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Locals suit up for college bowl games

Vereen, Wolitarsky, Jacobs lead SCV talent into postseason play

Posted: December 19, 2013 9:07 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2013 9:07 p.m.

Former Golden Valley standout Leon Jacobs is now a freshman linebacker at the University of Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Athletic Communications

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Another dramatic college football regular season has come to a close, but multiple Santa Clarita Valley talents are still watching tape and taking practice licks in preparation for this year’s slate of postseason bowl games.

From the American Midwest Conference to the Pac-12, former Foothill League stars have excelled at the next level.

Here’s what you need to know as their teams prepare for nationally televised postseason competition.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — Buffalo vs. San Diego State at Boise, ID — Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN

Former Canyon Cowboy Japheth Gordon and former West Ranch quarterback Jake Bernards will take the field for San Diego State against Buffalo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the first day of bowl game action. Gordon, a former All-Foothill League defensive lineman at Canyon, has started eight games for the Aztecs during his senior campaign.

The 300-pound left guard missed four of the team’s last five games after sustaining a foot injury against Fresno State on Oct. 26.

Bernards, a senior, hasn’t taken a snap at quarterback for San Diego State this year. Buffalo finished the regular season with an 8-4 record.

Texas Bowl — Syracuse vs. Minnesota at Houston, Texas — Friday, Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. on ESPN

Former Valencia High graduate Brock Vereen and former Canyon standout Drew Wolitarsky lead a much-improved Minnesota Golden Gophers team into the Texas Bowl against a Syracuse squad that finished its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 6-6 record.

The Golden Gophers, who finished 8-4 and fourth in the Big Ten Legends Division, appear in the Texas Bowl for the second straight season. Minnesota lost 34-31 to Texas Tech last year in a thriller that went down to the wire. The game will bookend Vereen’s career at Minnesota, and more immediately a dominant senior season.

The defensive back tallied 56 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble on his way to All-Big Ten first team honors as voted by the coaches.

After breaking numerous Foothill League and state records as a wide receiver at Canyon, Wolitarsky saw considerable action during his first season at Minnesota.

The 6-foot-3, 223-pound freshman caught 11 passes for 165 yards in 2013, including a three-catch, 56 yard performance against a Michigan State team that’s playing in the Rose Bowl.

Hyundai Sun Bowl — Virginia Tech vs. No. 17 UCLA at El Paso, Texas — Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 11 a.m. on CBS

Former Valencia running back Steven Manfro will take the field with the BCS 17th-ranked Bruins for their showdown with Virginia Tech from the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

The redshirt sophomore gained 70 yards on the ground with a touchdown for UCLA in 2013, also catching eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.

 Manfro scored both of his touchdowns in a 59-13 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 21. UCLA was a threat to capture the Pac-12 South Division title all season, but ultimately finished second behind Arizona State.

Capital One Bowl — No. 19 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 South Carolina at Orlando, Fla. — Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 10 a.m. on ABC

Former Golden Valley running back Leon Jacobs has seen action in every game this season at outside linebacker for a Badgers team that enters a New Year’s Day showdown with BCS top 10 powerhouse South Carolina. The freshman has totaled six tackles and a 1.5 tackles for loss in 2013.

After its controversial road loss to Arizona State on Sept. 14, Wisconsin rebounded to win seven of its last nine games and maintain its top 25 pedigree under first-year head coach Gary Andersen.

With a win, the Badgers will hit the 10-win mark for the fourth time in five seasons. They’ll face a South Carolina team that finished second to Missouri in the Southeastern Conference’s East Division.

ernie@signalscv.com

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