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FORD: Twelve prep football players to keep an eye on this season

Bear River’s Kyle Uclaray totes the ball during a game against Pacheco last season. Uclaray led the Bruins in rushing yards as a junior last season.
Photo by Brian O’Brien |

In less than two weeks Colfax will begin the post Tim Rawlins era, Nevada Union will welcome Placer to Hooper Stadium for the first time in two decades and Bear River will kickoff its quest to repeat as Sac-Joaquin Section champs.

Yep, Friday night football is almost here.

The Bruins return a large portion of starters from their championship run a year ago, including several all-league selections, and look poised for another strong season.



The always competitive Falcons have some new faces, and head coach Tony Martello regularly gets his players to compete at a winning level.

As for the Miners, they lost most of their offensive producers from last year, but do return a handful of talented seniors and have a quality group of sophomores set to make their varsity debut this season.




With the start of the prep football season nearing, and being only one week away from the Bear River/Nevada Union/Kennedy scrimmage, here are 12 local players that will pack plenty of punch on the gridiron this season.

Kyle Uclaray

Bear River, Sr., RB

Uclaray led the Bruins in rushing yards last season (124 car./991 yards/8 yards per carry) and tallied 14 rushing touchdowns along the way. The speedy back may be undersized at 5-foot, 7-inches and 155 pounds, but boasts a ton of skill with the ball in his hands.

Andrew Schnitzius

Nevada Union, Sr., MLB/TE

Schnitzius is primed for a stellar senior campaign after a solid junior season. Schnitzius will fill the middle linebacker hole vacated by Josh Belendez, who led the Sierra Foothill League in tackles last season. Schnitzius also proved himself to be an asset in the pass game from the tight end spot last year, catching 10 balls for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Luke Rineer

Colfax, SR., RB

With last year’s Pioneer Valley League Offensive Player of the Year Tim Rawlins now graduated, Rineer steps in to fill some pretty big shoes. Rineer showed he has the skills to be a successful running back at the varsity level last year, rushing for 751 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. Rineer is a small back and doesn’t have the power that Rawlins had, but he is a burner and if he gets a crease he can take it for six.

Jimmy Vaughn

Bear River, Sr., OL/DL

After a junior year in which he was named to the All-PVL offensive first team and defensive second team, Vaughn is certainly an impact player in the trenches.

On the offensive end, the 6-foot, 262 pound lineman will once again be a force that opens holes for backs and gives the quarterback time in the pocket. As a starter on the offensive line last season, Vaughn helped the Bruins rack up 2,577 rushing yards and 37 rushing touchdowns.

Defensively he tallied 38 tackles, nine of which for a loss last season.

Caleb Patterson

Nevada Union, Sr., DL

Patterson had his junior season cut short last season, and is “hungry” to get this season started said NU head coach Dennis Houlihan. Patterson, at 6-foot, 4-inches, is one of NU’s tallest players. He has a high motor and is a fierce defensive end.

David O’Brien

Bear River, Sr. QB/RB/DB

O’Brien’s athleticism is a major asset for Bear River, who will likely use the talented athlete in multiple roles.

As a junior, O’Brien was an All-PVL second teamer who ran the ball, caught passes, played quarterback in the Wildcat formation, returned kicks and punts and on defensive was a solid defensive back. Expect to see him all over the field and at multiple positions this year.

James Schnitzius

Nevada Union, Sr., QB/DB

James Schnitzius, brother of Andrew, is one of the Miners best all around athletes and will vie for the starting quarterback spot. No matter where James Schnitzius ends up on the field, he will be an impact player for the Miners in the upcoming season.

Matthew Harshman

Colfax, Sr., WR

Colfax leaned heavily on their run game last season, but when they did pass, more often than not, it was Harshman on the receiving end. As a junior, the sure-handed pass catcher pulled in 55 passes for 744 yards and two touchdowns. When it came to receptions, the next closest player on the team was Dylan Meinster with 14.

Austin Baze

Bear River, So., RB/DL

Baze is the only running back that I have ever heard of that scored a touchdown as a member of the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams in one season. The 6-foot, 1-inch 225 pound ball player has tremendous upside on both sides of the ball. In just six games of varsity action Baze rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, and defensively wrapped up 22 tackles and three sacks, including one in the section championship game against Colfax.

Kase Scott

Nevada Union, Sr. DB/RB

Scott is the only returning starter from a secondary that took a beating last year. Scott’s efforts were a bright spot for NU in 2014, pulling down a team-high two interceptions and wrapping up 53 tackles. Scott also got reps at wide receiver and will look to be an impact player in his senior campaign.

Drew Daniels

Colfax, Sr., WR

Daniels was one of Nevada Union’s top receivers last season, despite playing in just three games. Before losing the final seven games of the season due to injury, Daniels pulled in 13 balls for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Now, Daniels is at Colfax for his senior year, and won’t play for the first 30-days of the season due to the transfer sit-out period, but should give a boost to the Falcon pass game when he finally gets on the field.

Gunner Simpson

Bear River, Sr., OLB

Simpson is a pass rushing animal. The speedster off the edge led the Bruins in sacks last season with 10, and will be a key cog in the Bear River defense.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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