Buhach Colony's Youlas Dickson has the ability to change a game, whether he's patrolling the secondary as a defensive back, racing around the edge on a carry, or returning kicks. (Merced Sun-Star)

'Super athlete.' These players aren't defined by position, but by versatility

James Burns

Youlas Dickson has been tabbed an “X-factor” for the Buhach Colony football team. More appropriately, though, the dynamic senior with blazing speed and He-Man strength is the X … the Y … and the Z.

Dickson is the complete package on a talent-rich Thunder roster because of his unique versatility. He is a shutdown corner, a home-run threat in the return department, and the flyest option in Kevin Navarra’s “Fly” offense.

Last fall, Dickson scored TDs in a variety of ways. He had eight rushing scores, two more on receptions, a pick-six, and a kickoff return. He averaged 10.5 yards per rush, 14.7 yards per reception, and 43.9 yards per kickoff return. “Every time I touch the ball my goal is to score or get a first down,” said Dickson, who, at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, can bench press more than twice his body weight.

In two varsity seasons, Dickson has eight interceptions, four apiece as a sophomore and junior. It’s no coincidence that the Thunder, a favorite in the Central California Conference, have qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs each year. Defensive backs, such as Dickson, Colorado’s Lavon Wallace, and Cal-commit Trey Paster, have led the charge.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Navarra said of big-bodied corners like Wallace and Paster. But “one of the guys I have a lot of pride in is Youlas Dickson. Youlas Dickson is 5-10, 175 pounds, and a good student in the classroom. For him to get some of the opportunities and looks from UC Davis, Cal Poly and Eastern Washington is a complement to our DB coaches.”

Dickson tops our list of some of the most exciting multi-faceted players in the FrontRowPreps.com region. This list features players who can impact a game in a variety of ways … from a number of different positions.

Central Catholic's Sithri Price was named to the all-Valley Oak League first team. He was the Raiders' leading receiver and one of the region's top defensive backs. (Samantha Schmidt)

Sithri Price, Central Catholic: The Raiders aren’t blessed with depth, which means bona fide talent such as Price, a 5-foot-11 wide receiver and defensive back, will have to play starring roles on both sides of the ball. He’s used to the workload. Price was a show-stopper last fall, emerging as quarterback Dalton Durossette’s favorite target and a nemesis of opposing QBs. Price had 14 catches for 530 yards and nine touchdowns en route to all-Valley Oak League first-team honors, and he ranked second in the region with five interceptions.  

Bronson England, Downey: England was named to the 2018 all-Central California Athletic League as a defensive back, where he recorded 40 tackles and one interception. The 5-foot-8 senior is a big play waiting to happen. England can return kicks and should graduate into a leading role in the Knights’ potent “Air Raid” attack with the departure of wide receivers Anderson Grover and Bryce Peterson. Last fall, England made the most of his limited targets. England averaged 21.2 yards per reception and finished two of his six catches in the end zone. He was even better on special teams, averaging 26.9 yards on punt returns.

Ripon's Brandon Rainer blends speed and strength at the linebacker and running back positions.

Brandon Rainer, Ripon: In a weight room with returning talent in each corner, Ripon coach Chris Musseman believes Rainer, a running back and linebacker, has the ability to be the most impactful player on the roster. He is a blend of speed and power — and just enough goofiness to keep the mood light. Rainer did most of his damage on the defensive side of the ball, racking up 82 tackles and 3.5 sacks for one of the best defenses in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section. He also averaged 8 yards per carry in a limited role offensively.

Sean McGovern, Ripon Christian: McGovern was the ultimate ball hawk. He reeled in 32 passes for 560 yards and eight touchdowns, collaborated on 107 tackles, picked off four passes, and scooped up five fumbles. What’s more, he turned his moments into big momentum shifts for the Knights, who set a school record with 12 victories and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V final. McGovern had three scoop-and-score touchdowns, including two in back-to-back wins over Gustine and Mariposa that helped set Ripon Christian on its way to a Southern League title.

Cole Bailey, Hilmar: A junior varsity call-up of the Yellowjackets’ postseason run, Bailey made a quick impression. He had three interceptions, including two in a runaway victory over Ripon Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V final. Bailey will play a much larger role this fall. He will start at safety and slot receiver, running under passes from newly-minted quarterback Seth Miguel. There might not be a player better equipped to win a jump ball or track down an errant pass among small schools. Bailey set school track and field records in the jumping events in the spring. “He’s really fast,” Hilmar coach Frank Marques said. “Just a super athlete.” Bailey will also backup Miguel at quarterback. “He’s looking really good on that front,” Marques said. “We’ll be OK.”