It’s no secret that the Tri-River Athletic Conference boasts some of the top football talent in the Central Section, and is worthy of mention when looking at leagues across the state.
From defending Division I-AA state champions Central, to a tough, talented Buchanan team always vying for the section crown, to well-coached squads like Clovis High, Clovis West and Clovis East who stack up well against any team; every school in the TRAC, especially those hailing from the Clovis Unified School District, produces players skilled enough to make the leap from Friday Night Lights to college football on Saturday afternoons and evenings.
In fact, 18 former Clovis Unified student-athletes played Division-I college football in 2020, the most from any public school district in the Central Valley (Fresno Unified had 13).
A few of them garner instant name recognition – Kendall Milton was a highly-regarded recruit in the Class of 2020, ranked 7th in the state overall and the 7th best running back in the nation. The Buchanan Bear became a Georgia Bulldog, representing Clovis on the grand stage of the SEC.
Another Buchanan Bear in Jalen Cropper continued to amaze the Valley faithful who watched him in Sanger and Clovis, as he put together a sophomore campaign that has the Red Wave clamoring to see what the speedy wide receiver can do next.
Then there’s the Clovis West Golden Eagle with a story of redemption in the Big 10 – quarterback Adrian Martinez overcame a mid-season benching to close out the season strong at Nebraska, setting up optimism for his senior year there.
Those are just a few of the former Clovis Unified student-athletes who played college football this past season; let’s take a look at all 18, where they played their high school ball and how 2020 worked out for each of them.
LB D.J. Schramm – Clovis West – Boise State
Schramm was recruited as the 10th best linebacker in California by 24/7 Sports after picking up TRAC Defensive Player of the year honors in 2016. The redshirt sophomore scored his first career touchdown in 2020 when he returned a blocked punt 20 yards for a score. He also led the Broncos onto the field with the team’s ceremonial hammer for the Mountain West championship game. Already a difference maker on special teams, Schramm figures to contribute in more ways in 2021 at Boise State.
LB Steven Scheidt – Buchanan High – Eastern Michigan
Scheidt moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan to get some “MACtion” after spending 2019 at Fresno City College. He recorded six tackles in four games played at Eastern Michigan and will be part of the team’s signing class of 2021.
LB Caleb Kelly – Clovis West – Oklahoma
Kelly suffered an ACL injury in August, his second knee injury in as many years, and it kept him out for 2020. Oklahoma still took care of business in the Big 12, winning its sixth consecutive conference championship, the fifth with Kelly as a Sooner. The former Golden Eagle announced on Twitter shortly thereafter that he will come back to Oklahoma for a sixth season, using his extra year of eligibility granted due to COVID-19. As he put it, he wants to be “the first player with six [rings].”
QB Adrian Martinez – Clovis West – Nebraska
Another former Golden Eagle brought a story of leadership and redemption in 2020: Martinez used his benching against Illinois on Nov. 21 as motivation to lead the Cornhuskers to two wins in their final three games, scoring eight total touchdowns (five rushing) in the process. Overall, Martinez threw for 1,055 yards and four passing TD’s, as well as rushed for 521 yards and seven more TD’s on the ground. Where Martinez impressed the most, however, was his demonstrative leadership throughout a difficult season.
RB Kendall Milton – Buchanan High – Georgia
Milton had a season-high 56 yards on eight carries against Tennessee on Oct. 10, a week before playing at No. 1 Alabama and picking up 44 more yards against arguably the best team in the country. Even in a backup role, Milton gained steam and saw increased touches leading up to his MCL strain against Florida that sidelined him for four weeks. Milton finished the season with a Peach Bowl win, showing off speed and elusiveness on a 22-yard catch and run early in the game.
WR Jalen Cropper – Buchanan High – Fresno State
Cropper led Fresno State in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2020 (520 yards and 5 TD in six games), looking every bit like the No. 1 receiver the Bulldogs saw in him when they recruited him out of Buchanan. Cropper surpassed the 100-yard mark in each of the Bulldogs’ final three games, and had a career game at Utah State on Nov. 14 with 10 receptions, 202 yards and three TD’s.
FB Adam Prentice – Clovis High – South Carolina
Prentice was named offensive player of the game on Oct. 17 when his South Carolina squad upset then-No. 15 Auburn. He was given the honor by his head coach, Will Muschamp, who said Prentice played a clean game, did everything asked of him and made the Gamecocks’ run game go. Prentice transferred to South Carolina after playing five years (two redshirted) and receiving his degree in civil engineering at Colorado State.
DE Matthew Merrit – Buchanan High – Stanford
Merritt, much like Scheidt, was a key part of the stout Buchanan defenses of the late 2010s. He did not see any action on the field in his freshman season at Stanford.
TE Blake Wells – Buchanan High – New Mexico
The former letterman in football and baseball at Buchanan, Wells did not record any stats in his second season at New Mexico. He arrived in Albuquerque in 2019 after playing two seasons at College of the Sequoias.
TE Ryan Brocks – Clovis North – Nevada
Brocks helped Clovis North go undefeated in TRAC play in 2014 before heading to Fresno City College in 2016, and ultimately Nevada in 2017. Brocks did not record any stats in his senior season with the Wolfpack.
The remaining eight are currently Fresno State Bulldogs:
DB Matthew Sanchez – Clovis High
DE – Tanner Rice – Clovis High
LB Tanner Blount – Buchanan High
DB C.J Jones – Buchanan High
DB Jason Diaz Jr. – Clovis West
OL Clive Truschel – Clovis West
WR Rodney Wright III – Clovis West
WR Grant Lake – Clovis High
Of the nine former Clovis Unified student-athletes who played for the Bulldogs in 2020, three (Cropper, Sanchez and Blount) saw game action. Sanchez and Blount each played in five games and recorded a couple of tackles a piece.