NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

This week’s two honorees for defense went to Brock Stehly of Valley Center (CIF San Diego Section) & Dino Kahaulelio of Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman (CIF North Coast Section). Photos: & Harold Abend.

One of the most inspirational NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week we’ve ever written up is this week’s NorCal choice for defense and to see why Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman’s Dino Kahaulelio inspires his teammates you’ll have to read on. We also have perhaps the first-ever player in the state who’s ever thrown for eight TDs or more in back-to-back weeks and Coachella Valley’s Donny Fitzgerald is just a sophomore. The four others featured this week are from Pinole Valley, Atherton, Valley Center and Villa Park.

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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
Defensive Player of the Week

Dino Kahaulelio
(Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa) Sr.

A lot of people in the North Bay League, the Redwood Empire portion of the CIF North Coast Section, and parts beyond in the Bay Area, thought Cardinal Newman was going to get a waxing from a red hot league arch-rival Rancho Cotate of Rohnert Park.

Instead, it was the host Cardinals that dished it out and won their third straight over the Cougars in a 42-21 victory that went to a running clock after Newman led 42-7 at the half and also at three quarters, before Rancho Cotate scored two meaningless touchdowns against the second string.

Kahaulelio only played three quarters but it was what he did in the first half that turned some heads and dropped some jaws at the packed stadium.

Of his 14 tackles, two sacks and another tackle for loss, all but three tackles came in the first half. Not only that, but the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder also plays center and anchored an offensive line that blew open holes and manhandled the visitors in the first two quarters.

On the season for the 5-1 Cardinals, Kahaulelio has 67 tackles with eight for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Kahaulelio is a lot more than just the Northern California Defensive Player of the Week as well. He’s a story himself.

Almost everyone knows about the fires in Santa Rosa but some may not now it burned down half the Newman campus and forced the Cardinals to play their final seven games on the road.

Even with his school devastated and his mother Toni fighting cancer and coming to games in a wheelchair until she was too weak for even that, Kahaulelio never relented. The Cardinals lost 59-56 to Marin Catholic in the NCS Division III title game, but he had 11 tackles in the game and was named the North Bay League Defensive Player of the Year after finishing with 111 tackles, four sacks, an interception, fumble recovery, and a blocked punt.

So dedicated is Kahaulelio to his school and community that when Toni passed away in late January he showed up at school that day. He was on the basketball team at the time but Dino missed practice and also on the day of her funeral, but no others.

Talk about overcoming adversity and still going strong, and putting Newman on his shoulders last week in a great victory. Cardinal Newman 16-year head coach Paul Cronin pretty much says it all about the only player in his tenure to start every game since his freshman season.

“Dino is the most inspirational person I have ever had the pleasure to meet,” Cronin said. “We are lucky as a school and community to have him.”

DeMari Davis of Pinole Valley doesn’t pass like former Pinole Valley Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta, but there aren’t many QBs anywhere who can run it like he does. Photo: 49ers Cal-Hi Sports Report /

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

DeMari Davis
(Pinole Valley) Sr.

None of the kids on this year’s Spartans team was born and most of their parents were teenagers when Pinole Valley was one of the top teams in the Bay Area behind 1989 graduate and quarterback Gino Torretta, who went on the win the 1993 Heisman Trophy at the University of Miami before a five-year career in the NFL.

The Torretta family is still prominent in Pinole, but there’s a new signal-caller under center for Pinole Valley, and after two losing seasons in which DeMari Davis put up so-so numbers, he’s on fire and has the Spartans off to their best start since 2010 when they had 12 wins and a tie before losing in the CIF North Coast Section Division II semifinals.

Last week, in a 35-6 victory over Jesse Bethel of Vallejo, that got Pinole Valley to 7-0 to start the season, DeMari was just as ready as he’s been the first six games. The 6-foot, 160-pound dual-threat senior quarterback had his best game passing this season after going 19 of 28 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Davis’ rushing output was his lowest with 86 yards and one TD, but as is sometimes the case when we look for diamonds in the rough, we look at the entire body of work of a player.

Three weeks ago Davis passed for 162 yards and four TDs and rushed for 133 yards and two more scores in a win over Vallejo. In weeks one and two he rushed for 256 yards and four TDs and 210 yards and two TDs in wins over Hayward and Benicia, respectively.

On the season Davis has 754 yards passing and eight TDs and 1,123 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.

