NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week are Ivan Robledo of St. Helena (left) and Mitch Leigber of Laguna Hills. Photos: Hudl.com & @CoachMaceranka / Twitter.com.


We had to scour the state for this week’s six award winners and sometimes finding a hidden gem in some of the categories is not always that easy. Be as it may, we found our winners in the Wine Country town of St. Helena, plus Hanford and Rocklin in Northern California, and the Southern Orange County cities of Laguna Hills and San Juan Capistrano, plus Oceanside, the northernmost city in the CIF San Diego Section.

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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 Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Ivan Robledo
(St. Helena) Soph.

We go to the Napa Valley and the center of the Wine Country for our Northern California offensive honoree, and the bottom line is there’s more than fine wine in a town whose high school football team has a long and storied history from a school founded in 1887.

We’ve visited St. Helena before, but the last time was in 2011 when we did a story on Charles Bertoli, the great-grandson of Charles “Chili” Bertoli, the 1930 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football California State Player of the Year.

Bertoli had some great games for the Saints, but in his last game, Robledo, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore running back, had the greatest game running a football in school history.

Last week, in a 47-14 victory on the road at Clear Lake that gets St. Helena to 5-0 and 2-0 in the North Central I League standings, and in the first road win over Clear Lake since 2014, Robledo rambled for a school record 284 yards rushing with six TDs on only 12 carries.

Robledo scored on runs of 37, 25, 17, 80 and two yards, all in the first half, and a 51-yarder that closed out the scoring before head coach Brandon Farrell gave him one more carry that went for 17 yards and broke the school record of 270 yards rushing set in 2013 by Sebastian Segura. The six TDs also ties the school record set by Tom Blanchard on a 1960 team that began an unbeaten streak from 1960-1965 when the Saints dominated the area’s small school scene.

For good measure, Robledo had an interception on defense.

So far this season, Robledo leads a rush-happy Saints’ offense with 859 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. On defense, from his middle linebacker position, Robledo has 15 tackles, a sack, and three interceptions, including one he took 79 yards for a score.

Last year, after being brought up from the JV team, Robledo played in four games and had over 800 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing.

“Ivan is a total team player. He loves to play football and wants to win first, have success second,” said Farrell who is in his 12th season at the St. Helena helm. “Since he’s only a sophomore, you would think you would have to guard against getting too complacent. But he’s probably one of our hardest working kids in the weight room and understands that it’s a team game and his success is based on how the team does.”

St. Helena has only won one CIF North Coast Section championship, and that was in 1977, but with Robledo running the ball and the rest of the Saints stepping up this could be the year they make a run in the new NCS playoff format after having stamped themselves as a potential front-runner in Division VII so far this season with Salesian and a Willits team they meet this Friday night at home. Currently, the Saints are the only NCS team from D7 to be mentioned in the first Cal-Hi Sports Small School rankings as they are currently on the bubble.

Tyler Mello paid a visit over the summer to UC Davis. Photo: Twitter.com.


Cal-Hi Sports Defensive California
Defensive Player of the Week

Tyler Mello
(Hanford) Sr.

We return to Tulare County for a second straight week, only last week it was on offense, while this week Tulare County and the CIF Central Section, which is regarded as Northern California for our Player of the Week features, gets the NorCal defensive honoree.

Last week, in a huge 36-28 victory over neighboring Tulare Western of Tulare that gets the Bullpups to 5-0 heading into a West Yosemite League opener this Friday at Visalia El Diamante, Mello was anything but mellow on defense after the 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker recorded a whopping 23 tackles.

Mello, who was an All Central Section Preseason First Team selection at linebacker, came up huge as a tight end on offense as well with four catches for 34 yards, and on two of the receptions he rumbled into the end zone for touchdowns.

So far this season Mello, who carries a 4.0 GPA and reportedly has some college interest including UC Davis, has now gone over 20 tackles in a game twice this season with 20 in a 38-31 win over Sanger, and is the No. 3 reported tackler in the state with 83 tackles, including 11 for loss, five sacks, a forced fumble and recovery, and a blocked punt. On offense, Mello has three receiving TDs and three 2-point conversions.

Last season on an 8-4 Hanford team that made it to the Central Section Division 2 quarterfinals, Mello had 133 tackles with 26.5 for loss and 14 sacks.

