Check inside this post for the honorees who have been chosen among seniors, sophomores, medium schools, small schools and for those who play defense. Two of the winners are from the South Bay region of the CIF Southern Section.
To see who has been named Mr. Football Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year, CLICK HERE.
For a list of our all-time players of the year for juniors, sophomores, medium schools and small schools, CLICK HERE.
For last year’s first State Defensive POY honor post, CLICK HERE.
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Congratulations to the following additional Cal-Hi Sports State Players of the Year for the 2015 football season (the Junior of the Year this time, Najee Harris of Antioch, is also the overall Mr. Football Player of the Year):
STATE SENIOR OF THE YEAR:
J.J. TAYLOR (CENTENNIAL, CORONA)
The Huskies boasted of having the State Junior Player of the Year last season with receiver Javon McKinley, who committed to Notre Dame during last Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Game.
For their historic run at the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division title and runner-up finish in the state, however, Taylor has to be their top honors candidate.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise’s Offensive Player of the Year and the L.A. Times Back of the Year had a spectacular outing against St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the CIFSS Pac-5 final that matched the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in one national poll with 269 yards rushing and five TDs. He also had 219 yards in the section semifinals plus 170 yards vs. De La Salle in the state final, which was the most yards the stingy Spartan defense gave up to any one running back all season.
Taylor, a power-packed 5-foot-7, 170-pounder who has committed to Arizona, finished the season with 2,290 yards rushing and scored 41 touchdowns.
George Hemingway of Colton in 1986 was the last senior selected for this honor the last time a junior was chosen as the overall State Player of the Year.
STATE SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR:
CAMERON RISING (NEWBURY PARK)
For the second straight year, a Newbury Park player has won out in this category in another difficult decision. Last year, it was Panther two-way receiver/defensive back Darnay Holmes who was chosen and this time it goes to the team’s new quarterback, who didn’t have the luxury of throwing to Holmes since he transferred to Calabasas.
The other primary player involved in this choice didn’t play very far from Rising. In fact, quarterback Matt Corral from Oaks Christian of Westlake Village and Rising were both second team All-Ventura County behind two seniors – Jake Constantine of Camarillo and Max Gilliam of Thousand Oaks – who were first team.
While Corral had slightly more yards (3,283), played in the CIFSS Pac-5 Division and for a better team, Rising was right behind (3,213) and had the more amazing total of 40 touchdown passes and just one interception. That interception also took place in the first game, meaning he had nearly 300 throws without a pick, and Rising didn’t have a big-time weapon like Corral did in All-American wideout Michael Pittman Jr.
It also was hard not to notice that Rising and not Corral was the Ventura County coaches association East Offensive Player of the Year. Plus, Rising showed a bit more running ability with more than 700 yards rushing.
Trust us, we’ll get both onto the all-state sophomore team and both should be major college prospects and if we did have ties, then this might be one of them. We don’t have ties, though, and Rising has gotten the nod.
In case you’re wondering, the last time a school had back-to-back State Sophomores of the Year was De La Salle of Concord with Atari Callen (1996) and D.J. Williams (1997).
STATE MEDIUM SCHOOLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
MIQUE JUAREZ (NORTH, TORRANCE)
Yes, North of Torrance does indeed fall into the medium schools category, which makes Juarez a somewhat obvious choice to be the winner.
A finalist for Mr. Football, Juarez already has been picked as the winner of the Glenn Davis Award by the Los Angeles Times and as the South Bay Daily Breeze Player of the Year. Just getting the Daily Breeze honor says a lot since that had to be a tough decision between Juarez and Gardena Serra quarterback Khalil Tate, who also was a Mr. Football finalist and who rushed and passed for more than 2,000 yards.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder is considered the No. 1 linebacker prospect nationally and while he did dominate on defense he did even more for the Saxons on offense.
Final totals for Juarez had him with 146 tackles, including 21 for a loss, plus five sacks, four deflections and two fumbles caused. Playing quarterback, he accounted for a whopping 60 TDs for a 9-3 team, including 36 rushing, 23 passing and one kickoff return. In addition, he passed for 1,658 yards and rushed for 1,370.
Juarez, who at one time was a USC commit, is still deciding where he’ll play next season.
It should be noted that considered as runner-up to Juarez for the medium schools category was Fresno State-bound Central Catholic of Modesto running back Justin Rice. He led the Raiders to a 16-0 record and to the CIF Small Schools Open Division title, but they were classified as medium schools for all-state due to the league they’re in and the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoff division they won (Division III). Rice broke a school record with 2,698 rushing yards while scoring 32 touchdowns. In just his six postseason games alone, Rice rushed for 1,331 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The last player from the Los Angeles South Bay region to be the medium schools selection was quarterback Matt Engle of El Segundo in 2002.
STATE SMALL SCHOOLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
J.P. SHOHFI (SAN MARINO)
Another player who shined when the season was on the line, Shohfi had 1,338 yards receiving during the regular season before adding over 1,000 yards receiving in the postseason to finish with 2,464 yards. That broke not just the previous state record but reportedly the national record as well for receiving yards in a season.
Catching nine passes for 197 yards in a season-ending loss against Justin Rice and Central Catholic of Modesto, he finished the year with 122 catches and 29 receiving touchdowns while also rushing for 212 yards and five scores.
In collecting this honor, it’s the first state player of the year honor showing for San Marino since 1955. We weren’t around then, but in the state record book have listed Skip Face of the Titans for that season in the medium schools category.
Shohfi’s biggest game of the season came during a win over California of Whittier in the regular season when he caught 13 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns while he also had a 12 receptions for 282 yards and two scores in a CIF Southern Section playoff win against Charter Oak of Covina.
Named by the Pasadena Star-News as its Player of the Year and a MaxPreps first team All-American, Shohfi played on defense as well and recorded five interceptions. In the classroom, he is no slouch, either, and has a 4.3 GPA.
STATE DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
OLUWOLE BETIKU (SERRA, GARDENA)
We could have gone with linebacker Mique Juarez from North of Torrance for this category as well, but since we already have Mique getting one statewide honor and since he and Betiku are pretty much interchangeable near the top of many national recruiting lists it made more sense to hand the defensive honor to the other Los Angeles South Bay region standout.
Betiku got his senior season off to a flying start with 3.5 sacks in the first game against Lakewood and had a season high of 4.5 against Alemany of Mission Hills. For the season, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior who was born in Nigeria had 70 tackles with 17 sacks and 28 tackles for loss.
Betiku could play quickly next season at USC, which is where last year’s first State Defensive Player of the Year that we chose, Long Beach Poly defensive back Iman Marshall, started as a true freshman.
Last year we also went back and chose State Defensive Players of the Year retroactively through the years and through our exclusive state record files. Serra’s Adoree Jackson, who also plays at USC, was the winner for 2013.