A decade can translate into five lifetimes for a high school football fan, since most programs turn over their rosters every two years with varsity players graduating and new kids arriving from the junior varsity.
Only a handful of sophomores play key roles each season, so most kids get two years of varsity and they're done. With few opportunities to see the best players from each "era" compete against each other, judging the blazing speed of Merced's Wendell Mathis in 2000 against the open-field ability of Sierra's Jarrod Daniels in 2009 becomes a test of memory.
That's what makes selecting a Stanislaus District All-Decade Football Team such fun. Everyone's got their own opinion of the top players from the past 10 years, and we talked with plenty of coaches and players who provided hundreds of names deserving of the honor.
Who wouldn't love to see Merced's passing combo of Logan Todd and Carter Todd (2006) compete against a Manteca secondary of Gilbert Martinez (2002) and Michael Turner (2005)? Or how about Central Catholic linebackers Byron Storer (2001) and Justin Moye (2002) versus a backfield of Pitman's Anthony Harding (2005) and Johansen's 2,000-yard rusher Deven Cannon (2008).
Until EA Sports produces a "Madden NFL: Stanislaus District" video game, the best we can do is compare statistics and analyze the quality of competition as we select the All-Decade Football Team.
About 1,400 kids suit up for varsity football each fall, so we're selecting a handful from more than 10,000 who took the field this past decade. The Bee has selected 53 players — a Player of the Decade, and first- and second-teams — as well as a Coach of the Decade.
The judging was simple: Who were the best high school football players during the decade? We didn't care how the players evolved in college or whether they played in the NFL, as a few did; we focused solely on what they accomplished for their high school teams.
When we talked to coaches about the Player of the Decade, the same names kept popping up: Hilmar's Nathan Costa (Class of 2005), Central Catholic's Louis Bland (2007) and Modesto Christian's Isaiah Burse (2009).
Each was The Bee's Player of the Year, but there was little overlap: Burse and Bland met once in 2007, and Costa was never on the field with the other two.
The deciding factors were the impact they had on the game and how we believe they would have fared against other top players of the decade.
The Bee's Player of the Decade is Burse, a dynamic quarterback who finished his career with 11,205 yards offense and 148 touchdowns. He was just as potent on defense: 210 tackles, 12 interceptions, nine fumble recoveries and seven forced fumbles in four varsity seasons.
Burse's Crusaders became the first Northern California team to go 15-0 and the first district team to win a state bowl when they beat Francis Parker of San Diego in the Small School Bowl this month. Winning a state title on the field — previous state champs were determined by rankings — certainly was a benefit for Burse, as was his remarkable playoff run this season.
As a quarterback, he benefited from the ball being in his hands every play. The reputation he began cultivating as a freshman at tiny Calvary Temple — he transferred to MC as a sophomore — didn't hurt.
Burse played his freshman season as a 14-year-old, and the Sac-Joaquin Section says such youngsters aren't capable of competing at varsity. It wasn't until after the regular season ended that Burse's age came to light, and by that time he had already accounted for 2,914 yards and 43 TDs.
Bland and Costa didn't do anything not to deserve the honor: Bland was twice The Bee's Player of the Year and Costa was a three-year star who earned a scholarship to play quarterback at the University of Oregon.
The Bee's Coach of the Decade is Escalon's Mark Loureiro, whose teams were 104-19-1 this decade.
Here are a few highlights from the first and second teams:
There are six players from 2006 Merced team — the Todd brothers, tailback Garrett Turner, tight end Jarrett Sparks, linebacker James Sulhoff and defensive back Bernard Bolden. It was the district's team of the decade, though it didn't win a section title.
The Bears lost 37-36 to Vacaville in the Division I final when their 2-point conversion pass, with no time on the clock, was batted down. That game was played during an era when D1 football was the best in the section.
Merced has nine of the 53 players, while Manteca, Oakdale and Central Catholic have five each and Escalon has three each. No surprise there, since those are the district's most successful programs during the decade.
There are four sets of brothers: The Todds, Merced tailbacks Wendell and Stephon Mathis, Beyer offensive tackles Chris and Matt Hines, and Central Catholic centers Dominic and Matthew Galas.
The district's most talent-laden classes were 2005 and '07, with seven players apiece being selected. Six players were chosen from 2000, '02, '03, '06 and '08, while only two were taken from 2001 and '04.
Five players were selected from this season: Burse, Matthew Galas, Sierra tailback Jarrod Daniels, Downey receiver Javon Kelly and Oakdale fullback Tim House. The latter four were second-team picks.