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

Ronan Donnelly
(Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton) Jr.

We go to the Peninsula portion of the CIF Central Coast Section for this week’s special teams honoree in the north.

After a couple of down years, the Gators are back in the playoff mix, and are off to a 5-0 start, and the leg and foot of Donnelly is a big part of the equation.

Last week, in a drubbing of San Mateo, Ronan was perfecto. He was 5 of 5 on point after touchdowns and 3 of 3 on field goals, including a 41-yarder, his third field goal of over 40 yards this season. Of his eight kickoffs, five went for touchbacks.

On field goals and PATs his only misses came in a 15-13 victory over Burlingame. Otherwise Donnelly is 16 of 17 on PATs and 8 of 9 on field goal attempts with a longest of 47 yards.

Of his 32 kickoffs this season, 24 have gone for touchbacks. They even put him in on defense against Hillsdale of San Mateo and he had two interceptions for 85 yards.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Brock Stehly
(Valley Center) Sr.

Despite not much available for the season in the way of defensive statistics on Stehly, we still go to North San Diego County just north and east of Escondido for our SoCal Defensive Player of the Week.

Last week, in a 70-7 home victory over former San Diego Section power Fallbrook that gets veteran head coach Rob Gilster and his Jaguars to 4-2 and 2-0 in Valley League play, Stehly was more than ready on defense from his free safety position after picking off three passes and taking two the house for touchdowns.

Brock plays mostly on defense but occasionally they let him run the ball and he also has a rushing TD to give him three scores this season.

The last two games by Donny Fitzgerald has jumped up the sophomore from Coachella Valley among the state passing leaders in several categories. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Donny Fitzgerald
(Coachella Valley, Thermal) Soph.

One of the things we do in this feature is use clichés and mess around with names, and for our Southern California offensive award winner we’re doing both.

We go just south of Palm Springs on Highway 111 for our honoree, and to say it gets really thermal in Thermal wouldn’t necessarily be an accurate statement when it comes to describing the Arabs’ 6-foot-1, 160-pound quarterback because Fitzgerald has been sizzling and giving opponents fits.

The local Desert Sun newspaper pretty much said it all in its headline of the performance of the Coachella Valley sophomore in last week’s 70-7 victory over nearby Cathedral City when it began with “History repeats itself.”

It takes 470 yards passing and eight touchdowns to secure a place on each of the Most Yards (Game) and Most Touchdown Passes (Game) in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book and Donny has now done it twice, in back to back weeks.

In fact, prior to taking the field two weeks ago, only one other player besides Fitzgerald had ever thrown for eight TD passes in a game out in the desert. That was Will Olvera in 2015 for Palm Springs.

Last week, Fitzgerald was 30 of 42 for 547 with the eight touchdowns with one going to his senior brother, Angelo Fitzgerald, plus he ran for 55 yards and a ninth score. Two weeks ago, he went 20 of 27 for 472 with eight TDs in a big win over Twentynine Palms.

After an 0-2 start, Donny has been cash money for the Arabs ever since in three straight wins. Three weeks ago he passed for 358 yards and three TDs in a win over Yucca Valley and now has 1,758 yards and 22 TDs with only three interceptions this season.

Senior brother Matthew Fitzgerald also has been one of Coachella Valley’s top players and since Angelo goes by “Gelo” the threesome has been called the Ball Brothers of the Palm Springs area.

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

Zion Alefosio
(Villa Park) Jr.

It isn’t often we go to the same school twice in the same season, and even rarer to have a second selection from the same category, but here we go back to Orange County for our SoCal special teams honoree.

Earlier this season we honored Spartans kicker and the son of Spartans head coach Dusan Ancich, and the grandson of legendary head coach Marijon Ancich, Davin Ancich, while this week it’s Alefosio, who returns punts and kicks.

Last week, in a 57-0 blowout of Santa Ana Foothill, Alefosio returned a punt for a touchdown for the third time this season.

The versatile 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who also plays some wide receiver and defensive back when he’s not returning punts and kickoffs, has now scored three different ways this season. Besides the three punt return TDs, he has two scores as a wide receiver and one as a defensive back.

Last season, Zion was at Mater Dei of Santa Ana and made some noise in the Monarchs’ 52-21 victory over De La Salle in the CIF Open Division Bowl game championship. Zion had an 86-yard interception return for a touchdown, he forced a fumble, and he had eight tackles, which was the second best mark on the team in the game.

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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