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Cal Football Recruiting: Friday Night Lights Week One

High school football is back and that means it’s time to check on how Cal’s current commits are faring on the gridiron.

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University of California v University of Hawaii - College Football Sydney Cup Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

The 2016 high school football season is underway and I couldn’t be happier to be back on board providing updates on how our golden cubs are progressing before they become fully grown Golden Bears when they arrive in Berkeley for the 2017 season.

The class is relatively small at this point, but it’s early days in the recruiting cycle and the list of Cal football commits will surely grow larger as the season moves forward.

Without further ado, let’s see how the Golden Bear commits fared in their first games of the season.

Taariq Johnson and Jeremiah Hawkins: WR & ATH, Buena Park Coyotes (Buena Park, CA)

The Coyotes got their season started the right way with a 63-6 annihilation of the Pasadena Bulldogs on Friday night.

The duo of Golden Bear commits each lit up the scoreboard by scoring one touchdown a piece. Johnson caught 3 passes for 32 yards and one touchdown, while Hawkins carried the ball 10 times for 103 yards and one touchdown. Hawkins also caught 3 passes for 57 yards.

Chase Garbers: QB, Corona del Mar Sea Kings (Newport Beach, CA)

Garbers and the Sea Kings squared off against the Palos Verdes ... Sea Kings. No, seriously, they’re both nicknamed the Sea Kings. On this night, though, Garbers’ Sea Kings squad looked more like Goldeen as they were beaten 42-20 to get off to a rocky start this season.

Garbers was under pressure the entire game, but still managed a reasonably good stat line of 26-48 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

There is an article in the L.A. Times about high-profile transfers and how they are seeping into the high school football scene just like it did in college basketball and football. Garbers gets a shoutout from the author and here is an excerpt.

It’s gotten to the point that there are so many transfers — 15,882 in California in 2015-16 — that newspapers such as the Daily News and the Orange County Register are running “impact transfer” lists. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify top athletes who haven’t transferred.

It’s time to start reversing this cycle, even if it’s in a small way. My contribution will be to start seeking out and exposing top high school athletes who stay for four years. They’re the ones who arrive on campus as freshmen, embrace their community, earn respect among classmates on the field and in the classroom, don’t flee when the going gets tough and prove that you can succeed without having to switch schools.

There’s Chase Garbers of Corona del Mar, a senior quarterback committed to California. He has stayed at his neighborhood school for four years. “I’m sure he was [approached] by the powers that be,” Coach Dan O’Shea said. “He was dedicated to playing football at his local public school and playing with his friends.”

Michael Onyemaobi: ATH, Chaparral Pumas (Temecula, CA)

Onyemaobi’s Pumas endured a rough season opener as they took a 36-7 loss to the Rancho Cucamonga Cougars.

The Press Enterprise has a great feature story on Onyemaobi that is definitely worth a read. Here is a bit of an excerpt.

Onyemaobi stands 6-foot, 1-inch, is 190 pounds and built like a bullet train. His parents were born in Nigeria, but he was born in Washington D.C. when they moved there for college and later to Temecula, when Michael was a child.

His junior season, one in which he showed flashes of elite potential, ended four games early because of a concussion. Almost from that moment, he set out to make himself better – a lot better.

“What got eyes on me,” Onyemaobi said, “was definitely my offseason,”

And that meant long but productive hours in the weight room. That meant 7-on-7s, combines and camps, and his improvement caught fire on the recruiting trail.

“He’s one of our strongest power-clean guys, and one of our strongest squat guys,” Chaparral coach Jeremy McCullough said. “It’s not just, ‘roll out of bed and he looks like that.’ He works for it. He’s a weightlifting machine. He loves it in there and he works his tail off.”

A look at Onyemaobi’s recruiting video shows attributes the 2015 statistics didn’t, though he still returned a kickoff for a touchdown and had an interception against Murrieta Valley.

Offensively, he has breakaway speed, leaping ability and good hands as a receiver, and that helped him average 15.2 yards per catch last season, including a 108-yard day against Great Oak. Defensively, he hits hard, and his returning ability on special teams adds to that phase, too.

Gabe Cherry: DE, Centennial Golden Hawks (Bakersfield, CA)

Centennial took a 45-13 loss to St. Bonaventure while Cherry notched just two tackles. featured a story on local linemen and Cherry was one of the featured players. Here is what the story had to say about the Cal-bound defensive end.

Linemen in football don’t garner attention because what they do sets up highlights for other players.

But there is a group of local linemen — big in size and personality — sure to garner plenty attention this fall.

These guys talk about what cleats they like to wear and the excitement of new uniforms and gloves. But don’t get it twisted: These large creatures that roam the football fields on Friday nights are all about that action.

It all starts with a foursome of seniors who are all garnering big college attention.

Gabe Cherry is a mammoth of a man at defensive end for Centennial and is committed to Cal.

Cherry, at 6-5 and 280 pounds, is the one who was lost in the shuffle last season. He wasn’t nominated for all-Southwest Yosemite League honors despite eight tackles for loss with four sacks.

Cherry continues with an old-school approach to the season.

“I really am a quiet guy that likes to take care of business,” Cherry said. “I like to work hard and just be the best me.”

“From Day 1 when I started playing football, I wanted to be a defensive lineman,” Cherry said. “I wanted to sack the quarterback, and I wanted to get in people’s faces. I wanted to bust up the line of scrimmage. That is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a sixth-grader.”

Je’Quari Godfrey: CB, Bishop O’Dowd Dragons (Oakland, CA)

Godfrey and the Dragons kick their season off September 2 against Tamalpais.

Biaggio Ali-Walsh: RB, Bishop Gorman Gaels (Las Vegas, NV)

The Gaels traveled to Texas and dismantled the Cedar Hill Longhorns 44-14 in what was an extremely impressive display.

Walsh dominated the Longhorns to the tune of 18 rushes for 197 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote a very detailed story on how the game played out and Walsh was a big piece of the puzzle for Bishop Gorman.

Both teams share the luxury of high-profile senior quarterbacks: Gorman’s Tate Martell, an Ohio State commit, and Cedar Hill’s Avery Davis, who has orally committed to Notre Dame.

But when it counted, the spotlight belonged to Gorman running back Biaggio Ali Walsh, who is dedicating his senior season to his late grandfather, boxing great Muhammad Ali. The University of California commit finished with 17 carries for 194 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Cedar Hill rushed for only 88 yards on 21 attempts.

“Gorman’s defense fits extremely well,” Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said. “We could not run the football against them. When you can’t run, it is hard to win. Offensively, Gorman has a two-headed monster. We let Walsh get loose, and when we gave him extra attention, Martell killed us.’’

Martell finished with 148 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 19 carries, and was 10-for-22 for 135 yards passing. Jalen Nailor caught seven passes for 86 yards for Gorman.

Big plays were the norm for Ali Walsh and Martell. Ali Walsh had TD runs of 54 and 77 yards, and Martell scored on runs of 34 and 49 yards.

Alex Funches and Da’Quan Patton: DE & LB, Trinity Valley C.C. (Athens, TX)

Trinity Valley tore apart Cisco College 51-6 to start their season off on the right foot. Patton totaled 6 tackles and 2 forced fumbles, while Funches tallied 6 tackles, 1 sack and a forced fumble.

Check back next week to find out how Cal’s commits build on their first performances of the season.