Note: The list of honorees who have been Mr. Football State Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports extends back to 1890 and includes Toby Gerhart of Norco (2005), D.J. Williams of Concord De La Salle (1999), John Elway of Granada Hills (1978), Marcus Allen of San Diego Lincoln (1977), Dick Bass of Vallejo (1954) and Morley Drury of Long Beach Poly (1923). Last year’s winner was receiver Deontay Greenberry from Washington of Easton. This year’s winner will be named in early January and will include all performances through the CIF state bowl championship games. Writeups below by Mark Tennis, Ronnie Flores and Paul Muyskens.
THE LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE
Su’a Cravens (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta)
The 6-1, 210-pound senior was the 2011 State Junior of the Year and is on track for another very strong and possibly sensational season. Cravens, who also was the 2011 L.A. Times Player of the Year (including seniors), has led the Broncos to a 5-0 start to their season. He has scored four times on pass receptions, twice on rushes and on defense he is averaging nine tackles per game with a high of 13. Cravens also has two sacks, scored on a 86-yard interception return and has blocked a punt. He has committed to USC.
Note: Only one Cal-Hi Sports State Junior of the Year in the past two decades has come back to be Mr. Football as a senior and that would be current Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams from Concord De La Salle, who was the junior winner for the 1998 season and was Mr. Football for 1999.
BIG-TIME PROSPECTS LIVING UP TO ACCLAIM
Jared Goff (Marin Catholic, Kentfield) QB
Showing why he will be headed to Cal next season, Goff recently went a perfect 8 for 8 for 155 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-12 win over Redwood of Larkspur. Last season, he passed for 3,210 yards and 45 touchdowns while leading the Wildcats to the CIF North Coast Section Division III championship game. During the offseason, he was one of two quarterbacks from Northern California to be selected to compete in the Elite 11 quarterback competition. Out of the 24 quarterbacks in attendance, Goff finished ranked No. 6. Goff’s team also is currently the top-ranked team in our Division II North Bowl Game rankings with a record of 5-1.
Michael Hutchings (De La Salle, Concord) LB
Much like Michael Barton was last year, Hutchings is the most visible and senior leader of a dominant Spartans’ defense. Barton, now at Cal, was eventually a Mr. Football finalist. Hutchings (6-3, 210) is committed to USC and might have the speed to be converted to strong safety. He also gets onto the field on offense as a tight end and extra running back on the goal line. Hutchings’ possibilities to be Mr. Football depend on De La Salle’s success as a team and how many impressive outings the defensive unit turns in. It also could depend on how many touchdowns running back Tiapepe Vitale scores on offense. Vitale, in the end, could be the team’s top honors candidate if he has 40 touchdowns or more.
Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer, Auburn) DL-FB
Whether the Hillmen end up in a CIF NorCal Division II or Division III bowl game, it’s going to be the force of Vanderdoes, all 6-4, 305 pounds of him, that mostly paves the way. Vanderdoes, who has committed to USC and is one of the top-ranked defensive line prospects in the nation, has helped Placer to a 5-0 start. He is averaging five tackles per game, routinely draws double and triple teams, and has 4.5 sacks and one safety. Vanderdoes also can be devastating as blocking fullback on offense.
Troy Williams (Narbonne, Harbor City) QB
The 6-foot-0 175-pound signal-caller is the L.A. City Section’s most dynamic dual-threat QB since Taft’s Josh Portis in 2004 or even San Pedro’s Melvin Yarbrough in 1996. Not since Yarbrough has there been a highly regarded dual-threat QB with the opportunity to lead a L.A. City Section team to an unbeaten season and top five state rating. So far, the Washington-bound Williams has completed 63 of 93 pass attempts for 882 yards with seven touchdowns against three interceptions. He also has five rushing touchdowns so far against top-notch competition. Williams plays a lot like Washington’s current QB, St. John Bosco product Keith Price, when he attended St. John Bosco with the main difference being Williams has a lot more talent around him. That will play to his advantage as Narbonne has a legitimate chance to become the L.A. City Section’s first program to win a CIF state title in the modern era.
WISH HIS CHANCES HADN’T JUST ENDED
Johnny Stanton (Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) QB-RB
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Stanton was the heart and soul of the defending CIF Div. I state champions. We say was because two weeks ago after he led the Eagles to a thrilling non-league victory over St. Bonaventure of Ventura, it was announced the following weekend that Stanton would miss the remainder of this season with an ACL injury. The Nebraska-bound Stanton is still listed on the tracker since he has not yet technically missed a game. Even without playing any more games, Stanton is the Eagles’ all-time total offense leader with 5,558 yards and 4th on the school’s career passing yardage list with 3,576 yards. If Stanton hadn’t gotten hurt, it’s safe to say he’d be the No. 2 player on the tracker after Vista Murrieta’s Su’a Cravens.
STAT STARS THAT COULD END UP TOO OVERWHELMING NOT TO PICK
Jake Browning (Folsom) QB
Not even originally projected to be the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, this sophomore got national attention in his very first start as he passed for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns in a 68-28 win over Woodcreek of Roseville. Browning looks to be the next Folsom quarterback set to put up big yearly and career numbers. His career numbers have a chance to pass 2010 Mr. Football Dano Graves and Tanner Trosin and the system the Bulldogs run puts points up in a hurry. Entering this week’s game with unbeaten Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills in a matchup of two 5-0 teams, Browning has passed for 2,010 yards and 19 touchdowns. In addition to Graves being the Mr. Football winner two years ago, Trosin was a finalist last season.
Conner Manning (El Toro, Lake Forest) QB
After passing for 4,219 yards and 41 touchdowns in his junior year, this talented signal caller is on pace to throw for even more yards this season. After six games (all El Toro wins), Manning had thrown for 2.572 yards and 27 touchdowns to help the Chargers rank No. 22 in our latest state rankings. Manning’s best game of the season was one for the record books as he broke the Orange County record for passing yards in a game when he went 45 of 59 for 613 yards and seven touchdowns in a 77-46 win over Valhalla of El Cajon. The seven touchdown passes in a game wasn’t a record but it was his career high. The Utah-bound Manning has thrown for at least 313 yards and three touchdowns in every game this season.
Olito Thompson (Concord) RB
Although Thompson is on pace for 2,000 yards rushing for the regular season, he is still known for his playoff rampage from last year. He finished with 3,488 yards and 34 touchdowns. It was an all-time best for Northern California for yardage in a season and ranked No. 4 in the state. Thompson had 11 carries for 251 yards and three touchdowns in his first outing this year and was sitting at 894 yards and 12 TDs entering this week’s action. Thompson has committed to Washington State.
Others who could make a charge, especially if their teams win major section or state championships or if they continue to put up record-breaking totals:
Levon Coleman (Lompoc) RB
Devon Dunn (Alemany, Mission Hills) QB-RB
Ian Feihler (Mission Viejo) QB
Robert Frazier (Elk Grove) RB
Zachary Green (St. Bonaventure, Ventura) RB
Joe Mathis (Upland) DE-TE
James Toland (Shadow Hills, Indio) RB
Tiapepe Vitale (De La Salle, Concord) RB
Drew Wolitarsky (Canyon, Canyon Country) WR
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