A year ago, quarterback Gabe Sanchez became a permanent fixture in the Patterson High huddle.
Filling in for injured starter Kevin Todd, Sanchez, a run-and-gun type, showed flashes of what could be. He also showed his inexperience.
“He played in every (Western Athletic Conference) game last year and put up some great numbers,” coach Rob Cozart said. “He was also a high-risk, high-reward player. He would make plays, amazing plays with his arm and feet, but ...
“He would also cost us plays. Fumbles would turn into scoop-and-scores, or the pick-sixes. As many plays as he made for us, his youth often showed.”
Sanchez has taken the next step, developing into a leader and protecting the football. In the process, he’s returned Patterson (5-1, 1-0) to prominence.
The Tigers have won four consecutive games, including last week’s WAC opener against Pacheco, and climbed to No. 9 in The Bee’s large-school power rankings.
“We’re blessed with having players at the skill positions who find those mismatches,” Cozart said, referring to wide receivers James Perez and Joe Okitukunda, as well as slotback Kendrick Bond, “but we don’t want that to take away from Gabe as a leader and a talent.”
Sanchez might be on a historic tear.
Only longtime statistician Jim Murphy would know.
There’s just one problem: Murphy retired to the Hawaiian islands after last season, taking with him the Tigers’ records.
“We’re still trying to figure out all of that stuff,” Cozart said with a laugh.
If not historic, Sanchez has been prolific.
Sanchez handed Liberty of Madera its first loss of the season on Sept. 29 with a 356-yard, six-touchdown performance ... on the road. On Friday, he topped those numbers, piercing the sky for 366 yards and six more touchdowns as Patterson romped past Pacheco.
“We’re trying to utilize his strengths as much as possible,” Cozart said. “He really is a dual-threat guy for us. He can hurt you with his legs and his arm.”
Sanchez wasn’t the only star to shine bright in Week 6:
Bobby Avina, Gregori: Avina completed nine of his 12 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns in a 54-6 victory over Johansen. In six games, Avina is 88 of 120 for 1,396 yards. After missing most his junior season with injury, Avina has a touchdown to interception ratio of 16 to 1.
Marcello Longstreth, Gregori: A versatile talent, Longstreth leads the Jaguars in all-purpose yards with 1,009, or an average of 168.2 yards per game. He got most of his average through the air on Friday, reeling in three receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Dauson Booker, Central Catholic: The senior has rushed for more than 100 yards in all five games, including 189 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 55-7 victory at East Union. Booker anchored a ground attack that chewed up 456 yards and seven touchdowns, offsetting a shaky performance by sophomore Kyle Jackson (2 of 13 with an interception).
Jairol Harris-Red, Downey: The 6-foot-2, 175-pound receiver had his most productive game of the season, and the Knights needed every last yard to hold off Beyer. Harris-Red had eight catches for a career-high 199 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
Hunter Falconi, Oakdale: Seldomly used in Oakdale’s prolific Wing-T offense, Falconi had eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns to highlight a 36-15 victory over Manteca. He was targeted at least 12 times by quarterback Marc Dickson (10 of 21 for 190 yards).
Jonah Kosakeiwicz, Turlock: The junior quarterback had his strongest performance of the season, completing 10 of 14 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ shutout win over Golden Valley.
Jordan Porter, Turlock: Porter stretched the field for the Bulldogs. He had five receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 21.2 yards per catch.
Anthony Caballero, Los Banos: On a night when the Stanislaus District’s leading rusher, Antonio Lopez, failed to top 100 yards for the first time all season, his quarterback was there to pick up the slack. Anthony Caballero accounted for 418 yards and five touchdowns as the Tigers romped past Ceres, 48-20.
Antonio Reyes, Pitman: Reyes was a game-changer for the Pride, scoring two rushing touchdowns and setting up another with a fumble recovery in a 39-0 victory over Atwater. He scored on runs of 1 and 9 yards.
Michael Kamps, Ripon Christian: After struggling in back-to-back losses to Calaveras and Orestimba, Kamps has found his stride. The running back has 398 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two games, including 252 yards and four scores last week against Denair.
Javyn Drobnick, Big Valley Christian: The sophomore nearly rushed for 200 yards for a third time this season. Drobnick finished iwth 19 carries for 196 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions’ 32-7 victory over Turlock Christian.