For the first time, the NCAA has an early signing period for high school football players, and several Stanislaus District stars took advantage to put their name on the dotted line and gobble up athletic scholarships.
Central Catholic’s Dauson Booker (Wyoming), Downey’s Isaiah Johnson (Fresno State), Modesto JC’s Mustafa Johnson (Colorado), Turlock High’s Dustin Grein (Cal-Poly), Oakdale’s Matt Kjeldgaard (Fresno State) and Manteca’s Justin Kakala (Harvard) were among those who took advantage of the early signing period.
Isaiah Johnson, who committed to UCLA before his senior season, graduates from Downey on Dec. 22 and was set to start in Brentwood in three weeks. But the firing of Jim Mora and hiring of Chip Kelly created a difficult situation for Johnson.
“He de-committed from the Bruins and opened up his recruiting process again,” said Downey head coach Jeremy Plaa. “Cal and Utah jumped on board, but they couldn’t guarantee he’d start school in January.”
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Fresno State was able to get him into the January classes and Isaiah Johnson’s set to begin his career as a Bulldog in three weeks.
“They feel like they got the biggest steal of the recruiting class,” said Plaa.
Booker was a two-way star for Central Catholic at running back (1,838 yards) and defensive back. He was recruited by the Cowboys as an athlete, which means he could see time at several positions, including special teams.
Mustafa Johnson was the two-time Defensive Player of the Year for the Central California Conference at Turlock High before moving on to MJC for a season. He was heavily recruited – even Alabama started poking around late in the process. In the end, the pull to return home to Colorado was too great for Mustafa Johnson. He’s a native of Aurora, Colo.
Pirates head coach Rusty Stivers kept things simple when asked for Mustafa Johnson’s statistics for the season.
“I don’t have them,” said Stivers, who completed his third season as the MJC head coach. “Just say he sacked the quarterback a lot and roughed up a lot of offensive linemen.”
Grein, the 2017 CCC Most Valuable Player, helped the Bulldogs to a second consecutive CCC title after they went 12 years without winning one.
Kjeldgaard played in three consecutive CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship games, helping Oakdale win its first state title of the modern bowl era of 2016. Kakala, meanwhile, was part of consecutive section championship squads for the Buffaloes and played a key role in the team reaching the NorCal regional bowl this season.