With three games left in the regular season, there's still plenty to be decided in the Stanislaus District, including The Bee's football player of the year.
Here's a look at a few of the candidates driving the conversation in Week 8, in no particular order:
Cameron Cherry, Oakdale: Cherry has picked up where the Mustangs' former record-setting running back Will Semone (now at Cal Poly) left off. With his breakaway speed and strength, Cherry is a home-run threat in the Wing-T. He leads the Stanislaus District in rushing yards (1,196) and touchdowns (16). He's also tops in yards-per-carry (10.4), among running backs with 90 or more touches. With Oakdale, the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section and CIF State champions, poised for another deep playoff run, Cherry could join Semone (2,851, a single-season district record) as the only Mustangs to crack 2,000 yards. Friday: at Kimball.
Bryce Peterson, Downey: When he arrived on campus as a freshman, Downey coach Jeremy Plaa thought Peterson had the potential to be the very best of the Knights' recent signal-callers. Three years later, Peterson is fulfilling that promise. The junior is second in the Sac-Joaquin Section in total offense with 2,562 yards, trailing only Folsom quarterback Kaiden Bennett (2,582), and has thrown 22 TDs against five interceptions. Peterson is getting stronger as the year goes on, too. He has thrown 13 touchdowns without an interception in his last four games. Friday: vs. Modesto.
Xavier Lewis, Downey: The offense might get all the glory, but insiders understand the value and impact Lewis has on the entire program. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound defensive lineman is a fast-rising recruit with the ability to change the game with his speed and power. Lewis pairs nicely with UCLA-bound linebacker Isaiah Johnson on the opposite edge, and leads the Knights in tackles (60), sacks (seven), forced fumbles (four) and fumble recoveries (three). The schedule-maker saved Downey's toughest tests for last, and how the defense performs against Modesto and Gregori might determine Lewis' clout in this conversation. Friday: vs. Modesto.
Bobby Avina, Gregori: Avina missed most of his junior season with an ligament tear and separation in his throwing shoulder, but he's made up for lost time. Avina's return, coupled with the arrival of assistant Scott Vincent, have allowed the Jaguars to open up the playbook. Gregori has transitioned from a Wing-T offense to a Spread, showcasing Avina's arm strength and precision. He's thrown for 1,670 yards and 20 touchdowns, while missing on just 40 throws. His top target has been best friend and tight end, senior Gabe Sanchez, another talent with MVP credentials. Friday: vs. Davis.
Dauson Booker, Central Catholic: Nothing more than a platoon player in 2016, Booker has exploded in a full-time role. He topped 100 rushing yards in the first five games of the season, including a career-high 228 yards in a signature win over Manteca. The 6-foot-1 running back/defensive back leads the Raiders' ground-heavy attack with 907 yards and 15 touchdowns, second only to Cherry. Booker has reportedly fielded interest from Sacramento State. Friday: at Lathrop.
Gabe Sanchez, Patterson: His stock has climbed over the last three weeks, and if there was a Small-School Player of the Year award (which there is not), Sanchez would be the favorite. He has thrown 15 touchdowns in the last three games, and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio on par with Peterson and Avina. Sanchez has 22 TD passes against just one interception as Patterson's "Spread 'em and Shred 'em" offense has regained its potency in 2017. He can solidify his place on this list with an MVP performance against Los Banos, one of six unbeaten teams in the Stanislaus District. Friday: at Los Banos.
Dustin Grein, Turlock: With the Bulldogs' offensive struggles early in the season, the burden of victory was placed on the defense. The leader of that unit is Grein, a force from the safety position. Grein highlighted Turlock's 14-13 victory at Clovis with a pick-six interception. He leads the Bulldogs in tackling (44.5), interceptions (three) and college interest. Bulldog coach James Peterson said the Division I buzz around the 6-foot-1 Grein grows a little more with every game. Friday: at Atwater.
Jack Camara, Sonora: The Wildcats' lost one dynamic two-way player (Kane Rodgers) to a season-ending leg injury, but filled his leadership void with another. A middle linebacker and fullback, Camara has taken the reins for Sonora, which has recovered from its 0-2 start with a six-game winning streak. Camara leads the Wildcats in rushing and tackles. More importantly, though, he's become a pillar for a program teeming with junior talent. Friday: Bye.
Has reporter James Burns overlooked a Bee football player of the year candidate? Send him your thoughts on Twitter @jburns1980 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.