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 Clayton Valley Charter Ugly Eagles of the CIF North Coast Section, the No. 37 team in our countdown.
CLAYTON VALLEY CHARTER HEAD COACH
Tim Murphy, ninth season as Clayton Valley head coach (96-21)
2020 AT A GLANCE
- Overall record: 10-5
- League record: 0-4 (sixth in East Bay – Mountain League)
- Playoffs: Defeated Campolindo 27-7 in CIFNCS Division 2 championship, defeated Elk Grove 28-26 in CIF 2-AA Northern Regional Championship, defeated Aquinas 10-7 to win CIF-2AA state championship
All games are at 7 p.m.
- Jan. 15 @ Turlock
- Jan. 29 @ Sacramento
- Feb. 5 @ Granada
- Feb. 12 vs. Menlo-Atherton
- Feb. 20 vs. California
- Feb. 27 @ San Ramon Valley
- Mar. 6 vs. Amador Valley
- Mar. 13 @ Monte Vista
- Mar. 20 vs. De La Salle
ALL-BAY AREA PLAYERS DEPARTED
(Source: Mercury News)
DL Kavika Baumgartner
LB Rocky Aven
DB Dillon Leao
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Jake Kern – SR.
One of several nationally ranked Clayton Valley seniors looking to solidify status as a D-1 player this season, Kern threw for 1,685 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and ran for five more TDs. He was very efficient in the air, completing 61.6% of his passes and only throwing two picks in 15 games.
RB Omari Taylor – SR.
Another nationally ranked playmaker, Taylor ran for 1,428 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior.
RB/WR Erik Christofferson – SR.
After dealing with injuries early in the season, Christofferson came on strong down the stretch to lead the Ugly Eagles with 493 yards and four touchdowns receiving in only eight games. He also ran for 146 yards and a TD. Coach Murphy said that part of what makes him stand out as a playmaker is his willingness to stay within the rushing pocket and embrace contact.
ILB Dylan Seeley – SR.
Yet another nationally ranked senior who could emerge as a D-1 recruit over the coming months, Seeley was third on Clayton Valley with 75 tackles last season. He also had a pick, a forced fumble, and a blocked field goal.
ILB Lukas Linkhart – SR.
Linkhart was second on the Ugly Eagles with 95 tackles last season, and added three interceptions and three pass break-ups.
SS Ryan Sparks – SR.
Sparks made 47 tackles last season, and recorded three picks and six passes defensed.
OT/OG Tyler Charbonneau – SR.
Clayton Valley’s top returning offensive lineman is nationally ranked with two D-1 offers.
RB Rahsaan Woodland II – JR.
The Ugly Eagles’ top junior coming into the season, Woodland ran for 557 yards on 9.4 yards per carry last season. Woodland has received D-1 interest, and Coach Murphy calls him a clear future D-1 guy.
TE/WR Andrew Woolard – SR.
Woolard transferred in from Monte Vista last year as a junior but didn’t crack the varsity rotation having to learn Clayton Valley’s system on the fly. Coach Murphy has very high hopes for Woolard transitioning from TE to wideout and having a breakout senior year.
OG/DE Jared Palega – JR.
A junior transfer, Palega started at San Leandro as a freshman and sophomore, and was arguably their best lineman on both ends last season. He’s already getting some D-1 looks and Murphy is confident that he’ll end up with a good few offers. At 6-2, 225, Palega is a force despite being undersized in the trenches, and would likely be a linebacker for Clayton Valley if not for its abundance of strong LBs. Murphy says next year he will be one of the best LBs in Northern California.
HOW COVID-19 AFFECTED CLAYTON VALLEY CHARTER FOOTBALL
“All these pods are rough, but you can get really good at certain things. We’ve really expanded the passing game, and we’ve been able to practice what’s going to be a more spread offense.
“Over the summer, I gave them a month off. They went and practiced three or four times a week on their own, completely separate from the team. They organized it and ran it themselves – Jake, Tyler, Seeley … the leadership from so many of our seniors sets us apart. The kids going to parks, or waiting at school until after-hours. And tons of kids would go. It was organized, they were practicing the right way. That shows leadership and team skills, and once we started up in October they hit the ground running. The senior leaders run so many things themselves, and also, I don’t have any high-maintenance kids I have to babysit.
“We officially resumed on Oct 5. Ninety-five percent of our kids turn out almost every school day. The spread has worked out well. With the exception of contact, tackling and blocking, we’re ready to play a game on both ends. Other than the contact, we could play tomorrow.”
Clayton Valley is still awaiting confirmation on whether or not it’ll be moved up from the North Coast Section Division 2 to Division 1. Assuming the Ugly Eagles stay in Division 2, they are the favorite to repeat as section champs – perhaps the heavy favorite.
If Clayton Valley becomes a Division 1 team, a deep playoff run and finals appearance is still more than plausible. It’s a perennial dogfight to be second in the pack behind De La Salle, and the Ugly Eagles would join the rank of legitimate contenders that includes Pittsburg, Monte Vista, San Ramon Valley, and Liberty (Brentwood).
Best-case scenario then would be to make the Division 1 championship game, and to do it on some kind of roll that would inspire confidence that there’s a chance to pull off a miracle – ending De La Salle’s streak of over 300 straight wins against Northern California teams. Coach Murphy knows as well as anyone how difficult it would be to knock off the Spartans, but he has great belief in his reigning CIF 2-AA state champion squad. And crazy things do happen in playoff games between great teams that know each other very well.
If 2019’s state title run was any indication, no team is going to outclass Clayton Valley Charter in the combination of experience, grit, and heart.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
Clayton Valley Charter either contending for a state title again in Division 2 or threatening for a finals push in Division 1 are completely realistic expectations. With this team’s pedigree and continuity – despite losing some key players, particularly on defense – a healthy Ugly Eagles squad is a safe bet to be formidable once again.
COACH MURPHY SAID
“Our goal is to repeat again. Not only do we have the squad to do it, but we have the leadership. If we stay in Division 2, the goal is to repeat. If we get moved up to Division 1, the goal will be to try to pull an upset on De La Salle.”