|The Comets return three starters on offense and seven on
defense--plus they own the district trophy. A strong group of freshmen
coupled with a top-flight quarterback returning from injury could lift
Ortega's squad to another bowl game.
It's often the case that when a team graduates its quarterback there's a scramble to find a new one. There's no such scramble or panic for Ortega, however, despite the fact Chris Dixon (Humboldt St. signee) was extremely productive. Taking over the quarterback spot will be Joe McBride (6-5, 230; 4.8), who beat out Dixon for the starting job two seasons ago and earned All-Conference honors. McBride would be playing D1 ball right now if not for a broken ankle that forced him to miss last season. He has a big arm, is cerebral, athletic, and graduates in December. Look for McBride to be one of the more highly sought after signal callers in California by season's end.
There's a big hole at running back where Lionel Arnold (Washington St. signee) ran wild the past two seasons. Although it's hard to replace someone like Arnold, the coaching staff feels they have a pair of freshmen gems in DeAndre McFarland (Pinole Valley HS) and Cameron Thurston (Vallejo HS). The latter goes 6-1, 210, and is in the mold of Arnold. He earned "Back of the Year" honors on the all-Monticello Empire League team after gaining 1,269 yards on 143 carries and scoring 15 touchdowns. Thurston gained at least 100 yards in eight of 10 games and was also a first team choice at linebacker, where he recorded 12 sacks. McFarland, who was one of the leading scorers in the state as a senior in high school, is more of a scatback.
The wide receiver to watch is Demetrius Williams (6-1 1/2, 190), who made All-Conference as a cornerback last season. Four-year colleges are interested in his athleticism and versatility.
Ortega only returns one offensive lineman, All-Conference offensive guard Manuel Anguiano (6-2, 295; 5.32). The rest of the spots will be taken by freshmen. The Comets will also look for a freshman to play tight end.
A few talented freshmen linebackers to watch include Davon Scott (Jesse Bethel HS), Bradley Moore (Hogan HS), and Devon Geter (Vallejo HS).
Freshmen and sophomores will compete for spots in the defensive backfield. Ortega was hesitant to throw out names until a few battles are won.
The Comets will scrimmage American River in Sacramento prior to their opener versus Los Medanos. As is generally the case in community college football, this is a team that really needs its freshmen to perform well and early.
TEAM & PROSPECT PREVIEW: Contra Costa College
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