SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s first SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week are Ke’ontae Springs (left) of San Diego Madison and Cade Lambert (right) from West Valley of Cottonwood. Photos: & Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports.

We get started for this feature for the 2019 football season once again selecting offensive, defensive and special teams players from two different regions of the state. The six we have come up for this week are from San Diego, Los Angeles, La Puente, Cottonwood, Danville and Bakersfield.

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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
Offensive Player of the Week

Ke’ontae Springs
(Madison, San Diego) Sr.

Our first SoCal offensive honoree comes from the CIF San Diego Section and a city school that claimed a CIF Division 2-AA state championship in Springs’ freshman season in 2016, and previously in 2012 when the Warhawks won a CIF Division III state title.

When one of the two senior running backs that was ahead of Springs last season in the pecking order, current USC freshman Kenan Christon, was also a track star and named the Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Year, it would seem the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder had some mighty big shoes to fill as a running back.

No problem. The Warhawks’ leading receiver last season came out of the box this season with some huge offensive numbers. Last week, Springs sprung loose for an 80-yard TD run on the second play of the second half that increased the Madison lead in what ended as a 34-23 victory on the road at crosstown Rancho Bernardo. Earlier in the game, he had an 88-yard TD run and two other runs to pay dirt and finished with 246 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Springs didn’t score any TDs receiving but he did have seven pass receptions for 114 yards.

Last season, Springs had 587 yards receiving and three TDs and 337 yards rushing and four more scores.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Anthony Ruvalcaba
(Garfield, Los Angeles) Sr.

We go to the Los Angeles City Section and the East Los Angeles area for our defensive award winner.

There we find a 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end who has started right where he left off last year when he was one of the state’s sack leaders and a key member of a Bulldogs team that went 13-2, came from the No. 6 seed to reach the LA City Section Open Division championship, and then won a CIF Southern Regional Division 4-A Bowl Game title before falling to McClymonds in the 4-A state championship.

Last week, in a 27-6 victory over neighboring Montebello, Ruvalcaba had five sacks, one forced fumble and a blocked point after touchdown.

When the CIF LA City Section tweeted out the performance and Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times re-tweeted it, Cal-Hi Sports Executive Editor Mark Tennis, who was sitting next to Sondheimer at the Mater Dei game in Santa Ana, decided there and then Ruvalcaba would be the SoCal defensive honoree. “Great, don’t have to spend time looking up anybody else,” he told Sondheimer with a chuckle.

Last season, Ruvalcaba was tied for 11th in the state with 18 sacks which was also the No. 2 reported mark in the LA City Section. He also had 98 tackles and four fumble recoveries with one he took 94 yards for a touchdown.

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

Adrian Ochoa
(Bishop Amat, La Puente) Jr.

For our Southern California Special Teams Player of the Week we head out Interstate 10 about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles where we find a junior kicker that helped the Lancers get off on the right foot using his foot.

Last week, in a 17-0 blanking of Diamond Ranch of Pomona, the 5-foot-10, 153-pound junior had all the points Bishop Amat needed after booting a 47-yard field goal plus he was 2-for-2 on points after touchdown.

The 47-yard field goal was not reported on either or but had it been it would be the top reported mark in the state on opening week by three yards.

Last season, Ochoa was 41-of-43 on PATs but only made 2-of-6 field goals with a longest of 38 yards, so he’s off on a better foot himself this season.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Nate Rutchena
(Monte Vista, Danville) Sr.

It didn’t take long for Rutchena to show why he was our choice as the Cal-Hi Sports Preseason All East Bay First Team wide receiver, and although this honor is for his offense, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder came up huge on both sides of the line of scrimmage in a come from behind 27-22 victory over Granite Bay.

Visiting Granite Bay reportedly has 12 starters returning from last season, but in what was a crucial early season match-up from a competitive equity standpoint, it was the hosts who had the top returning performer, and the fate of Monte Vista was in the hands of Nate.

Rutchena had 10 pass receptions for 128 yards and three touchdowns, including a 2-yard TD grab with 1:32 left in the game that gave the Mustangs the lead. The touchdown catch didn’t quite seal the deal but an interception from his safety position in the final minute certainly did.

Last season, Rutchena, who currently has a fair amount of college interest and is being recruited as an Athlete with the most interest from Cal, had 45 receptions for 716 yards and seven TDs on offense and 46 tackles and five pass interceptions on defense.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that Nate had this kind of game to start the season,” Monte Vista head coach Matt Russi remarked. “He can do it all and he’s not selfish and wants his teammates to have success. We all talk about wide receivers blocking, but it doesn’t get mentioned a lot, and the other thing Nate did in the game was he blocked his tail off and got extra yards for other players.”

Rutchena would want to give a shout-out to the guy that got him the ball, senior quarterback Jack Stewardson, who was mistakenly left off the Preseason East Bay Second Team. He had 281 yards passing and four touchdowns.

On a final note, Ruchena is also a decent basketball player and was an All State Grid-Hoops nominee.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Cade Lambert
(West Valley, Cottonwood) Sr.

We go to the far north in the CIF Northern Section for our NorCal defensive honoree who is from a small town on Interstate 5 just south of Redding, but a town that always seems to have a competitive football team and this season is looking no different.

Just like our NorCal offensive honoree, our Defensive Player of the Week in Northern California got it done on both sides of the ball, and while his offense was superb, it was his leadership of the defense that earns him the award.

Last week, in a 34-12 victory by defending Northern Section Division III champion over Shasta of Redding, the 6-foot, 190-pound middle linebacker led four Eagles defenders in double-digits for tackles with a whopping 18 with one for loss.

When he and his stingy defense got the ball back, Cade had it made in the shade after Lambert put the hurt on Shasta on offense where rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns.

Last season, Lambert had 130 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two recoveries, and a sack. On offense he rushed for 403 yards and seven touchdowns. The team had a similar senior leader as a linebacker and bruising rusher last year in all-state small schools Bailey Sulzer. Lambert is stepping right into that role without a hitch.

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

Shabazz Muhammad
(Highland, Bakersfield) Sr.

This is the friendly reminder to start the season that for these weekly honors, the CIF Central Section all the way down to the Grapevine south of Bakersfield, is considered Northern California

We started in the Bay Area for our offensive honoree, then went to the far north for our defensive winner, now we go 450 miles south for our NorCal Special Teams Player of the Week, and while the three award winners are geographically far apart, they all have one thing in common, they produced big on all sides of the ball.

Muhammad, whose info was sent to us by longtime Cal-Hi Sports friend, occasional contributor, and Central Section historian Bob Barnett, snags special teams after taking a kickoff return 85 yards to the house in the Scots’ 21-6 victory over Arvin.

You probably guessed it, but Shabazz gave Arvin the razz on offense after accounting for the other two Highland touchdowns as a wide receiver where he had five catches for 196 yards with the longest TD a 66-yarder.

Don’t stop there because Muhammad was a big part of the defense where the 5-foot-11, 170-pound cornerback had six tackles (one for loss), and an interception he returned 15 yards.

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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