SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Xavier Rodriguez from Modesto Grace Davis of Modesto & Kejuan Markham of Long Beach Poly. Photos: &

The three interception returns for TDs by Long Beach Poly’s Kejuan Markham stand out, but so do the reasons for the five others we’ve selected for this weekly honor. We have another DB with four interceptions in one game (with one TD), a running back with 410 yards and four TDs, a quarterback with 458 yards passing and two special teams players who helped their teams win. Cities represented in addition to Long Beach are Pomona, Villa Park, Modesto, Piedmont and Loomis.

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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 Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Zaquand Irby
(Ganesha, Pomona) Sr.

When head coach Don Cayer calls for the ball to be handed off to Irby, and that’s what he does pretty often, Irby has been in a real hurry to get busy and chew up yardage. Last week, Zaquand was pretty grand as he went over the magic 400-yard rushing mark after helping the Giants get to 2-0 to start the season in a 47-34 victory over Azusa.

The 5-foot-8, 172-pound running back, who is also a pretty decent cornerback, had 36 carries for 410 yards and four touchdowns against Azusa to go with 34 carries for 281 yards the previous week in a 41-15 victory over Sierra Vista of Baldwin Park.

That’s 691 yards and eight TDs so far this season and the yardage is the top reported number in the state after two games this season and the eight TDs ties him for third on that list (according to MaxPreps).

To say Irby carries the team is a bit of an understatement since he has 691 of the team’s 997 yards of total offense and eight of the 13 scores. Last season, he rushed for 2,349 yards and 31 TDs and he’s well on his way to that kind of season again. On defense, Irby has 10 tackles and a sack in two games as well.

Irby doesn’t quite make the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book for Most Yards (Game) since the list cuts off at 415 yards rushing but someone that does for a second time is Dorian Richardson of Rancho Buena Vista of Vista. He had 493 yards and seven TDs in a 55-35 victory over Irvine and last season when he had 499 yards and eight TDs in the playoffs, Richardson was the SoCal Offensive Player of the Week. We do our best to spread these honors around and besides Irby had a great outing last week anyway.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Kejuan Markham
(Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) Sr.

Kejuan didn’t exactly start out the night on the right foot as he fumbled a punt that led to the first and only points of the night for state-ranked Narbonne (Harbor City) but by the time he was done not only was Markham literally a one-man wrecking crew he also etched his name in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book.

All the 6-foot-1, 195-pound defensive back did was tie a state record with three pick six interceptions in the state No. 17 ranked Jackrabbits’ surprisingly easy 26-3 victory. For good measure he also had seven tackles (six solo) and a fumble recovery. Not a bad night’s work.

The three interceptions returns for a touchdown in one game ties Markham with Darrius Vukobradovich, who turned the trick in 2015 for Grace Brethren (Simi Valley) in a 61-7 victory over San Pedro Mary Star, along with just three others. They are Jim McClain of Tulelake (1978), Earl Kahanu of Patterson (1994) and Jared Billups from St. Bernard of Playa del Rey (2003).

Markham, who has 15 offers including just about every Pac-12 school, has a twin brother on the Jackrabbits: 6-foot-1, 195-pound wide receiver Keon Markham. Not surprisingly, his list of offers is almost the same as his twin brother.

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

Davin Ancich
(Villa Park) Jr.

Here we go again with the old adage of the saying that it’s in the blood, but this week’s winner from Orange County has some coaching lineage in his family that apparently has translated to his foot.

The son of Spartans head coach Dusan Ancich, and the grandson of legendary head coach Marijon Ancich, who is No. 2 on the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book list of all-time winningest coaches with 360 wins during three stints at St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs and one at Tustin, now has a mark of his own.

Ancich, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior kicker, won’t get his name etched into the record book along with his grandfather, since it takes a 56-yard field goal to make that list, but he is the first reported player in the state to boot a 50-yard field goal after kicking a 50-yarder in a season-opening 57-14 win on the road at Redondo Union of Redondo Beach.

Whether he is punting or returning kicks, Johnny Guzman is a special teams standout for state-ranked Del Oro. Photo: Mark Tennis.

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

Johnny Guzman
(Del Oro, Loomis) Sr.

The expression Johnny on the spot couldn’t be more right on in describing this 6-foot-2, 180-pound defensive back, wide receiver, return specialist and punter.

For this week’s award, Guzman is being honored as the NorCal Special Teams winner but he did a lot of things well in a 58-20 Honor Bowl victory over Oak Grove of San Jose.

Talk about starting the five-game Honor Bowl off with a bang. All Guzman did was take the opening kick-off 91 yards to set the stage for the Golden Eagles’ win.

Guzman also had a 27-yard TD pass reception, threw for a TD on a flanker-around pass that made the score 16-0 Del Oro, had a punt return of 26 yards, had four punts himself with a 40-yarder that rolled dead inside the 10, and he had a couple of tackles on defense.

If Johnny had not been so very on the spot in so many areas, his teammate Kai Lunders could have won the NorCal Defensive award. The junior safety had a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown but two players from the same team can’t be honored in the same week. Remember, there are no ties at Cal-Hi Sports.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Xavier Rodriguez
(Grace Davis, Modesto) Sr.

We saw that Rodriguez was the Top Gun of the Week for the greater Modesto area so we figured why not go to Modesto ourselves this week and honor the Spartans’ quarterback with a NorCal honor as the Offensive Player of the Week.

Xavier was a big part of the reason Grace Davis got to 1-1 after the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior signal-caller broke a one-year-old school record of the player he backed up last season, Ryan Viodes.

In a 43-6 victory over Franklin of Stockton, Rodriguez was 18 of 26 for 458 yards and five touchdowns.

Quarterbacks can’t set passing records or throw TD passes unless they have someone to catch them. In the case of Rodriguez on his record-setting night, it was his favorite target Gregory Smith. The Spartans’ wide receiver caught four of the TDs and had seven receptions for 266 yards, a performance that in itself made him a candidate so he gets a shout out as well.

Last season, while not watching Viodes set the old record because he was on the field, Rodriguez threw for 1,923 yards and 10 TDs in limited action.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Christopher Crowell
(Piedmont) Sr.

The Highlanders 5-foot-9, 155-pound defensive back might not be real big in stature but he came up huge in helping Piedmont turn an early 10-0 deficit into a 55-24 victory over visiting Rodriguez of Fairfield.

The first feat by Crowell, and the one that may have been the biggest, is when he was a scoring eraser after coming up with an interception in the end zone with Rodriguez driving to try and take a 17-0 lead.

Crowell went on to get three more interceptions for a total of four in the game, including a back-breaking pick six that pretty much sealed the deal.

We looked for more info than that about Christopher, but Piedmont doesn’t use MaxPreps and other attempts through the phone were just not successful.

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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