Modesto Christian High's football team has had the luxury of going into each of its 14 football games knowing it possessed the best player on the field — Isaiah Burse.
The Crusaders might not be able to make that claim when they face Parker of San Diego on Friday in the CIF Small School Bowl in Carson.
While Burse has developed into one of Northern California's elite dual-threat quarterbacks, Parker has a very similar star in Deon Randall.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder is pondering offers from Navy, Air Force, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, UC Davis and San Diego State. Burse is two inches taller, five pounds heavier, and has been talking to his two college favorites — Nevada and Fresno State.
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Burse has voiced his desire to play receiver in college, and Randall's height means he projects as a receiver, too.
While recruiting interest in Burse and Randall has increased as they put up their prolific numbers, Friday's game is another opportunity for both to impress colleges.
Central Catholic's Louis Bland wasn't on the Pac-10 radar until dazzling recruiters in the Division 3 Bowl in 2007. That persuaded Washington State to offer, and Bland had an impact his freshman year.
MC has been expecting a bowl bid since routing Placer 61-40 in Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 title game. It has been No. 1 in the CalHiSports.com Northern California small-school rankings since August, and the Crusaders have done nothing to endanger the top spot.
Parker beat St. Margaret's of San Juan Capistrano — last year's small-school champ — in Week 2 and that was St. Margaret's only loss.
Parker won its first game 40-6 over Hoover, but later forfeited due to using an ineligible player in a transfer error. Its on-field loss was to Mission Bay of San Diego, a D2 school that featured a USC commit and finished at 14-0.
Randall's role for the Lancers is similar to Burse's function for the Crusaders. He is a dual threat, with 2,881 yards and 35 TDs — 1,248 yards and 13 TDs in the air, 1,637 yards and 22 TDs on the ground.
And, like Burse, he plays on defense and has five picks.
MC will be only the second Stanislaus District team to go to a state bowl game — Central Catholic fell 35-21 to St. Bonaventure in the 2007 D3 Bowl.
The Crusaders also hope to buck a trend that has seen NorCal teams suffer at the hands of their SoCal peers.
There have been 11 games since the CIF began its bowl system in 2006, and NorCal teams are 2-9. The only wins were by Grant in 2008 (Open) and De La Salle in 2007 (D1).
The first small-school bowl was last year and it was a disaster — St. Margaret's routed Hamilton 59-7 — and that played a role Sunday in the section commissioners deciding to keep MC in this game.
There had been talk of moving MC up to the D3 Bowl. It was discussed during the selection meeting, but so was last year's small-school rout.
The 10 commissioners voted on teams for each of the five games, and determined it was better to send Marin Catholic to the D3 game and keep MC where its 314-student enrollment says it should play.
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at 578-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.