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Like a rolling Stone: Stronger Sander helps clear running lanes for Placer Hillmen

By: Matthew Kimel / Journal sports editor
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Senior Stone Sander has done a lot of growing since his first day of school at Placer High.


He’s grown up, he’s grown big and he’s grown as a football player.


The 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound tight end, who is currently sporting a buzz cut, recalls being a short and slim, 5-8, 145-pound freshman with shoulder-length hair.


“With my hair cut off, you wouldn’t even recognize me,” Sander said. “… It’s a whole new person.”


Hitting the gym almost daily and a strict diet of 4,000-plus calories a day for three to four years have helped Sander acquire his built-for-football frame.


Sander’s father, Troy Minton-Sander, a 1988 Placer High alumnus who played football for the Hillmen, remembers a time when he used to look downward to talk to his son.


“He’s matured into a grown man,” Minton-Sander said. “For me, I was always talking down to him and now I have to stare up.”


While other students are off running around, Sander can be found at the gym, pumping iron. Since the ninth grade, he’s worked on getting bigger to achieve his goal of playing college football.


Fast forward to the 12th grade, and Sander is on the cusp of reaching his objective.


The two-way player said he’s been offered a full-ride to Sacramento State and other schools are expressing interest, including San Jose State, UC Davis, University of Nevada, Reno, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


While Sander is considering his options, he’s still working on building more muscle.


“I’m happy with what I’ve done so far but I need to get bigger,” he said. “Getting bigger helps playing two ways. In football being bigger is an advantage. Being in shape is a big thing.”


Last year, Sander’s sole focus was being the starting tight end for the Hillmen.


This year, he’s getting a lot of time on the defensive line, too.


“I love both positions,” he said. “I like getting the ball at tight end, even blocking, I didn’t get to play defensive last year, so I’m fired up about playing D.”
As a tight end, Sander is a dual threat: he can beat you in the air or on the ground.


In last week’s opening-game victory over Central Catholic in Modesto, Sander helped clear the pathways for the Hillmen’s running backs, who amassed 340 rushing yards.


Coach Joey Montoya said Sander was the primary target on three passing plays, although he recorded only one catch for 11 yards. Montoya, however, pointed out that Sander should have connected with quarterback Peter Denham for a score had a play not been blown dead.


“On offense, he’s one of the main focal points in our running game,” Montoya said. “He has a crucial role in making the right blocks. He’s turned into a real weapon. He’s fast, he has good hands. He’s going to help on both sides of the ball this year.”


Defensively, he had four tackles.


 “He gives us balance,” the coach said of Sander’s defensive play. “They can’t just run away from Eddie (Vanderdoes). He’s quick at getting to the QB. He’s a strong kid.”


Sander was inspired to first start playing football because his dad played for the Hillmen.


“I’ve learned most of what I know from him,” Sander said.


For Minton-Sander, it’s an honor to see his son sport green and gold.


“Life has gone full circle,” he said. “It’s an honor to see him serve the team and his teammates.


“… It’s very emotional for me. It brings back a lot of memories. You want your children to do better than you. He’s well on his way. He’s exceeded my expectations.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com

Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel for live updates from today's game