SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week are Sam Stewart Jr. from Liberty of Bakersfield (from the north) and Rolandiss Whitener of Arcadia. Photos:

It appears the last two players to return three interceptions for a score in one game both were named SoCal Defensive Player of the Week so we’ll do the same for Mater Dei’s Elias Ricks. That category also has been updated in our online state record book. This week’s honorees are from Temecula, Arcadia, Bakersfield, San Jose and Delano.

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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
Special Teams Player of the Week

Rolandiss Whitener
(Arcadia) Sr.

For special teams in SoCal, we visit the San Gabriel Valley for the first time this season where we honor one of the top reported returners in the state as our Southern California Special Teams Player of the Week.

Last week, in a 62-26 CIF Southern Section Division 8 semifinal victory over an Alta Loma team fresh off an upset of top-seeded Anaheim Katella, Rolandiss had a lot of Apaches faithful witness his prowess with some big plays, but it was his 60-yard punt return for a touchdown that earns him the award. It was the second time this season Whitener has returned a punt for a score.

The senior slotback also had a 54-yard punt return that didn’t score, but on his one carry of the night Whitener was not lightweight after going 53 yards for a touchdown. Rolandiss also had one pass reception and it went for 52-yards but not to pay dirt.

So far this season, Rolandiss has some solid all around numbers. Besides his returning punts, he’s also returned 16 kickoffs with a 32.3 yard per return average. On offense, Whitener has 631 yards and four touchdowns receiving and 230 yards and four more scores rushing. His one pass attempt went for a 61-yard touchdown. As a defensive back for the 11-2 Apaches, Whitener has a team-leading three interceptions and 39 tackles.

The Apaches will be a slight underdog but if Rolandiss and his mates can take down Kaiser of Fontana this week, Arcadia will earn a CIF SoCal bowl berth.

Ricks is a five-star corner who has been compared to Dominguez (Compton) grad Richard Sherman. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Elias Ricks
(Mater Dei, Santa Ana) Jr.

Monarchs’ head coach Bruce Rollinson was asked about his team’s performance in that 48-14 victory over Corona Centennial in the CIF Southern Section Division I semifinals and responded with a question of sorts: “I don’t know if anyone has ever seen four pick sixes one half of a high school football game before?”

Ricks had three of those interception returns for scores in that half by himself and further established himself as one of the top junior DBs as a college prospect in the nation.

The answer to Rollinson’s question is: Yes. But the only time it has known to have happened in California prep history was in 1944 in a small school game that may only have had a few people who witnessed it. That was in 1944 when Etna High had five TDs on pick sixes in a reported contest with the Yreka reserves. We also have five pick six TDs for one team in one game in 1978 for Tulelake in a 90-0 win vs. Gilchrist, Oregon. It is not known, however, whether all five or four of the five by Tulelake in that game were in one half.

Ricks himself also becomes just the seventh player in state history to come up with three interception return TDs in one game. One of those others on that short state record list (no one has ever done it four times in one game in our state) includes another current junior from Orange County. That would be Clark Phillips of La Habra, who did it last season as a sophomore in a 49-14 win vs. Ontario Colony. Phillips was SoCal Defensive Player of the Week after that game and earlier this season we also listed Long Beach Poly’s Kejuan Markham with the same honor after doing the same thing. Markham had his three pick sixes when the Jackrabbits topped Narbonne of Harbor City 26-3.

The first to have three interception return TDs in one game was Jim McClain of Tulelake in that 1978 rout. That record wasn’t matched until 1994 by Earl Kahanu of Patterson. It was tied for a third time in 2003 by Jared Billups from St. Bernard of Playa del Rey.

In 10 reported games for Ricks this season for Mater Dei, he has eight interceptions to rank among the state leaders and 25 tackles. He started last season at cornerback for a team that went 15-0, won the CIF Open Division state title and was No. 1 in the nation.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Kenric Jameison
(Linfield Christian, Temecula) Sr.

For our Southern California offensive honoree, we go the southern portion of the Inland Empire where Riverside County borders with San Diego County. There, we find Kenric, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior running back, who’s been carrying the load for the 12-1 Lions.

