Previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California: No. 21 San Joaquin Memorial Panthers

SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Even with the season on hold, we will continue to highlight the best teams, players and coaches in California. Here’s an inside look at the San Joaquin Memorial Panthers of the CIF Central Section, the No. 21 team in our countdown.

MORE: PRESEASON TOP 50 PREVIEWS

SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL TEAM PAGE | 2021 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL HEAD COACH

Anthony Goston, 17th season (132-67)

2019 AT A GLANCE

  • Overall record: 12-2
  • League record: 5-0 in County/Metro League (1st)
  • Playoffs: Defeated Tulare Western 35-16 for Central Section Division Two Championship; Lost to Serra (San Mateo) in CIF Division 1-A North Championship

RETURNING STARTERS:

  • 6 on offense
  • 7 on defense

ALL-CENTRAL SECTION PLAYERS DEPARTED

(Source: Pagmeter All-Central Section Super 70 Team)

Awards

  • Mac Delena – WR/DB (Pagmeter Player of the Year)
  • Jalen McMillan – WR (Pagmeter Co-Wide Receiver of the Year)

Super 70

  • Tobin Phillips – DL
  • Elijah Garza – LB

2021 SCHEDULE

Jan 8: Clovis North – 7:30PM – Non League

Jan 15: at Hanford – 7:30PM – Non League

Jan 22: at Bakersfield Christian – 7:30PM – Non League

Jan 30: Garces Memorial – 7:30PM – Non League

Feb 5: at Washington Union – 7:00PM – Non League

Feb 19: at Madera – 7:30PM – League

Feb 26: Bullard – 7:30PM – League

Mar 5: Madera South – 7:30PM – League

Mar 12: at Edison – 7:30PM – League

Mar 19: Sanger – 7:30PM – League

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jordan Hornbeak (Senior-RB/LB) (Fresno State commit) (6-0, 200)

Coach Goston: “He’s the prototypical running back in terms of size, speed, ability and he can do it all. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and blocks well. He’s definitely the best running back in our section this year.”

2019 stats: 1,697 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 catches, 160 yards, one touchdown, 46 tackles, one sack

Kevin Cisneros (Senior-OL/DL) (6-3, 270)

Coach Goston: “He’s just a hard worker, physical, tough, vocal type of guy you’d want to be a captain. There’s really no holes in his game, he’ll be a two-way starter for us. Definitely one of the best linemen in our section.”

2019 stats: 21 tackles, one sack

TJ Hall (Junior WR/DB) (6-2, 175)

Coach Goston: “He’s a three-year starter already. Hard worker and just a lockdown corner. He’s a guy we put on every team’s best receiver. Has the length and ability to really cover.”

2019 stats: 22 catches, 379 yards, five touchdowns

David Pierro (Senior-WR/DB) (5-10, 165)

Coach Goston: “He’s a matchup problem in the slot, great hands and great acceleration. He has great range as a free safety.”

Mitchell Leppke (Senior-LB) (6-2, 245)

Coach Goston: “He’s gonna play mike linebacker for us. A physical and hardworking kid that is great in the weight room. Just one of those kids that is physically imposing even without pads on. He’ll anchor our defense and be a critical player for us.”

2019 stats: 23 tackles, 10 sacks

Hector Cisneros (Senior-OL) (6-5, 340)

Coach Goston: “Just a man child with big hands and a weight room guy. He’ll play right tackle for us and he’ll be outstanding.”

Mikey Bell (Junior-QB) (6-1, 180)

Coach Goston: “He’s really good. He throws the ball as well as anybody I’ve had. Probably the most athletic guy I’ve had in some time. He has all the tools to be a special guy.”

Brandon Ramirez (Sophomore-DB/RB) (6-0, 195)

Coach Goston: “He’ll start at strong safety for us. Instant impact guy and he’ll also play some running back behind some of my seniors. His impact will be on defense this year and he’s got three years of great high school football left.”

2019 stats: 406 rushing yards, five touchdowns, 75 tackles, three forced fumbles, one interception

IMPACT TRANSFERS

  • David Pierro – 2021 WR/DB (Clovis West)
  • Mitchell Leppke – 2021 LB (El Diamante)
  • Hector Cisneros – 2021 OL (Fresno Edison)
  • Brandon Ramirez – 2023 DB/RB (Hanford)

WHO TRANSFERRED OUT

  • Finn Collins – 2021 QB (Bishop Alemany)

HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL

COVID-19 has affected every high school football team differently. Coach Goston shares how COVID-19 has impacted San Joaquin Memorial football over the past few months:

“We have a little bit different of a school, being a private catholic school. We get kids that are very motivated and very focused. They’ve been very eager whenever we’ve been able to practice, they’re always here and always wanting to do more since it’s been gone for so long.

“We haven’t had the luxury of having our weight room open as much as we want because of COVID so we’ve moved some of those things outside and the kids have bought into every change, they’ve been flexible. They follow the rules to wear a mask and to social distance, there’s no push back and no negativity. It’s because they understand that they want to play.”

“They’re gonna do whatever they can in terms of following the rules to be able to play. It’s been hard to constantly adapt and be flexible, but our coaches and kids have been flexible and understand that things change daily. They’re definitely chomping at the bit, but they understand that it’s out of our control and all we can do is our part.”

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

The Panthers have won three consecutive CIF Central Section Championships and appear to have the talent to make it four straight despite the graduation of several key standouts.

MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO

San Joaquin Memorial is riding an 11-game league winning streak that doesn’t appear to be stopping soon. The Panthers have reloaded with talent but will be working in a new quarterback in junior Mikey Bell. Their biggest challenge in league play will likely be from nearby Bullard. The Panthers’ experience and talent will make them a tough out come the postseason.

COACH SAID

“I think we look very strong coming into the season. I think we’re going to be a lot different from the last few years in terms of our strengths. We have a very good offensive line; I think we probably average about 275 (pounds) across the front. We’ve got two stud running backs, we’ve got great receivers and a very good quarterback. I think offensively we’re going to be very physical and very big.”

“I think the goal for us is always to win our section title because you can’t really do anything about state unless you win your section title. The focus is we want to win league and then win our section title because that will set us up to compete for a state championship.”

– Anthony Goston

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