SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of our SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week are QBs Blake Kirshner of Santa Clarita Christian & Jackson Chryst of Palo Alto. Photos: Dan Watson / &

In a wild-and-wacky week in which five different quarterbacks in the state (three from the same CIF section) threw for eight TDs in one game, we go with one of them as the SoCal Offensive POW. We also have a highly recruited defensive end who recovered two fumbles for touchdowns and a kicker with a 53-yard field goal. This week’s honorees are from Canyon Country, Las Flores, Upland, Palo Alto, Oakland and Granite Bay. For Gold Club updated list of all QBs in state history with 8 TD passes in one game or more, CLICK HERE.

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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

Blake Kirshner
(Santa Clarita Christian, Canyon Country) Sr.

On a crazy night when a whopping five quarterbacks in California passed for eight touchdowns in one game to all get their names into the state record book, we just had to pick at least one of them for one of these weekly honors. Of the five, two are from Southern California, but one of those — Jeff Widener of Apple Valley — already threw for eight TDs in one game earlier this season. So we’re going for the other one for this slot and that’s the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Kirshner, a player who also in the midst of a prolific prep career. in the same week.

In a 56-32 victory over Morningside of Inglewood, Kirshner didn’t have his top game yardage-wise of the season after going 22 of 33 for 325 yards, but the eight touchdowns he passed for is not only double his output of last week when he passed for 362 yards and four TDs in a win over Walnut Creek Northgate, but for Blake the eight takes the cake as it gets him a spot in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book on the Most Touchdown Passes (Game) list, and also an honor as this week’s SoCal offensive honoree.

So far this season, Kirshner has 1,204 yards passing and 17 touchdowns for the 3-1 Cardinals. The passing yardage is the No. 5 and the TDs is the No. 6 reported marks in the state. Last season, he just missed passing for 4,000 yards and 50 TDs after finishing with 3,905 yards and 48 touchdowns for a team that finished 11-1 with a loss in the CIF Southern Section Division 13 playoffs to Santa Clara of Oxnard.

Taj Davis is Upland’s top receiver who also has been known to return a few kicks for touchdowns. Photo:

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

Taj Davis
(Upland) Sr.

The Highlanders/Scots recently have been one of the more consistently good programs in the western portion of the Inland Empire, and this year is no different with a 3-0 start and a current No. 11 ranking in the state and No. 3 in the Inland Empire behind Centennial and Cajon.

The reason is they have solid players and Davis is one of them that can produce in a lot of ways. This week, the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is being honored for his special teams work in a 35-7 win over La Mirada as the SoCal Special Teams Player of the Week.

With the game tied 7-7 at halftime and Upland struggling on offense, Taj took off after receiving a punt and dashed 62 yards to pay dirt to break the logjam. He also had 97 yards on two kickoff returns.

The Washington-committed wide receiver only had three receptions for 20 yards and no TDs against La Mirada, but on the season he leads Upland with 13 receptions for 221 yards and three touchdowns.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Brant Gass
(Tesoro, Las Flores)

At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, he’s a bit undersized for a middle linebacker, but Gass, who was called an unsung hero by the Orange County Register in an article two weeks ago, is a huge reason the Titans are 4-0 and currently up to No. 35 in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports state rankings.

Last week, in a 34-13 victory at West of Torrance, Gass was more like rocket fuel on defense after finishing with a season-high 14 tackles including two sacks. Earlier outings have included 13 tackles and a fumble recovery vs. Roosevelt of Eastvale and 12 tackles with an interception vs. Knight of Palmdale.

Brant has not granted any of the offenses he’s faced much this season as Gass has been in double digits for tackles in all four games and leads Tesoro by a wide margin with 52 tackles (nine for loss) and the two sacks plus an interception.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Jackson Chryst
(Palo Alto) Sr.

Palo Alto has not had a winning season since 2012 when Chryst’s older brother and current Tennessee quarterback, Keller Chryst, was a junior on an 8-3 Paly team that bowed out to Serra-San Mateo in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.

Jackson isn’t one of the three quarterbacks in Northern California that threw for eight TDs last week, he doesn’t have the recruiting interest Keller had, and at 6-foot-3, 205 he’s an inch shorter and 30 pounds lighter than his big brother was as a senior, but what the son of current Denver Broncos tight ends coach Geep Chryst does have is the Vikings in a position to have a winning season, and off to a better start than 2012 at 3-0 – and he’s the Northern California Offensive Player of the Week.

Despite taking a lot of hits against previously state-ranked McClymonds of Oakland, Chryst passed for 379 yards and three touchdowns in a 29-20 upset of Mack at home.

In the first two games for Paly and first-year head coach and alumnus Nelson Gifford, Jackson has been in action after passing for 282 yards and three TDs in a 21-14 win over St. Ignatius, and in limited action of a blowout of a down Half Moon Bay, he had 189 yards passing and one touchdown.

The three quarterbacks in Northern California that threw for eight TDs last week are all from the CIF Central Section and will get a shout-out despite not being selected for the offensive honor. They are Martin Orroz of Minarets (O’Neals), Jaedyn Pineda of Visalia Mt Whitney and Trent Tompkins of Fresno Central. For the updated single game TD pass state record list for Gold Club members, CLICK HERE.

Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland defensive end Tyler Garay-Harris has been a playmaker when he’s on the field and has attracted the attention of numerous D1 colleges. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Tyler Garay-Harris
(Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) Sr.

His teammate and Stanford-bound running back Austin Jones gets most of the ink and has had the big numbers so far for the 2-1 Dragons, but this defensive end has been an anchor on defense for O’Dowd head coach, former Oakland Raider, and 1990 Mr. Football State Player of the Year Napoleon Kaufman.

Last week, in a 49-6 drubbing of Seaside, the 6-foot-5, 239-pound defensive end had two fumble recoveries he scored on, one from seven yards out and the other on a sack in the end zone.

According to Brandon Huffman of 247Sports, Garay-Harris has around a dozen offers, including from the following schools he told Huffman he likes: Nevada-Las Vegas, Utah State, Colorado State, Arizona State and Washington State.

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

Everett Hayes
(Granite Bay) Sr.

After opening the season 0-2, the Grizzlies got to .500 with a 31-0 blanking of Vacaville, and the 6-foot, 185-pound kicker and punter did his job just like he did in the first three games this season.

In the Vacaville win, Hayes booted a 53-yard field goal that is the second-longest reported field goal in the state this season. He was also 3 for 3 on PATs and is 6 for 6 on the season and 4 for 6 on field goals.

As a punter, Hayes was below his average a bit against Vacaville on his two punts or else he would be even higher than his No. 27 state reported 37.3 yards per punt. And finally, on five kickoffs against Vacaville he had four go for touchbacks and the fifth one was fielded at the one.

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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One Comment

  1. Joseph Lucido
    Posted September 11, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Blake K. is legit. Well deserved honors this week! Kudos to an exciting qb.

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