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

Cole Becker
(Rocklin) Jr.

The big question in the Sierra Foothill League right now is will someone challenge a Folsom team that has recently reigned supreme? The answer very well could be that with Becker as the Rocklin kicker, maybe the Thunder could be that team, particularly if Cole continues to play the role that earned him this week’s NorCal Special Teams honors.

To say Becker has some added some thunder to the Thunder with his legs may be an understatement.

Last week, in a 28-22 victory over an Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills team that had Folsom on the ropes two weeks ago before losing a heartbreaker, Cole played a about as key a role as possible after booting three field goals from 36 yards and 37 yards, and then a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter for the game’s final points that took away an Oak Ridge opportunity to send the game to overtime with a field goal of its own.

So far this season for a 5-1 Thunder team that is now a half game ahead of Folsom at 2-0 in Sierra Foothill League action, the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Becker has split the uprights 10 out of 11 times and on PATs he’s made all 20 attempts.

Now comes the big test for Thunder and Becker as Rocklin rolls into Folsom this Friday night and it will be interesting to see what role Cole plays in the outcome.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Mitch Leigber
(Laguna Hills) Jr.

It’s off to the hills of Southern Orange County where we find our SoCal offensive honoree who combined running and catching the pigskin to snag this week’s statewide honor to go with his being named the Orange County Register Orange County boys athlete of the week.

Last week, in a 56-35 victory where Leigber didn’t have to be a good neighbor to visiting Bellflower, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound running back and strong safety was like a one-man wrecking crew.

On offense, Leigber had the Bellflower defense laboring after he rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a 43-yard run. Of the five passes Hawks quarterback Hayden McKenna completed, four were pitched to Mitch who took all four pass receptions to the house for scores and added 106 yards receiving to account for 308 total yards of offense. He also rushed for a two-point conversion and caught a pass for a second two-point conversion.

The six touchdowns in a game is reportedly a Laguna Hills record.

Leigber was also a terror on defense where he recorded 11 tackles and had a pass interception in a truly standout multi-purpose performance.

So far this season for the 3-2 Hawks, Leigber has 563 yards rushing and five TDs, and 252 yards receiving and six more scores. On defense he has 38 tackles and two pass interceptions.

Last season as a sophomore Leigber had just under 1,000 yards combined rushing and receiving and eight TDs, plus he had 61 tackles and a pass interception on defense.

Both teams scored twice so Cameron Shirangi’s two field goals were the difference for St. Margaret’s in win vs. Santa Fe Christian. Photo: Twitter.com.


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

Cameron Shirangi
(St. Margaret’s, San Juan Capistrano) Sr.

In the intro, we mentioned that we sometimes have to search far and wide for honorees in some categories and while the performance of Shirangi didn’t make a lot of headlines, it sent us to Southern Orange County for a second time this week for our SoCal special teams award winner.

Last week, in a 20-14 victory of Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound kicker and punter made sure the Tartans stayed unbeaten at 5-0 and in the hunt as one of the top Division 6 teams in the CIF Southern Section.

Just like he’s been all season as a placekicker, Shirangi was perfect. He was 2-of-2 on field goals and 2-of-2 on points after touchdown.

So far this season, Shirangi is 4-of-4 on field goals with a longest of 44 yards, and he’s 20-of-20 on points after touchdown.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Isaiah Tuipala
(El Camino, Oceanside) Sr.

In a game where defense was at a premium, and where El Camino was shut out until late in the fourth quarter, it was Tuipala that shined and with his performance earned this week’s Southern California Defensive Player of the Week award.

Last week, in a 14-3 win over Eastlake of Chula Vista, and in a game that was a non-league matchup but important for setting the CIF San Diego Section playoff pecking order, Tuipala, a 5-foot-9, 225-pound sophomore defensive end, had a whopping three forced fumbles and 10 tackles.

The visiting Wildcats trailed 3-0 with 3:16 left to play when they scored on a deflected pass to take a 7-3 lead. Then, on the very first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff, Tuipala, a transfer from Tri-City Christian of Escondido, forced his third fumble of the game and teammate Isaac Tinoisamoa got his second fumble recovery on the Eastlake 11-yard line.

Two plays later, Noah Sega scored to seal the deal but none of it would have been possible without the play of Tuipala.

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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