SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week are Kris Hutson of St. John Bosco & Tairyn Johnson from Tulare Western. Photos: Twitter.com & thepagmeter.com.


Kicking off and letting either one of our two special teams honorees this week touch the ball might be a big mistake. And both Kris Hutson of St. John Bosco (Bellflower) and Sione Vaki from Liberty (Brentwood) are elite players in many other ways when they are on the field. In addition to those two, our others choices this week are from Fontana, San Juan Capistrano, Tulare and Mountain House.

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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 markjtennis@gmail.com.

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

Kristopher Hutson
(St. John Bosco, Bellflower) Jr.

We don’t go to one of the top-ranked schools to select our honorees very often, but after what Hutson did last week on what was the biggest stage in the state made it kind of a no-brainer.

St. John Bosco is either No. 2 or No. 1 in the nation in every national ranking, but the Braves’ 63-28 victory over state top 15 Orange Lutheran of Orange was no cakewalk in the first half in a game of big plays that was tied 21-21 with one of the Bosco TDs on a kickoff return by Hutson.

Teammate Tyus Poyer took a pooch kickoff back 70 yards for a score with two seconds left in the second quarter, helping the Braves go ahead 28-21 at halftime, and from there that’s when Hutson took over.

The 5-foot-11 speedster opened the third quarter with his second kickoff-return touchdown of the game, blasting up the middle 93 yards to give the Braves a two-score advantage and all the momentum.

On special teams for which he’s being honored, Kris’ work was complete but at wide receiver he caught a 28-yard TD pass from D.J. Uigalelei that made it 42-28 and later would have another TD catch to total four scores in the game.

Hutson, a top-rated college prospect from the Class of 2020 as a wide receiver, has committed to USC. When he’s there, he may be catching passes from Mater Dei junior QB Bryce Young, another early Trojans’ commit. Young and Uigalelei, of course, will be front and center for this Friday’s monster showdown between Hutson’s team and and the Monarchs.

It would not be a stretch to say the Braves faithful would like nothing more than to see an encore performance.

Christian Hunter from Kaiser of Fontana has had back-to-back 300-yard rushing games. Photo: Hudl.com.


Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Christian Hunter
(Kaiser, Fontana) Sr.

We head out to the Inland Empire to honor a running back that is the linchpin of a Kaiser offense that runs the ball five times for every time it passes.

The bottom line is the opposition could have hired a bounty hunter to try and stop Hunter but it likely wouldn’t have worked after the way he performed last week, or any of the first seven games for the 6-1 Cats.

Last week, in a 42-7 drubbing of cross-town rival Summit, the 6-foot, 190-pounder carried the ball 21 times for 321 yards and five touchdowns.

Two weeks ago in another Sunkist League blowout of cross-town Fontana, Christian had a season best 358 yards rushing with five touchdowns.

San Bernardino Aquinas held Hunter to 127 yards and kept him out of the end zone in the Cats’ only loss of the season, but even so Christian has over a season’s worth of output for any top notch running back in just seven games.

So far, Hunter has rushed for 1,670 yards and 24 TDs and his 123 carries is over twice the number of passes the offense of Kaiser head coach Bill Cardosi attempts.

Cardosi uses Hunter sparingly on defense, and one can understand why, but he still has two interceptions and a handful of tackles, plus a few kickoff returns to boot.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Cade Albright
(San Juan Hills, San Juan Capistrano) Sr.

Southern Orange County is the destination for our defensive award winner where we honor a defensive end who makes the most of his tackles.

Last week, in a 38-0 drubbing of a neighboring Aliso Niguel of Aliso Viejo team that came into the game at 6-0, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior was like a one man wrecking crew in getting the Stallions to 5-3 and 2-0 in the Sea View League.

Albright, who has offers from Brigham Young and Utah, had season-highs of nine tackles with seven for loss, four and a half sacks and four quarterback hurries. He also batted down a pass.

