Here are the 11 players on the defensive side of the ball who have been named for the 40th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams who are first team overall plus a punter and three more of the six multi-purpose players. For defense this year, the lineup shows three for defensive line, five for linebacker and three for defensive back, including two juniors who figure to be among the top 10 college prospects in the nation for next season.
For this year’s First Team Offense plus three more multi-purpose players,
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Thanks to Orange County correspondent and frequent free-lance contributor Chuck Nan for providing many of the writeups for this year’s first team all-state honorees.
FIRST TEAM ALL-STATE DEFENSE (ELITE)
DL Jacob Bandes (Pittsburg) 6-3, 295, Sr.
This selection was not as easy as some might think, given that Jacob is one of the highest ranked defensive line recruits in the nation and was dominant even as an incoming junior when he worked out at the 2018 Nike event known as The Opening Oakland Regional that was held in Richmond. Bandes did not pile up big-time tackle stats or sacks during his senior season. But he did draw frequent double teams and despite those numbers he was still voted as the Defensive Player of the Year by coaches in one of the best leagues in Northern California, the Bay Valley Athletic League (same league as CIF D1-A state champ Liberty of Brentwood). It also wasn’t hard to notice that Jacob was in a lot of pain during a late-season matchup with Liberty from a knee injury. He kept at it, though, and displayed the toughness that may carry him far. He didn’t play when Pitt lost to De La Salle in the CIF North Coast Section Open Division semifinals. Bandes also was on all of the Bay Area and All-NorCal teams that we’ve seen. He will play next at the University of Washington.
DL Drake Jackson (Centennial, Corona)
6-4, 245, Sr.
Like many elite defensive lineman, Jackson had such an impact on opponents that they either double-teamed him or avoided him altogether. That strategy didn’t always work as he still was able to register 50 tackles, eight sacks, three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), defended six passes and forced three fumbles. The attention paid to Jackson allowed his Centennial teammates to be successful as well — to the tune of 58 sacks in 13 games. Jackson was no doubt the anchor of a defense that allowed less than 14 points per game. The Huskies, who played a daunting schedule as usual, finished 12-1 and advanced to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs before falling. Jackson’s performance and leadership on the field led to his selection as “Defensive Player of the Year” by the Inland Empire’s Press-Enterprise. He has committed to USC and was selected to play in the annual All-American Bowl.
DL Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village) 6-5, 235, Sr.
Simply put, Kayvon was one of the most highly-recruited student athletes in America in 2018. He fielded more than 40 offers, including ones from most of the traditional “blue blood” programs. His final list came down to Oregon, Alabama, Florida State, and Florida. Oregon won out and added to the country’s No. 7 recruiting class, according to 247 Sports. Thibodeaux gained consensus five-star status and eventually emerged to be ranked anywhere from the first to 10th best prospect nationally by all major services. The big guy didn’t disappoint as he helped the Lions to a 12-1 mark and the Marmonte League title. Thibodeaux notched 54 tackles (19 for loss), had an amazing 18 sacks, with 13 QB hurries, five forced fumbles, one recovery, three passes defended and two blocked field goals on his resume. Scouts loved his explosion off the line and physical effort to get to the passer. Thibodeaux has above-average speed and is solid versus the run, due to his quickness. The development of a spin move also contributed to his pass-rushing success as a senior. He already was awarded as the national “Defensive Player of the Year” Award by USA Today.
LB Justin Flowe (Upland) 6-2, 225, Jr.
He’s been called “Babyman” for two years already at Upland and all he’s done so far is live up to that nickname. Flowe registered an impressive 145 tackles over 14 of 15 games that the Highlanders had in a CIF Southern Section Division II championship season. He missed he game when Upland lost to Rancho Cucamonga in its regular season finale, but played and has 12 tackles in the loss to Sierra Canyon in the CIF SoCal D1-A regional bowl game. Seventeen of Justin’s tackles were for loss and he also blocked a pair of field goals. A who’s who of major colleges have offered scholarships to him and it’ll be an interesting race to follow. The list includes Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, USC, Oregon, Georgia and many more.
LB De’Gabriel Floyd (Westlake, Westlake Village) 6-2, 220, Sr.
In his only season at Westlake, Floyd was a monster and showed even more of his freakish athleticism on offense. He probably was already assured of being an All-American Bowl participant even before he took a snap at Westlake based on what he did as a junior at Golden Valley of Santa Clarita. He was an all-state first team junior and transferred to Westlake for his senior year. Floyd had 120 tackles, six sacks and four interceptions and scored nine times on offense for the Warriors. He also scored on special teams and on defense. As a sophomore, Floyd played at Hawkins of Los Angeles. He’s already left Westlake as a graduate and already is enrolled for college at the University of Texas.
