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Congratulations to the following additional Cal-Hi Sports State Players of the Year for the 2016 football season (joining our overall honoree, Wyatt Davis from St. John Bosco of Bellflower):
STATE JUNIOR OF THE YEAR:
JALEN CHATMAN (NARBONNE, HARBOR CITY)
After last year when the State Junior of the Year, Najee Harris of Antioch, also was the Mr. Football State POY, you could say that this year was a much more difficult selection process.
An early-season injury took out last year’s State Sophomore of the Year, Newbury Park QB Cameron Rising. Last year’s runner-up, QB Matt Corral of Westlake Village Oaks Christian, didn’t get injured and remains one of the nation’s top recruits among juniors, but he essentially fell out of contention for this honor when the Lions were upset in their first CIF Southern Section playoff game by La Habra.
Chatman already has been selected as the CIF L.A. City Section D1 Player of the Year and has been named Offensive Player of the Year by the South Bay Daily Breeze. The L.A. City honor, and deservedly so, became significant toward this state honor because another of the top juniors we were considering, receiver Jalen Hall of L.A. Hawkins, is also an L.A. City player. And Jalen Hall is so far pretty universally acclaimed as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation for next season and is the highest-ranked California player overall for the class by every recruiting organization.
In addition to Hall, also strongly considered were receiver Marquis Spiker from Murrieta Valley of Murrieta, versatile quarterback Re-Al Mitchell from St. John Bosco of Bellflower and running back Dusty Frampton from St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Chatman also had some of his best outings against Narbonne’s toughest opponents. He went 20 of 26 for 247 yards and one TD and had 59 yards rushing (2 TDs) against Serra of Gardena (win); went 19 of 33 for 280 yards and one TD and had 42 yards rushing vs. Long Beach Poly (win); went 2o of 24 for 305 yards and five TDs and had 44 yards rushing vs. Dorsey in the L.A. City final (win); and went 30 of 45 for 303 yards and two TDs and had 53 yards rushing (1 TD) in the 35-28 loss to Cathedral Catholic of San Diego in the CIF SoCal D1-AA bowl game.
For the season, Chatman piled up 3,926 yards passing and 52 TDs for the Gauchos, who finished 14-1 and were No. 9 in the final State Top 25 rankings. He also had 622 yards rushing for the season with six TDs scored.
Chatman is the first player ever from Narbonne to be State Junior of the Year. The last from the L.A. City Section to capture the honor was record-breaking receiver Steve Smith from Taft of Woodland Hills in 2001.
STATE SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR:
J.T. DANIELS (MATER DEI, SANTA ANA)
We didn’t even bother trying to pretend that this honor was up for debate as Daniels continues to live up to the hype that surrounded him entering high school. All he did in leading Mater Dei to a 13-1 season was pass for 4,849 yards and 67 touchdowns this season and already has hard-to-fathom career totals of 7,891 yards and 100 touchdowns in two seasons. Barring injury, J.T. could throw for 15,000 yards and 200 TDs in his prep career and he might approach the state and national records of 16,689 yards and 229 TDs set in 2014 by Folsom’s Jake Browning.
Coming up just short of finishing the season as the No. 1 team in the state, the Monarchs captured their first outright league title since 1999 and went undefeated in the regular season, which included a victory over eventual CIF Open Division state champ St. John Bosco.
Daniels already has set multiple Orange County records and before his high school career is done he could be all over the state record book in many other categories in addition to yards and touchdowns.
Among his many other honors already announced, Daniels was named by OCVarsity as its Offensive Player of the Year and Gatorade selected him as its State Player of the Year. Frankly, he would have gotten the top honor from us even as a sophomore if Bosco hadn’t come back to beat Mater Dei in the CIF Southern Section D1 championship.
Daniels will become actually the third from Mater Dei to be listed in the state record book as State Sophomore of the Year. The other two are John Huarte (the future Heisman Trophy winner) for 1958 and Rod Perry for 1994. The last honoree in this category from Orange County was Dennis Shoemate from Servite of Anaheim in 2005.
STATE MEDIUM SCHOOLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
TRISTAN GEBBIA (CALABASAS)
Once it was realized that Calabasas qualifies as a medium school, Gebbia became a somewhat easy selection for this honor. After all, the Nebraska recruit QB already was considered a finalist for the overall Mr. Football State Player of the Year.
