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Trio of local seniors sign with California programs

Granite Bay and Woodcreek seniors announce big-time commitments
By: Steven Wilson,
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The man they call Tank is headed to sunny Southern California.

The 6-foot-2, 290-pound lineman from Granite Bay High School announced his verbal commitment to the Cal Poly football program last weekend following his on-campus visit. Taylor ‘Tank’ Tonda joins 18 fellow 2017 commits, including Placer County standout Mason Hurst from Del Oro. 

“I met with the offensive line coach down there, he showed me the campus and told me how the offense works and I just saw it as a great fit,” Tonda admitted. “The school also has the major I wanted to study, which is construction management, so it all seemed to fall in line for me.”

Tonda is the fourth offensive lineman of the incoming class and he’ll join a pair of defensive backs, two linebackers, five defensive linemen, one wide receiver, three running backs and two quarterbacks. He will also compete in the Big Sky Conference, which means he gets a ‘home game’ in Sacramento every other year when Cal Poly plays Sacramento State.

“It’s nice to stay in California — that was a big thing for me,” Tonda acknowledged. “I didn’t want to venture out of the state. But I’m sure my parents will make a few trips down there to watch my games as well.”

Last year, Tonda helped the Grizzlies’ offense rush for over 2,000 yards and throw for over 800. His size and power up front helped neutralize some of the section’s best interior linemen as Granite Bay reached the playoffs for the 18th consecutive time.

Despite playing offense and defense last year for the Grizzlies, Tonda projects to be an offensive guard at the next level. He’ll join a group of 14 linemen at the team’s camp this fall as he looks to make a name for himself and earn playing time. 

“I’m not going into this thinking that I’m going to have to sit just because I’m a freshman,” Tonda confessed. “I have the mentality that I’m going to play and earn my time.”

Cal Poly’s coaching staff praised Tonda for his quick feet and his ability to drive-block heavier defensive tackles. After working closely with one of the top offensive line coaches in the area in Granite Bay’s Lee Evans, Tonda moves on to the next level with a strong foundation and some of the best footwork in his league.

“Being in the SFL, we’ve always had crazy competition,” Tonda said. “The coaches and staff that we have at Granite Bay have always held us to a higher standard. I think that’s going to help me make the jump to the collegiate level.

“He has played against the best competition California has to offer over his two seasons on varsity and was a dominant force in those games,” Granite Bay’s coach Jeff Evans acknowledged. “We think Cal Poly is getting a steal. He is going to make some coach over there very lucky.”

Tonda joins Colorado-commit Isaiah Lewis as the only two football players from Granite Bay to ink letters of intent with Division I teams this offseason.

“Taylor is a special football player,” Evans added. “He is a great combination of size, athleticism, skill, and tenacity. It is rare for a player to have that combination at the high school level. When you do get it, you get a player like Tank. Cal Poly is also getting a very intelligent, tough, driven, and hardworking young man who comes from a great family. It is easy for me to envision him quickly becoming one of their top offensive linemen.”

 

Woodcreek duo joins 2017 class

Two other local preps announced their commitment to Division I and Division II programs over the weekend as Woodcreek High’s Dylan Carlson verbally accepted a preferred walk-on spot at Azusa Pacific and Gabby Pejovich announced her decision to attend Cal State Monterey Bay next fall.

Carlson finished second on the Timberwolves football team with 45 points last year as he connected on all 34 of his extra point attempts and made six of his 10 field goal attempts, including a season-long 39-yard kick against Nevada Union.

The senior joins a Cougars’ program that went 9-3 last year and 8-0 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

“They’re very competitive in their league, so it’s going to be fun to join a program that really knows what they’re doing,” Carlson said. “I’ve been visiting there off and on since my sophomore year, so it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I love the school and I love the program. I have a cousin that goes there and so she gave me some insight as to what the school is all about.”

Carlson was a first team All-SFL selection this past season and he plans on studying psychology or sports science when he arrives on campus next fall. 

“The coaches have told me that I can compete right away and fight for playing time,” Carlson added. “So that’s my hope. I think I am ready to kick during my freshman year.”

Fellow Woodcreek senior Gabby Pejovich also celebrated her commitment to Cal State Monterey Bay at her club’s signing ceremony last Friday. Pejovich took a handful of unofficial visits to Monterey over the past few months, speaking with current players and academic advisors. 

“The school isn’t too far from home and the program is really nice — I like how they stress academic success, on top of athletics,” Pejovich acknowledged. 

Although she’s spent the past few years playing center-back for the Timberwolves, Pejovich will transition to the perimeter at the next level.

“Outside backs attack the ball a lot more, while center-backs try to control the field, communicate with your teammates and hold the back line together,” Pejovich explained. “I like both positions, but I’m looking forward to playing on the outside because that means I can attack more.”

Pejovich has registered the second-most assists on the Timberwolves (4) this season and has scored three goals, including a volley off a corner kick against Del Oro as the Timberwolves claimed a crucial 2-0 victory on the road, Jan. 31. 

Woodcreek closes out the regular season tonight, against Rocklin, and Pejovich will be one of four seniors honored before the game. 

“If we win that game against Rocklin and get some other things to go our way, that would be huge for our team,” Pejovich said. “It’s going to be an emotional night, but we’re just taking it one game at a time and focusing on what we need to do and how we can take care of business.”

Pejovich is considering studying business or biology next fall. Fans can see her lace it up and take on the Thunder tonight at 7:30. The senior night ceremony is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.