LB Daniel Heimuli (Menlo-Atherton, Atherton) 6-2, 220, Sr.
After checking out the all-state first team on Tuesday, Daniel will be front and center before the cameras on Wednesday at the Menlo-Atherton gym announcing to the world where he’ll be signing a letter of intent to play in college. His final five consisted of Oregon, Washington, Alabama, Utah and UCLA. Heimuli also deserves all the attention. He was a major force for the Bears in their march to the CIF D3-AA state title with a good chunk of his 100 tackles coming in the playoffs. Heimuli had a season high of 11 in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division 1 title game vs. Wilcox of Santa Clara and he had 11 again the next week in the CIF NorCal D3-AA bowl game against unbeaten Eureka. Daniel just returned from traveling first to Hawaii where he was named Defensive MVP at the Polynesian Bowl and then all the way east to Tuscaloosa for his official visit with the Crimson Tide.
LB Spencer Lytle (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-3, 215, Sr.
We and many others first heard about Spencer as a sophomore linebacker at Servite of Anaheim. He made the move to Bosco for his junior season and just had a very strong senior campaign. Lytle, in fact, was the leading tackler in the Trinity League and if you know anything about prep football you know that leading anything in the Trinity League says an awful lot of any player. He had seven solo tackles and 14 tackles overall with a fumble recovery in one of the two games against national power Mater Dei of Santa Ana and his stats for the season showed him with 108 tackles and seven sacks. Lytle had 77 tackles (10 for loss) as a junior for the Braves. An honor student as well, Lytle picked the University of Wisconsin as his college and already is in the frigid cold of Madison.
LB Henry To’oto’o (De La Salle, Concord) 6-2, 215, Sr.
Rated as the nation’s No. 44 overall prospect and No. 3 outside linebacker according to 247Sports, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound athlete has a decision to make, as he is still uncommitted. The four-star prospect has offers from heavyweights like Alabama, Tennessee and Washington. To’oto’o can be best described as a “destructive force” with the ability to charge sideline to sideline from his inside linebacker spot to chase down ball carriers. That’s on defense. On offense, he is just as tenacious, grinding out tough yards as a running back. To’oto’o was leader of a De La Salle defense that was hailed as one of the best-ever in school history – a real accolade considering the program’s legacy. The Spartans held opponents to less than 12 points-per-game. Versus mighty Folsom and its high-octane offense, in the season opener, DLS shutout the Bulldogs, 14-0, as To’oto’o forced two fumbles and had eight tackles. In the CIF State Open Division championship game versus Mater Dei, To’oto’o tried his best to play with a fracture in his foot that he had incurred the day prior. He needed surgery to repair the foot, but is well enough now and has been on recruiting trips in order to make that all-important decision. To’oto’o already has been chosen as State Defensive Player of the Year.
DB Kejuan Markham (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) 6-0, 175, Sr.
It sure helps to set or tie a state record or two to earn a first team slot and Markham did just that with three interception return TDs to lead the Jackrabbits in their early-season victory against CIF L.A. City Section powerhouse Narbonne. The state record that Markham tied (which also is the first time in Poly’s long history that anyone had done that) was also tied later in the season by Mater Dei’s Elias Ricks (see below). For his three-year career at Poly, Markham put himself among the best in school history with 114 career tackles and 14 career interceptions. He also was a dangerous kick returner. He and twin brother Keon, a third-team all-state pick this season, are already enrolled at Arizona State University.
DB Elias Ricks (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-2, 180, Jr.
On Christmas Day, Ricks announced to the world that he would be committing to LSU. The junior from Mater Dei had kept those around him in suspense. Ricks is ranked the No. 1 cornerback and No. 3 player in California by 247 Sports. He’s also the No. 9 overall player in the class of 2020. Ricks proved his worth this past season, snagging nine interceptions returning four for pick sixes. Three of those came in the CIFSS semifinals versus Centennial (Corona) — to help the Monarchs secure a spot in the CIFSS championship. The three interception returns for scores tied the Cal-Hi Sports state record. For the season, Elias also registered nine passes defended and 27 tackles. With his impressive abilities and stat line, Ricks was named to the All-USA First-Team on defense by USA Today. He had to sit out the state final against De La Salle, but the transgression was not viewed as serious enough to deny him of any honors he had earned over the first 14 games of the season.
DB Chris Steele (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-1, 190, Sr.
