Merced’s ulitmate weapon. Bears’ star leads list of fall boys honorees.

Merced senior quarterback Dhameer Warren (1) rushes for a touchdown during a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff game against River Valley at Veterans Stadium in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Falcons beat the Bears 45-40.
Merced senior quarterback Dhameer Warren (1) rushes for a touchdown during a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff game against River Valley at Veterans Stadium in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Falcons beat the Bears 45-40.

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.

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Merced’s Dhameer Warren poses for a portrait in Merced, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. Andrew Kuhn

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.

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Merced senior quarterback Dhameer Warren (1) scrambles out of the pocket during a game against Madera at Veterans Stadium on the campus of Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. The Bears beat the Coyotes 63-35. Andrew Kuhn

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.”

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Nicke Eckles, Merced High Photo By Paul Hogue, Merced High

Water Polo

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.”

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Merced’s Cole McKain, front, leads Atwater’s Raul Flores, during a Central California Conference center meet last season. McKain went undefeated in the three CCC center meets this year. Andrew Kuhn

Cross Country

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.”

All-Area Honorees



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

Water Polo

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

Cross Country

Enrique Robles Ceja, Merced

Daniel Herrera, Pacheco

William Perez-Rios, Merced

Angel Coronado, Buhach Colony

Ben Livermore, Merced

Coach: Tim Hagerman, Merced