For the second straight year, CIF Open Division two-time state champion Mater Dei (Santa Ana) has to have not one but two finalists who could be Mr. Football for the state of California. At first glance, it also doesn’t appear to be as much of a slam dunk for the winner as last year. This year’s Mr. Football will join a club that includes NFL Hall of Famers, Heisman Trophy winners and even some college football legends from more than 100 years ago. Winner will be announced in approximately two weeks.
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Congratulations to the following seven players who have been chosen as finalists for the 2018 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year honor. This is the only state football honor that has more than 100 years of history attached to it. Last year’s winner was Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels.
(All players listed in alphabetical order)
Kaiden Bennett (Folsom) Sr.
As the first-ever two-time MVP of the CIF state championships, it was deemed that Bennett was worthy of a Mr. Football finalist position. He did it for the last two CIF D1-AA state finals with 474 yards of offense in last year’s 49-42 victory vs. Helix of La Mesa and then 420 in last week’s overtime triumph vs. Cathedral Catholic of San Diego. Kaiden didn’t have three varsity seasons like Folsom all-time state record holder Jake Browning or four like fellow Mr. Football finalist Jayden Daniels, but in two years had had 8,912 yards passing with 121 touchdowns plus 2,137 yards rushing and 38 more scores. That’s more than 11,000 yards and 159 TDs. Bennett will play next at Boise State.
Jayden Daniels (Cajon, San Bernardino) Sr.
For what Daniels did this season and throughout his four seasons at Cajon, it just seemed natural that he earn a finalist nod to be Mr. Football for 2018. Although the Cowboys didn’t win a CIF Southern Section title this season, Daniels continued to show that he was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. He passed for 4,515 yards and 60 TDs and he ran for another 1,536 yards and 16 scores. His final career totals are even slightly higher than we reported when he announced a verbal commitment last week to Arizona State. It doesn’t effect his placement of No. 2 all-time in state history for career TD passes or career passing yards or No. 1 for career total offense, but one sophomore playoff game for Cajon vs. Redondo (Redondo Beach) has been missing from Daniel’s MaxPreps’ totals. With those added on (thanks to Eric-Paul Johnson of the Riverside Press-Enterprise), Daniels is going to go into the state record book with 14,007 career passing yards, 170 career TD passes and 17,657 career total offense yards.
Bru McCoy (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) Sr.
We agree with former Student Sports colleague Greg Biggins, who recently tweeted that Bru is the best two-way player that Mater Dei has ever had. And we’ve been seeing Monarch teams since the late 1980s, even before Bruce Rollinson was the head coach in 1989. Although McCoy didn’t play much on defense later in the season, he had five sacks in his early appearances and it’s obvious from watching him that he can play literally anywhere on the field. Ranked as the No. 1 athlete as a college prospect in the nation, McCoy had 78 catches for 1,428 yards and 18 TDs for the season. He caught seven passes for 116 yards and one TD in the state finals vs. De La Salle. He is going to commit to a college on national TV at the U.S. Army All-American Game.
Trent Tompkins (Central, Fresno) Sr.
With Tompkins getting acclaim as one of the top prep QBs in CIF Central Section history, it’s hard not to have him considered as a Mr. Football State POY finalist as well. He led Central to back-to-back D1 section titles and had impressive showings in losses to Folsom in the regional finals both years as well. This season, Tompkins passed for 482 yards and five TDs with 80 yards rushing in the loss to the Bulldogs. The UC Davis commit also became one of just a handful of QBs in state history to pass for 5,000 yards and rush for at least 1,000 yards this season. Official stats from head coach Kyle Biggs had him at 5,001 yards passing and 65 TD passes with 1,001 yards rushing and seven more scores.
Henry To’oto’o (De La Salle, Concord) Sr.
An injury suffered the day before the CIF Open Division state championship game vs. Mater Dei limited what the Spartans could do with their best overall player and one of the top two-way players they’ve ever had. When they blanked Folsom in the season opener, though, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior was the most impressive player on the field. He forced two fumbles on defense and had several first down runs on offense. To’oto’o rushed for 489 yards on 55 carries for the season and had more than 100 tackles at linebacker. He’s been a three-year starter at linebacker for the Spartans and is one of the top linebacker recruits in the nation.
D.J. Uigalelei (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) Jr.
Already named as the Gatorade State Player of the Year, but if you’ve been following our state player of the year honors over the years you know they don’t always match. The main reason for that is that the Gatorade selection process in most sports doesn’t wait until the season is over. For Uigalelei, he was without question the front-runner to be Mr. Football entering the CIFSS D1 final, but in that game he was only 6 of 19 passing for 115 yards with one TD and two interceptions. We’ll see how much that last game makes a difference. For the Class of 2020, D.J. is the No. 1 prospect in the nation with the size of an NFL quarterback but with the athleticism of someone half his size. For the season, Uigalelei led Bosco to a 13-1 season and No. 1 national ranking until the loss to Mater Dei. He passed for 3,366 yards and 48 TDs and he rushed for 312 yards and six scores. In the first meeting with the Monarchs, D.J. passed for 278 yards and five scores.
Bryce Young (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) Jr.
This would have to be the Monarchs’ other leading player of the year candidate along with Bru McCoy. In the CIF Open Division state final, Young completed 18 of 25 passes for 296 yards and three TDs. He came to Mater Dei after playing two years at Cathedral of Los Angeles and took advantage of an opportunity due to the graduation of 2018 Mr. Football JT Daniels. Young already has committed to USC where Daniels was the starter this season. For the year, Bryce passed for 3,846 yards with 39 TDs and six interceptions. He also rushed for 286 yards and four scores. Counting his years at Cathedral, Young has 8,122 yards and 94 TDs for his prep career with one more year to go. He got his first college offer in the eighth grade from Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, who is now going to be the new offensive coordinator at USC.