Defensive ends don’t usually lead the team in tackles and Cade is only eighth on San Juan Hills in total tackles, but of all the Stallions it is Albright that does the most prancing.

In six games played of his 34 tackles, the 15 for loss leads the team. His 10.5 sacks and 15 hurries are more than double the next leading player. Last but not least Albright is one of six players to recover a fumble and of the Stallions’ three blocked punts he has two. Whew, what a mouthful!

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Tairyn Johnson
(Tulare Western, Tulare) Jr.

Whenever we honor a player from the CIF Central Section we remind folks that for purposes of this feature everyone north of the Tehachapi Mountains is considered Northern California.

The Mustangs have pranced out to a 7-0 start and are on the bubble and knocking on the door of the state rankings, and a big part of the reason Tulare Western is unblemished so far this season is the rushing prowess of Johnson.

Last week, in a 50-26 victory over Porterville, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Johnson carried a whopping 36 times and rumbled for 231 yards and five touchdowns. As head coach Ryan Rocha pointed out in nominating him, Johnson’s latest performance came against an opponent that also was 6-0 coming into the night.

This was the week we could recognize Tairyn, but in actuality it was his most TDs rushing in a game, but only his third-best performance yardage-wise this season. In a 35-28 victory over Mt. Whitney of Visalia early in the season, Johnson had a season high 307 yards and four touchdowns.

So far this season, Tairyn has rushed for 1,405 yards and 22 TDs and he’s also caught 11 passes for 180 yards and four more scores. For good measure Johnson, also has a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in a season-opening 48-28 victory over Visalia El Diamante.

Sione Vaki from Liberty (Brentwood) can beat teams in all three phases of the game. Photo: Level Up Elites / YouTube.com.


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

Sione Vaki
(Liberty, Brentwood) Sr.

State No. 11 Liberty was favored, but not many people saw the kind of shellacking coming against previously state ranked Bay Valley Athletic League rival Antioch. However, after Vaki got things going quickly with a 94-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the game, the Lions had all the points they needed in a 52-0 victory.

Vaki, a 6-foot, 190-pound safety that has 10 major Division I offers with Tennessee, USC, Utah and Washington State at the top of the list, does a lot more for the 8-0 Lions.

As a wide receiver in the Liberty game Vaki had three catches with two going for touchdowns. On defense from his safety position, he had an interception to go with four tackles. Besides the TD kickoff return on special teams, Sione also had a 27-yard punt return.

So far this season, Vaki’s biggest numbers have come on offense where he leads Liberty with 37 pass receptions for 923 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for a TD. On defense he has 26 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, and he’s forced a fumble.

In a bit of a twist, the 94-yard kickoff return TD was his first kickoff return of the season. If he’s back there again, teams may not be kicking it in his direction.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Keenami Maggard
(Mountain House) Sr.

Since Mountain House is a fairly new community, and the school is even newer, and only has had varsity football for four years, we’ll tell you that on the map the school and community are just east of the Altamont Pass and slightly northwest of Tracy, and around two miles north of Interstate 580.

As far as maps are concerned, Maggard and his all-around play has helped the Mustangs get on the map of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V terrain with a 7-0 start this season.

The big waves could never get as far inland as Mountain House, but last week Keenami was like a Tsunami on defense in a 31-0 blanking of Modesto Beyer. All the 6-foot-4, 205-pound defensive end did was register 14 tackles with seven for loss including five sacks plus a quarterback hurry. He also forced two fumbles and batted down three passes.

So far this season, Maggard has run teams ragged on defense. Of his 56 tackles, 22 have been for losses and that includes 14 sacks. He also has four forced fumbles, recovered a fumble, deflected six passes, has six quarterback hurries, and registered a safety against Modesto Grace Davis.

By the way, Keenami is the Mustangs’ leading receiver (catches) on a team that predominantly runs the football. He has 13 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

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


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