High School Football

All-District Football: Our top players take different approaches, get same results

Michael Kamps (left) of Ripon Christian High School and Dawaiian McNeely of Central Catholic High School pictured Tuesday December 18, 2018 are the Modesto Bee’s all-district players of the year for football.
Michael Kamps (left) of Ripon Christian High School and Dawaiian McNeely of Central Catholic High School pictured Tuesday December 18, 2018 are the Modesto Bee’s all-district players of the year for football. jlee@modbee.com

Central Catholic senior running back Dawaiian McNeely and Ripon Christian senior running back Michael Kamps take different approaches when carrying the football.

McNeely is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and is a straightaway runner. Kamps is 5-11, and shifty, able to go in all directions.

Despite the differences, both have one big thing in common: Without them, neither of their teams would have made it to their respective Sac-Joaquin Section title games.

McNeely is the Bee’s Large School Football Player of the Year and Kamps in the Bee’s Small School Player of the Year.

The ‘Run’

When asked about one of his favorite runs of his Raiders career, McNeely had over 150 to choose from. One stood out.

The 80-yard run on the first play of the second half in the Raiders’ come-from-behind win over Inderkum in the Div. II semifinals.

Central Catholic trailed by 12 at half and with the rain coming down, McNeely took the handoff up the middle. After finding a small hole, he was gone.

“It was crazy (the run),” McNeely said. “The Inderkum game was a hard-fought win not just for me but for the whole team. The offensive line, all the skill positions, we just never game up and when it really counted, we executed and won that game.”

Maybe his stats aren’t eye-popping (1,073 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns), but McNeely was a part of a running back committee at Central Catholic and had four games with less than seven carries.

But, in the last four games of the season, McNeely had at least 83 yards in all of them, including 101 hard-fought yards in the 20-17 loss to Del Oro in the Div. II Championship game.

Central Catholic senior Dawaiian McNeely talked at the Modesto Quarterback Club meeting on Oct. 17, 2018 about a variety of subjects.

He also had 35 tackles and nine pass deflections on defense.

“He was a part of the running back group that helped control the tempo of the game,” Raiders coach Roger Canepa said.

McNeely has a tough decision in February.

247Sports has McNeely rated as a three-star player and with close to 10 NCAA offers, including Arizona State, Colorado State, and Fresno State, he wants to find the right fit.

McNeely is going against the trend of releasing a top three or four list on Twitter of his favorite schools and although he has a “mental top four,” he is going to stay silent on social media.

“I am going to wait until February (to sign) to give myself a better idea where I want to go and where I fit,” he said. “It gives me more time to take more visits.”

A little Christian McCaffrey in him

Asked to describe Kamps, Ripon Christian coach Trey Ozenbaugh said he sees some similarities with his star running back and former Stanford and current Carolina Panthers running back, Christian McCaffrey.

“I joke with him that he was our McCaffrey because we get him out in space and he can do everything,” Ozenbaugh said.

Well, Kamps’ favorite NFL player just happens to be the 2015 Heisman Trophy Runner-Up.

Senior running back Michael Kamps and senior defensive lineman Drew Van Vliet talked about playing for Ripon Christian and the success they have had this season.

“Ever since he was at Stanford, I was always a big fan of him,” Kamps said. “His game is just incredible for being an undersized running back. He does it all and he is someone that I have always tried to emulate.”

Kamps did it all for the Knights in 2018.

He had 1,632 rushing yards, 28 rushing touchdowns, and eight receiving touchdowns on offense. He also had a passing touchdown.

His 36 total touchdowns were the third most in the section and his 28 rushing TDs tied for third.

On the other side of the ball, he was just as good with 55 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, and two interceptions.

“Michael is the epitome of hard work,” Ozenbaugh said. “He was a three-year starter for us on the varsity level and was really thrown in the position (running back) as a sophomore. He really embraced the role as the main ball carrier.”

Kamps led the Knights to a Southern League title and an appearance in the Div. VI title game, where they lost to Hilmar.

“I am super proud of my team and all that we accomplished this year,” Kamps said. “It’s something that I am always going to remember. It was a big accomplishment for us to win league and move on all the way.”

Kamps isn’t sure about what college he wants to go to but said football is “probably not” in the future.

“I am proud to have played football at RC,” Kamps said. “It’s not typically a football school and I am proud to say that I have played there and been a part of a team that I loved and coaches I loved.”


Dec. 21: Girls Cross Country (Madison Kackley)

Dec. 22: Boys Cross Country: (Alan Guerrero)

Dec. 23: Football (Dawaiian McNeely and Michael Kamps)

Dec. 24: Girls Golf

Dec. 25: Girls Tennis

Dec. 26: Volleyball

Dec. 27: Girls Water Polo

Dec. 28: Boys Water Polo

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