antioch won a league championship for the first time in 31 years and went undefeated (10-0) for the first time in 38 years.

All eyes are on Alabama-bound senior Najee “The Mayor” Harris, who is the number one running back in the country, ranked unanimously by every scouting website. The 6-foot-3, 226-pound freight train already holds every school rushing and scoring record, including 2,744 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns from last season.

Although the Panthers graduated key components to last year’s success, such as linebacker Kobie Beltram and playmaker Ryan Payne, the team returns six players with college offers alongside Harris: seniors Isaiah Dunn (CB/WR), Antoine Tanner (WR/DB), Issac Freytes (WR/DB), juniors Omair Harris (LB/RB), Iuni Mauga (TE) and sophomore Gaudie Campbell (WR).

Special Education Teacher Robert Hubbard enters his second year at the helm of Deer Valley’s football program. It was a bit of bumpy road during his season year due to a controversy with Pittsburg’s band preluding game seven. Hubbard missed two of the final three games, but was able to return after an investigation found no wrongdoing on his behalf.

The Wolverines finished 3-7 in 2015, and Hubbard said the biggest difference this year is the players’ knowledge and understanding of the system. The team’s top returner is 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman Jamaar Hardy, who has offers from San Diego State University and the University of Hawai’i. Surrounding him are seniors safety Ronald Preston, linebacker Abe Weinert, wide receiver Daniel Lado, juniors quarterback Dior Walker and kicker Ryan Redman.

Antioch opened up the season hosting Lincoln of Stockton, beating them 67-38, with 44 of the Panthers’ points scored in the first quarter. Harris scored four of the touchdowns that quarter.

Deer Valley traveled to Danville to take on Monte Vista, in their non-conference, season opener. The Wolverines lost 49-7.

On Friday, September 2, Antioch lost Milpitas 49-28, while Deer Valley beat the visiting Amador Dons of Pleasanton 34-21.

Conference play begins Friday, September 23.

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