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’Jackets look to excel in wide-open ACCAL

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Friday September 07, 2001

New coach, QB hoping to get Berkeley off to a quick start 


Last year, the Berkeley Yellowjackets rode on the back of superstar Ramone Reed. This year, it’s going to have to be a group effort. 

With Reed having moved on to become an Oregon Duck, the ’Jackets will count on a combination of their usual running attack with a rejuvenated passing game. Senior Germaine Baird will fill Reed’s spot at tailback, while senior quarterback Raymond Pinkston will lead the air attack. 

“There’s no replacing Ramone Reed. He was probably the best player I’ve seen come out of Berkeley High,” first-year head coach Matt Bissell says. “But Germaine has done nothing to make us lose confidence in him. He’s the type of player this team can ride.” 

Bissell doesn’t expect Baird to duplicate Reed’s 1,189 yard, 15 touchdown season. But that’s mostly because the Berkeley passing game is much improved, at least in practice. Pinkston, who played at Berkeley as a freshman before moving to Detroit, is a better passer than either of last year’s signal-callers, Leon Ireland and Mohammed Nitoto. The key will be how fast Pinkston and his receivers can master the ’Jackets’ new offense, the brainchild of new offensive coordinator Clarence Johnson. Expect a lot of misdirection and play-action passes to keep opposing defenses on their toes. 

Pinkston will likely count heavily on deep threat wideout Lee Franklin. Franklin has the speed to stretch defenses and good hands, evidenced by his place as kick and punt returner, as well as a starting safety.  

“Lee plays a position in our offense where it will be easy to get him the ball,” Bissell says. “We want to get the ball in his hands in different ways.” 

The other receiver position is a battle between three candidates. 

“All three guys who are competing for that spot do different things well,” Bissell says. “It’ll depend on the situation to see which guy plays.” 

Pinkston will also use fullback Nick Schooler as a receiver out of the backfield. Schooler is the backup quarterback, and as Bissell says, “knows the offense better than the coaches.” 

The offensive line should be solid if not spectacular. Returning starters Matt Toma and Zack Cohen are technically sound, if a bit undersized. Brian Hickman has looked very good in practice at right guard, but the center and right tackle spots are questionmarks heading into Berkeley’s first game against Foothill tonight. 

The defense will revolve around a mammoth line. Nose guard Jamal Johnson is nearly a defensive line all by himself at more than 300 pounds. Johnson should be a force if he can get over some nagging injuries. Surrounding him at the tackles will be Robert Hunter-Ford and Juleen Jacobs, both of whom weigh in at more than 250 pounds. 

“If we have everyone healthy, there’s no reason any team should be able to run up the middle on us,” Bissell says. 

The ends will be Greg Mitchell and Akeem Brown, who has the potential to be an impact pass rusher off the edge. 

With five linemen, the ’Jackets will use just two linebackers, Owen Goldstrom and Demetrius Summers. Both are a bit undersized, so it will be up to the line to keep blockers from getting down the field if the linebackers are to make plays. 

The Berkeley secondary is a highly fluid situation, as the coaching staff tries to keep Baird and Franklin fresh for offense. Baird is a lockdown cornerback, but he will come off the bench to start the season. The starters will be Justin Cain and sophomore Shawn Brown, but Bissell says he will use Baird if he needs him. 

Franklin, on the other hand, will be needed right away, as one projected starter at safety is injured. Franklin will start the Foothill game alongside Craig Hollis, but Bissell would like to minimize his playing time. 

“We’re trying to alleviate the pressure on Germaine and Lee,” Bissell says. “We don’t want them too tired to make plays on offense.” 

Bissell inherited a killer schedule from last year’s head coach, Gary Weaver. All three teams the ’Jackets will face before starting league play, Foothill, James Logan and Dos Palos, beat them last year, and there is little reason to believe that will change this season. 

Last year’s team lost four straight before going 5-1 in the ACCAL, which probably lost the school a North Coast Section playoff spot when they ended up in a three-way tie for the league title. Bissell hopes to avoid such a disastrous start this year, but it will be a tough road. 

“It’s very possible that we will have a repeat of last year,” he says. “I’m not sure we know what it takes to win just yet. But hopefully we’ll figure it out pretty fast.”