Since the start of his junior year, Chris was one of the most-coveted defensive backfield recruits in the nation. Steele helped the Braves to a 13-1 record and a Trinity League title in 2018. SJB lost to eventual state champion Mater Dei in the Southern Section playoffs, a school the Braves defeated in league play. One of the leading tacklers on the team in 2016 as a sophomore (93), by the time he was a senior, Steele could only amass 32 tackles in 13 games, as opponents just stayed away from his sector like it was a minefield. He registered one interception, had 11 passes defended and blocked two field goals as a senior. In all, Steele had 135 tackles in a three-year career to go along with 23 passes defended. Steele was ranked by 247 Sports as the No. 4 player in California, No. 4 cornerback in the country and No. 40 overall player in the nation. He graduated early in December and is now enrolled at Florida.
P Ryan Sanborn (Francis Parker, San Diego) 6-3, 180, Sr.
Although selected as the all-state punter, Sanborn never seemed to exit the field on Friday nights. That’s because he was also the starting quarterback and free safety. On his way to establishing 14 single-season and nine single-game school records, Sanborn was selected first-team all-league (as a quarterback, punter and kicker), league most valuable player and his team’s MVP. Ranked the second-best kicker in the nation by Rivals and PrepStar. Also regarded as the nation’s third-best punter by 247 Sports. Sanborn, a U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection, also carries a 4.3 GPA in the classroom and scored a 35 on the ACT where 36 is perfect. Sanborn recently committed to Stanford, choosing the Cardinal over the likes of Michigan, Northwestern, Arizona, Washington State, California, Army, Air Force and Ivy League schools Princeton and Yale, which wanted him as a football-baseball player. Over the past few years, Sanborn has been the talk of several kicking camps he attended. He has shown he has the ability to hit an 80 yard kickoff with ease and exhibited consistency in punting and on field goal kicking.
FIRST TEAM MULTI-PURPOSE
(Three more first team multi-purpose choices listed with first team offense)
QB/RB Trent Tompkins (Central, Fresno)
5-11, 190, Sr.
A quarterback with a magician’s touch, Tompkins led the Central (Fresno) Grizzlies to a 13-1 record and the Tri-River Athletic Conference championship for the third consecutive year. In 14 games, he put together some amazing numbers with his arms and legs that amazed observers. He set new school passing records, and a new Central Section record for the most touchdown passes in a single season (65), regular season touchdowns (47), single-season passing yards (5,001), and regular season passing yards (3,438), all recorded during his senior year. Tompkins ended his high school career ranked No. 2 in Central Section history with 11,743 career passing yards and 138 career touchdown passes. In 2018, he was the only player in the nation to throw for 5,000-or-more yards and rush for 1,000-plus yards. Tompkins is also a star in the classroom. He is a four-year Academic Letter Principal’s Honor Roll honoree for holding a GPA between 3.85-4.0. He has committed to play at UC Davis.
WR/DB Sione Vaki (Liberty, Brentwood) 6-0, 190, Sr.
Liberty head coach Ryan Partridge commented after Vaki did it all on both sides of the ball in a big win against Pittsburg that “he is the best player in California.” Vaki had a forced fumble with two interceptions in the fourth quarter alone of that game and he caught 10 passes for 175 yards on offense. We might not agree with the best player comment, but there’s no doubt Sione would be in the mix for that label and there was no doubt he was going to be multi-purpose on this year’s all-state first team. In helping the Lions win the CIF Division 1-A state title, Vaki caught 70 passes for 1,393 yards and 20 TDs. He also had 90 tackles and four interceptions playing defense. Several of the Polynesian players in the Bay Area were still undecided heading into February and Vaki was one of them. Among his finalists are Utah, USC, Tennessee and Washington State.
QB/RB Bryce Young (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-0, 185, Jr.
Here’s the latest in a long line of Mater Dei quarterbacks to lead the Monarchs to greatness. Replacing JT Daniels on the defending state and national champions wasn’t an easy task, but Young approached the job with a calmness and professionalism that allowed him to come up successful in the biggest of spotlights. First, there was the national showdown with IMG Academy (Florida). Young led the Monarchs on a late fourth-quarter, game-winning comeback drive that solidified the 28-24 victory. Young scored the winning touchdown himself on a dive. Then there was the CIF state championship game against mighty De La Salle. Young exhibited poise as he systematically dissected the Spartans’ imposing defense for a resounding win. Young’s statistics were not as gaudy as other quarterbacks. That’s due to the fact that many of the Monarchs’ games were decided early in the second half. For the year, Young was 231-of-331 passing (69.8%) for 3,846 yards and threw 39 touchdowns. He also contributed four rushing touchdowns. The future is bright for the USC commit as he takes the reins of a very talented squad in 2019, once again.