DeBoard: Local duo set to play in D-I

As Central Catholic High's top receiver, James Orth terrorized opposing defenses with a combination of his size and speed.

He'll get a chance to do that at the college level for the next four years as well.

Wednesday, Orth signed a national letter-of-intent to play on scholarship for San Jose State.

Orth, a Modesto Bee all-District utility selection for his prowess at both receiver and safety, is being recruited as a receiver.

Orth is one of two Stanislaus District football players to commit to NCAA Division I colleges Wednesday, National Signing Day. Pitman defensive lineman Andy Jennings signed to play for Fresno State in an afternoon ceremony at the Pitman High library.

Orth was on San Jose State's radar well before any other school.

"Over summer, I went to a camp at San Jose (over a Fresno camp)," Orth said. "I must have done really well. They called and offered me a scholarship two days later."

He had a dominant senior season as well.

Orth caught 48 passes for 805 yards and nine touchdowns. He also carried the ball on rushes and returned kicks and was one of the Raiders' defensive leaders at safety.

"He made so many plays, both on offense and defense," Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa said. "He showed no fear in going up and getting the ball."

Spartans head coach Dick Tomey visited Orth at home last week to confirm his commitment. And in front of a crowd of family and friends, he signed.

"(Tomey) seems like a family-oriented coach," Orth said. "It feels like the 'We' concept that we have here at Central Catholic."

Jennings had a dominant season at defensive line for the Pride.

The all-District selection was named the Central California Conference outstanding defensive player.

He joins former Pride standout Anthony Harding, a running back who will be a junior for the Bulldogs next year. Fellow Turlock natives Tom Brandstater (just completed his last year at Fresno State) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) are also at Division I schools.

"What those guys have done is give colleges a reason to come to Turlock to look at players and not just skip Turlock on their way to Modesto and Merced," Jennings said.

Jennings was in contact with Nevada early in the season, but said no one from the Wolf Pack program has been in contact with him since the bowl season. Fresno State began recruiting Jennings in November and was the only school to offer a scholarship.

"I went to some Fresno State games, but I just never thought I'd be playing there," Jennings said. "I always thought I was good enough to go Division I. If I hadn't received an offer, I probably would have gone to a junior college."

Central Catholic soccer player Jessica Kent also committed Wednesday. The outside defender will play for Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo. The Division II Mavericks play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

"I really like the coach (Erin Sharp)," Kent said. "They're building a strong foundation. They're getting better."

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Kent, who helped her team to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship game as a junior, will be part of that process.

"It's exciting," she said.

She's got another reason to be excited about Mesa State.

"I wanted to go somewhere where there's a lot of snow," she said. "I love to go snowboarding."

CENTRAL CATHOLIC'S football team will continue to play Cardinal Newman for its season opener at least for the next two years, said Canepa. The game won't be at either team's home field, however.

The Raiders and the Cardinals will meet in the Battle at the Capital, a four-game event at Sacramento State on Sept. 12 at 5 p.m.

"It's a two-year deal," Canepa said. "We should have a pretty good crowd for those games."

The lineup is subject to change, but the other three games are Franklin of Elk Grove vs. California of San Ramon, Del Oro vs. Sacred Heart of San Mateo and the nightcap, Granite Bay vs. Pittsburg.

The games will be televised on Comcast.

Canepa also confirmed that Central Catholic and Merced are in talks to schedule a game.

"We may not be able to make it work this year, but it could happen next year," he said. "Playing quality teams like Merced will only help us become better."

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.