Last week, in a 57-13 CIF Southern Section Division 12 semifinal victory by the top seed, Jameison didn’t hit a high-water mark for TDs on the season since he only ran for two scores, but his 297 yards rushing was 95 yards better than his previous season’s best of 202 yards, and it came when the Lions needed it to move on to the title game.

So far this season, Kenric has rushed for 1,788 yards and 25 touchdowns and if he has another big game this week he could go over the magical 2,000 yards mark and potentially lead the top-seeded Lions to a CIF Southern Regional Bowl game appearance with a victory over Artesia of Lakewood.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Sam Stewart Jr.
(Liberty, Bakersfield) Sr.

Whenever we visit The Valley as the locals like to call the CIF Central Section, we remind readers that for this feature everything north of the Grapevine is considered Northern California.

It came down to Liberty answering a late fourth quarter Buchanan (Clovis) field with one of its own by sophomore Brayden Blevins with no time left on the clock in a Central Section Division I semifinal 24-23 Liberty victory. The bottom line, however, is it would never have happened had not Sam been the real man by picking last Friday to have his biggest game of the season in the Patriots’ upset of the previous state No. 16 Bears, a victory that avenged one of the team’s two losses this season.

For his efforts, the Liberty senior two-way star is this week’s Northern California Offensive Player of the Week.

It was Stewart Jr. that led the march to the winning field goal and after all was said and done he finished with season-highs of 36 carries and 244 yards with two touchdowns. He also had five pass receptions for another 35 yards.

Stewart Jr. also had an impact on defense at linebacker with five tackles.

So far this season for a Patriots team that jumped 18 spots in the rankings to No. 25 this week, and heading into a showdown for third-seeded Liberty with top seed and state No. 9 Central of Fresno, Stewart Jr. has 1,873 yards rushing and 20 TDs and 23 receptions for 254 yards and two more scores. On defense, he has 46 tackles, two sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries.

If Sam, who many consider the top player in the Bakersfield area this year, can help execute a winning game plan one more week, Liberty will be in a pretty high up on the regional bowl game board.

Moon is the leading tackler on one of the top defensive units in Northern California. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Judaea Moon
(Valley Christian, San Jose) Sr.

The way Judaea has been playing defense this season he has the fans howling, but not at the moon in the sky, but the Moon on the gridiron high up on the hill in south San Jose where Valley Christian plays its home games.

His numbers weren’t exceptional, but the Central Coast Section was the only section in Northern California (other than the Central Section) that played any games last week, and even to do that because of air quality issues they had to scramble and find alternate locations and hold two triple-headers to boot.

In the nightcap of one of those triple-headers against Christopher of Gilroy at Pacific Grove High, and in a 42-0 CIF Central Coast Section Open Division 2 first round victory where he didn’t exactly see a lot of action, Moon had four tackles and a pass interception.

In this case we also looked at his overall season as Judaea has been leading the Valley Christian defense to the Promised Land more than once for the 10-2 Warriors, and that’s exactly why it was a good week to honor him as the NorCal defensive award winner.

For a defense that has now pitched three straight shutouts, and four on the season, including three against West Catholic Athletic League foes, the 5-foot-11, 240-pound Moon, who has some interest including Air Force, leads the team in tackles with 63 and 13 for loss. His 11 sacks by far leads the team, and he shares the team lead with three interceptions.

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

Jesse Fierro
(Kennedy, Delano) Sr.

Because of the Central Section and Central Coast Section being the only ones that played north of the Tehachapi Mountains, we go back to just north of Bakersfield on Highway 99 to the grape-growing agricultural community of Delano.

To say the foot of Fierro was hot last week as a placekicker would be pretty accurate. In fact, Fierro wasn’t just on fire he was blazing.

Last week, in a shocking 73-19 Central Section Division 5 semifinal rout by No. 3 seed Kennedy of No. 2 seed and previously undefeated defending champion Caruthers, Fierro was a perfect 10 for 10 on PATs and also booted a 27-yard field goal.

On the season, the senior is a very solid 46 of 52 on PATs and a perfect five for five on field goals.

Now, if Fierro and his Thunderbirds teammates can stay hot this week against Shafter in the D5 title game, he may get a chance to help boot Kennedy into a Bowl 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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