NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of our first six NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week are Grant Harper from Campolindo of Moraga and Austin Nicholas of La Costa Canyon. Photos: &

Our first three NorCal honorees of the 2018 football season wound up being from three different CIF sections. For Southern California, we have two from the CIF Southern Section and one from San Diego. The communities they represent are Moraga, Roseville, Tulare, Apple Valley, Carlsbad and Anaheim.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate someone by 12 noon on most Mondays, email

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Grant Harper
(Campolindo, Moraga) Jr.

After biding his time but also seeing some action as the backup quarterback to John Torchio last season that gained him some valuable experience, the Cougars’ left-handed signal-caller made a huge statement for himself right from the start this season.

All the 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior did was shred the Marin Catholic of Kentfield defense by going 17 of 28 for 366 yards passing with five touchdowns in a 35-21 victory over a visiting Wildcats’ team that had been in the preseason Top 50 rankings.

The TD passes were for 48, 79, 5, 43 and 44 yards with all but the 43-yarder going to senior Max Schoenberger, who was replacing an injured starter and finished with eight catches for 222 yards and four scores and was a candidate for the NorCal award himself.

Last season, Harper was 64 of 98 for 836 yards and eight TDs with one interception, including 147 yards and two TDs in relief of Torchio in a 42-21 loss at Marin Catholic.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Joseph Mintmier
(Oakmont, Roseville) Jr.

The 6-foot, 175-pound senior quarterback, wait a minute, the quarterback is winning a defensive honor? The answer is yes since not only is Mintmier the Vikings’ signal-caller, he’s a defensive back and the team’s kicker and punter, and in this game he was a receiver as well.

A bit of a twist to his award is he is getting it for defense but it could have been multi-purpose, although the only way he didn’t score was with his arm. Even so, we couldn’t mint Mintmier a better stat line, although you might need an abacus to keep track of them.

On defense, for which Mintmier is being honored, he only had one tackle but he had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a 56-yard touchdown in a 45-0 shellacking of Sacramento El Camino.

Mintmier had three total TDs in the game. He had 35 yards rushing and a score, and he caught a 37-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Seth Miller.

As for his other stats, Mintmier was 4 of 8 passing for 62 yards, as a kicker he was 5 for 5 on PATs and had one of his seven kickoffs go for a touchback, and finally, as a punter he averaged 36.8 yards on his four punts with two going out of bounds inside the 20.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Special Teams Player of the Week

Randy Jordan Jr.
(Tulare Union, Tulare) Sr.

Once again, we remind readers that for purposes of these awards the CIF Central Section is considered Northern California, thus we go just south of Visalia on Highway 99 to honor a multi-sport athlete that came up huge on defense in a Tulare Union 36-33 victory over Mt. Whitney of Visalia.

His team gave up some points so that meant the 5-foot-10, 160-pound speedster had five kickoff returns for 189 total return yardage, but the one he’s winning the special teams award for is the kickoff he took 99 yards to the house. Jordan also caught five passes for 67 yards.

As the old expression goes “they say it’s in the blood” and Jordan certainly has the genes. His father, Randy Sr., was a record-setting defensive back at Tulare and went on to play at Kansas State. Uncle Robert Jordan was a star wide receiver at Cal, and cousins include current Raiders’ running back Marshawn Lynch and former Raiders’ quarterback Jamarcus Russell.

Uncle Robert and cousin Marshawn both played for current Fresno State Coach Jeff Tedford when he was at Cal, and Jordan will be the third member of the family to play for Tedford after committing to FSU in July.

On a final note, the fleet-footed Jordan was a teammate of former Tulare and current UCLA freshman running back Kazmier Allen on both the football team last year and on Tulare’s 4×100 seventh-place finish at the CIF state track meet.

Jeff Widener is from an area of the state that is often overlooked by college scouts and sometimes by the media. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Jeff Widener
(Apple Valley) Sr.

For our SoCal offensive award winner, we go approximately 40 miles up the I-15 from San Bernardino towards the high desert to honor a quarterback that gets his name in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book, and one of the reasons we do this feature is to update the Record Book.

It takes eight touchdown passes to get one’s named etched in the book on the list of Most Touchdown Passes (Game) and that’s exactly how many the 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior tossed in a season-opening 52-42 victory over neighboring Silverado of Victorville.

The reported state leader after one week not only for TD passes but for passing yardage as well was 20 of 33 for 451 yards. Of his eight TD passes, five went to senior Xander Witt, including an 84-yarder. Witt could have been a winner of this award as well as he is the leading reported receiver in the state with 296 yards receiving.

Last year, in a 12-1 season that saw Apple Valley make it all the way to the CIF Southern Section Division 10 semifinals, Widener passed for 2,151 yards and 35 TDs with only three interceptions.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Austin Nicholas
(La Costa Canyon, Carlsbad) Jr.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior middle linebacker came up real big in an impressive 19-7 victory over preseason No. 33 Cathedral Catholic of San Diego that elevated the No. 46 preseason Mavericks to No. 30 in this week’s rankings.

La Costa Canyon only allowed 167 yards of total offense and a huge part of that were the five sacks Nicholas recorded.

Nicholas, who apparently likes to go by Ozzie, already has offers from Cal and naturally San Diego State, but if he continues to perform against top-notch competition like he did against Cathedral Catholic the offers will certainly begin to increase even more.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Special Teams Player of the Week

Zedakiah Centers
(Servite, Anaheim) Jr.

There wasn’t a lot of scoring in the Friars’ 17-7 victory over visiting Bakersfield, which is why Centers was the center of attention after taking the opening kickoff 99 yards to give Servite a 7-0 lead it never relinquished.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound junior came up on the high kick-off and the ball bounced in front of Centers and over his head. He turned around and took it out of the air just before it went into the end zone for a touchback, and then he split three tackles and headed down the left sideline where he outraced several defenders and took advantage of a block by a teammate that flattened the final defender that stood between him and pay dirt.

The victory marked a triumphant return for head coach Troy Thomas, who left Servite after the 2012 season and was the head coach at Crespi (Encino) for the past five seasons.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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