Dhameer Warren is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. The Merced High senior quarterback was a threat with his arm and his ability to run.
When he lined up at cornerback on defense, opposing quarterbacks rarely threw his way.
The third-year varsity starter played a big role in leading Merced to a perfect 10-0 regular season record and a Central California Conference championship. Warren was selected by the CCC coaches as the conference MVP.
Warren is also the Sun-Star Football Player of the Year.
“Scoring touchdowns is always fun,” Warren said. “But it wasn’t just one player for us. We scored from all over the field. We scored on defense and special teams. We had a lot of players score. When everyone is scoring it’s awesome.”
It’s that type of attitude that made Merced coach Rob Scheidt comfortable going with two quarterbacks this season.
After taking the bulk of the snaps at quarterback the last two seasons, Warren shared the quarterback duties with fellow senior Junior Garcia. The duo helped the Merced offense average 47.7 points per game.
“I knew Junior was capable of holding it down,” Warren said. “I knew I was going to play a lot on defense. Last year that took a big tole on me, playing offense and defense. I understood it was going to be best for the team.”
Warren completed 60 of 90 passes for 912 yards and 14 touchdowns. One year after throwing 15 interceptions, Warren threw just one pick all season.
The fleet-footed senior also ran for 760 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“We talk a lot about what it means to be a team player,” Scheidt said. “What does that look like? Here’s one person sacrificing for the sake of the team. We didn’t know how it would play out. We hoped it would work. A lot of it goes to Dhameer for buying into it. Him having faith in Junior. Because of it he was fresher at quarterback and defensive back.”
Warren made an impact on defense, with three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He also returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score against Central Valley.
Warren was a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
“I think first and foremost, his speed is his biggest weapon,” said Scheidt. “His development as an athlete and his understanding of the game has grown so much. He understands our passing game and running game. He knows when to give the ball and when to keep it.”
The one blemish was Merced’s early exit in the playoffs with a 45-40 loss to River Valley in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
“We definitely should have won that game,” Warren said. “Everything hurt even more because our first loss was our last loss. We weren’t used to losing. We hadn’t lost all season.”
Warren’s future plans are still up in the air. He’s been offered a preferred walk-on opportunity at Fresno State. Arizona has also offered him a chance to walk-on.
He’s happy he’s leaving Merced as a CCC champion.
“It was great,” Warren said. “Merced has a big tradition of winning league titles. I believe we could have won a title my sophomore year. There was some good teams my junior year. This year we had some guys step up and we got it.”
Nick Eckles, Merced
Merced High senior Nick Eckles started playing water polo out of a hatred toward swimming. He had tried all kinds of sports growing up but nothing stuck.
He tried wrestling, but that only lasted a couple matches. He tried playing tennis, but that only lasted two weeks. He gave basketball and soccer a shot.
Water polo finally captured his interest.
“I hated swimming, but I wanted to find something to do,” Eckles said. “Water polo practice was on the other side of the pool so I decided to try it.”
Eckles started out as a goalie, mostly because he didn’t have to swim up and down the pool. He eventually left the cage and developed into one of the top players in the Central California Conference.
Eckles was named the CCC Most Valuable Player by the conference coaches. Eckles is also the Sun-Star Boys Water Polo Player of the Year.
“It meant a lot to me that the players selected me for that reward,” Eckles said. “In the past few years there have been some really good players like Abraham Santana, Connor Norton, Brett Fogelberg and Josh Fluetsch. I’d never consider myself near those guys. To receive the same honor that they did means a lot to me.”
Eckles finished second on Merced with 70 goals, but really made his impact on defense. He often was matched up against the top scorer for opposing teams. He finished with 136 steals.
“I used to be a goalie so I always liked to help him out,” Eckles said. “I always liked the challenge of playing defense. Being a goalie, I’m not always the best offensive guy. I like seeing what I can do on defense.”
Cole McKain, Merced
Like many athletes, Merced High junior Cole McKain set personal goals for himself coming into the season. He accomplished just about every goal he set.
“I have to say I surprised myself,” he said. “I did better than I thought I could. I had a really good season.”
Good is an understatement.
McKain went undefeated in the three Central California Conference center meets, helping lead the Merced High boys team to a conference championship and a CIF State Meet berth.
For the second consecutive season, McKain is the Sun-Star Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
McKain got faster as the season went along. He started with a win in the first CCC center meet at River Bluff Regional Park in Modesto with a time of 16 minutes and 35.1 seconds. He won the second center meet at Lake Yosemite with a time of 15:56.4. He followed that in the third center meet at Buhach Colony with a time of 15:36.5.
McKain finished third individually at the Sac-Joaquin Section sub-section Division III race (16:27.1) and then third again at the section championships with a time of 16:36.8. It was at the section race that the Bears punched their ticket to the state meet as a team.
“Yeah, I want to state last year, but to go as a team is way better,” McKain said. “There’s more motivation when you’re training with all your teammates. It gets hard to train by yourself. There’s nobody to run with. When you have your team it’s more inspiring.”
QB – Dhammer Warren, Merced
QB – Marcus Ordunez, Pacheco
RB – Julian Moran, Pacheco
RB – Isaac Sharp, Hilmar
RB – Charles Jackson, Atwater
WR – Xavier Stewart, Merced
WR – Ronald Harris, El Capitan
OL – Clifford Johnson, Merced
OL – Nick Aguilera, Hilmar
OL – Manvir Lally, Pacheco
OL – Aristeo Prado, Golden Valley
OL – Miguel Govea, Merced
K – Bryan Millan, Hilmar
Utility – Jordan Hornbeak, Chowchilla
DL – Mason Reel, Buhach Colony
DL – Logan Wiliams, Merced
DL – Izaiah Flores, Los Banos
DL – Davon Johnson, Golden Valley
LB – Patrick Nunes, Los Banos
LB – Justin Rentfro, Hilmar
LB – Ryan Leonardo, Mariposa
LB – Noah Perez, Buhach Colony
DB – Avery Townsel, Golden Valley
DB – Nate Moore, Atwater
DB – Ronnie Miranda, Merced
DB – Youlas Dickson, Buhach Colony
Coach: Frank Marques, Hilmar
Jack Bustabade, Buhach Colony
Aidan Ramirez, El Capitan
Will Seifert, Buhach Colony
Rocco Cuttone, El Capitan
Easton Hamm, Merced
Andre Dalia, Buhach Colony
Andrew Brown, El Capitan
David Chen, Merced
Matt Rogers, Atwater
Colin McIlhatton, Buhach Colony
Coach: Dan McIlhatton, Buhach Colony
Enrique Robles Ceja, Merced
Daniel Herrera, Pacheco
William Perez-Rios, Merced
Angel Coronado, Buhach Colony
Ben Livermore, Merced
Coach: Tim Hagerman, Merced