Capturing a CIF Southern Section championship for the second year in a row. Gebbia passed for a state-best 5,338 yards and finished with 13,109 career passing yards, which also is good for second best in state history behind Folsom’s Jake Browning.
This season alone, Gebbia threw for 61 touchdown passes and finished with 141 career touchdown passes. He also rushed for 293 yards and 10 TDs to finish his prep career with 13,642 total yards.
Already named by the L.A. Daily News as its Player of the Year, Gebbia also has already graduated and recently started taking classes at Nebraska to get an early start towards competing to potentially become the starting quarterback for the Cornhuskers next season.
In another step toward the Calabasas program becoming more prominent, Gebbia has become the first player ever from the school to be chosen as a State Player of the Year in any category. One of his teammates from this past season, however, receiver-defensive back Darnay Holmes, was the State Sophomore of the Year two years ago when he attended his previous school (Newbury Park). The last medium schools player of the year from the Ventura County area was Marc Tyler from Oaks Christian of Westlake Village in 2006.
STATE SMALL SCHOOLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
JOHN BUKSA (ST. ANTHONY, LONG BEACH)
Everyone considered for this honor had the difficulty of playing against a higher-ranked team in the CIF state bowl games or in a section final, and while Buksa’s team lost as well he had a much stronger finale performance than the others and it capped a sensational season.
In earning this selection in a tough choice over others strongly considered such as QB Braxton Burmeister (La Jolla Country Day), QB Jeffrey Jackson (La Jolla Bishop’s) and RB Branden Rankins (San Bernardino Aquinas), Buksa becomes the first state player of the year from St. Anthony in any class or division since 1948, which lists Johnny Olszewski of the Saints as the Mr. Football State Player of the Year. The last two small schools players of the year from the Long Beach area are both from St. Anthony’s rivals at Valley Christian of Cerritos — Chase Twedell in 2002 and Sean McQuown in 1986.
Rankins, a junior who has a D1 offer from Colorado, led his team to the CIF Southern Section Division 10 title game with more than 2,500 yards rushing, but Aquinas was nipped in that game 33-32 by Buksa and the Saints. In that outing, Buksa, who began his prep career at Long Beach Millikan, passed for 214 yards and two TDs and rushed for 157 yards and one score.
In the CIF SoCal Division 4A bowl game, Buksa racked up 191 yards passing with three TDs and he had 137 yards rushing with one score in a 55-23 win against Yorba Linda. Although the Saints then lost in a high-scoring 50-49 shootout to Pleasant Valley of Chico (which we classify as medium schools) in the state final, Buksa had 194 yards passing with one TD and 127 yards rushing and two more scores.
None of those outings was even Buksa’s best. The kid they were calling “Captain America” by the end of the season had 368 yards and five TDs passing with 114 yards rushing and one more TD in a CIFSS playoff win vs. Dos Pueblos of Goleta.
For the season, Buksa ended with a reported 3,009 yards passing (32 TDs) plus 1,627 yards rushing (22 TDs) for total offense numbers of 4,636 yards and 54 TDs. Both totals make the all-time Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book with the yardage total possibly being as high as fifth in the history of the CIF Southern Section.
STATE DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
JAELEN PHILLIPS (REDLANDS EAST VALLEY, REDLANDS)
After the first two honorees for Defensive POY went to future USC Trojans, this time it’s to a UCLA Bruin. We just can’t say Jaelen is a future Bruin since he’s already enrolled at Westwood after an early graduation.
Making sure his senior year was one to remember, Phillips set a career-high with 142 tackles and 21 sacks which included one game that saw him record seven sacks against Citrus Valley of Redlands.
Named by the Los Angeles Times as its lineman of the year and defensive player of the year by the Press Enterprise, Phillips twice reached the end zone, scoring on an interception return and a punt return.
Before playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl last weekend, Phillips was named the Army Bowl’s Defensive Player of the Year. He went on to have five tackles in the game the next day.
Phillips first gained notice for his dominant play as a defensive end as a sophomore playing for a Redlands East Valley team that edged Clayton Valley of Concord in the CIF Division II state championship. Our first State Defensive POY after that season was cornerback Iman “Boogie” Marshall of Long Beach Poly. Last year’s winner was defensive end Oluwole Betiku of Gardena Serra.
Thanks to Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens for contributing to this post. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports