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Note: This year’s Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year will be named by Friday, Jan. 3. All finalists listed in alphabetical order. Thanks also to Paul Muyskens for contributing to this post. Congratulations to these seven players for all having memorable performances throughout the 2013 season.
Jake Browning (Folsom)
Him being a finalist is no surprise given how he has obliterated the state record book in multiple categories. Browning also already has been named the Gatorade State Player of the Year, although the Gatorade picks have never been released before the season is over. In leading Folsom to a 14-1 record and spot opposite Concord De La Salle in the CIF NorCal Open Division bowl game, Browning passed for at least 300 yards in all of Folsom’s games. He completed 440 of his 579 pass attempts for 5,737 yards and 75 touchdowns. While not known for rushing, he did rush for six touchdowns and twice during the playoffs had games with two touchdown runs. His biggest performance of the season came during a 67-36 win over San Ramon Valley of Danville as he completed 37 of 48 pass attempts for 596 yards and eight touchdowns while he had 11 games where he had at least five touchdown passes.
Royce Freeman (Imperial)
Regarded as one of the nation’s top running back prospects, Freeman came up short of his first 3,000 yard rushing season but he did get close as he rushed for 2,824 yards and 41 touchdowns in 12 games. Freeman, who will play next at the University of Oregon, was on the Imperial varsity for all four of his high school years. He rushed for 2,075 yards and 35 touchdowns as a sophomore and then rushed for 2,482 yards and 34 touchdowns last season to end his high school career with 7,606 yards and 111 touchdowns running the football. He also caught 33 passes for 416 yards and more six scores in his career. In four of the Tigers’ first five games he ran for five touchdowns while his season-high in rushing yards came against Central of El Centro with 311 yards on 38 carries during a 45-28 win.
Adoree Jackson (Serra, Gardena)
To say he’s a playmaker would be an understatement and even in the team’s only loss – a 38-35 defeat at the hands of eventual CIF Division II state bowl game Chaminade of West Hills – Jackson’s punt return for a score was on ESPN SportsCenter as a top 10 play. Playing on offense, defense and special teams, this All-American, who has yet to commit, rushed for 639 yards and five touchdowns while catching 38 passes for 812 yards and seven scores. On defense and special teams, Jackson scored a total of six more touchdowns on the year including the two in the season finale to finish with 18 touchdowns. On defense, Jackson racked up six interceptions and made 26 tackles.
Donovan Lee (Chaminade, West Hills)
For the second straight season, the Eagles have a finalist as Lee follows in the footsteps of running back Terrell Newby. While Chaminade’s offense also includes Miami-bound Brad Kaaya at quarterback, Lee contributed to the 14-2 season and CIF D2 state title on offense and defense. That was never more evident than in the last game against Enterprise of Redding when he picked off three passes, ran one back for a score and scored on a nine-yard run. For the season, Lee, who has committed to Colorado, rushed for 1,978 yards and 37 TDs. He also caught 30 passes for 610 more yards and four scores. He had 43 TDs in all. Lee’s best games also were against Chaminade’s toughest opponents, such as 133 yards and four scores in the second game against Serra of Gardena, 274 yards and seven TDs against St. Francis of La Canada and 222 yards and five TDs against Oaks Christian.
Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco, Bellflower)
Rosen’s numbers may not be as impressive as fellow finalist Jake Browning, but he did lead his team to the win over De La Salle of Concord as the Braves defeated the Spartans 20-14 in the CIF Open Division championship game to end the season as the top team in the state. In the state finals, he passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 71 yards. Despite battling an injury for a couple of weeks, Rosen still finished the season with 3,200 yards and 39 touchdowns throwing the ball and 397 yards and eight touchdowns running it. He passed for over 300 yards just once this season with 307 yards and five touchdowns in a season-opening 40-7 win over Dominguez of Compton. Rosen had a season-high of four rushing touchdowns in a win against Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita.
Asauni Rufus (Bakersfield)
As the top player from the CIF Central Section who just led the Drillers to the CIF Division I state final, Rufus has climbed up the tracker and is now one of the six finalists. The double-threat QB led the Drillers to their first state title since 1927 in a 56-26 victory against Del Oro of Loomis. On the night, he passed for 71 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 184 yards and two touchdowns to finish the season 1,575 yards passing and 12 touchdowns along with 1,831 yards rushing and 31 scores. He rushed for over 100 yards in 10 games this season including a season-high 278 yards and four touchdowns on 43 carries during a 51-50 loss to Oaks Christian of Westlake Village. Rufus has committed to Nevada.
Tre Watson (Centennial, Corona)
Leading the rushing attack for the most prolific offense in state history (based on yardage), Watson rushed for 3,734 yards and scored 50 touchdowns on 417 carries this season. During Centennial’s 86-56 playoff win over Upland that saw the Huskies set a state record for total offense at 946 yards, he carried the ball 40 times for 519 yards and six touchdowns. He ran for over 300 yards in six games while rushing for at least three touchdowns in nine games. We saw him chew up 466 yards and score seven times on 37 carries in a 69-55 win against St. Bonaventure of Ventura. Watson’s season ended rushing for 236 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries against eventual State Team of the Year St. John Bosco of Bellflower. He is still listed with a verbal commitment to Cal, but that one doesn’t seem solid. UCLA is clearly in the running as well.