NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week are Robert Rivera from Downey of Modesto (left) and Josh Baron from Vista Murrieta. Photos: & Mark Tennis.

We have an interesting NorCal Multi-Purpose performance and two other Northern California honorees with interesting twists to their stories, plus State Record Book additions from Southern California as well. This week’s honorees are from Modesto, El Dorado Hills, Seaside, San Diego, Valencia in the Santa Clarita Valley and Murrieta in the Inland Empire.

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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 Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Robert Rivera (Downey, Modesto) Jr.

The southern portion of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and the city of Modesto is the destination where we find our Northern California offensive honoree this week. After a loss to Escalon sent the Knights into a three-game skid, with losses to state-ranked McClymonds and Turlock after that, the Knights needed a big performance to get to 1-1 in the Central California Athletic League and they got a huge performance and one of the biggest parts was played by what was likely the smallest player on the field.

Last week, in a 56-40 road victory over crosstown Enochs in a game that not only evened the Knights’ league record but got them back over .500 at 4-3 overall, and in a game played at Johansen High, Robert Rivera, a 5-foot-5, 135-pound senior running back, had a hand in seven touchdowns after rushing for 73 yards and four TDs and catching nine passes out of the backfield for 214 and three more scores.
The last two scores for Rivera were keys to a ninth straight win by Downey over an Enochs team that was still in the game through three quarters. On third-and-11, and with Bryce Gouker scrambling out of trouble, the Knights’ quarterback found Rivera and the little guy took it to the house for a fourth quarter 36-yard TD reception and his sixth TD of the night. Rivera’s seventh touchdown closed out the scoring.

“I won’t go down easily,” Rivera told the Modesto Bee after his performance.

While scoring seven TDs in a game is an incredible feat, and was the focus of the Modesto Bee’s account of the game, that performance doesn’t earn a spot in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book, but in a bit of twist there was a performance in the game that nearly did. Gouker, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, passed for four TDs but his 465 yards passing falls just five yards short of earning him a spot on the Most Yards (Game) list for passing in the record book.

Jacobs can go up and make catches for Oak Ridge on both sides of the ball. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Avant Jacobs
(Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills) Sr.

Our Northern California Defensive Player of the Week came up with what the Sacramento Bee called a “monster performance” but in a bit of a twist it wasn’t as a wide receiver or occasional running back where he usually puts up big numbers. In fact, we can call his performance Multi-Purpose, but in reality it was one of his worst offensive performances of the year.

Last week, in a 38-15 must win victory over Del Oro of Loomis that got Cal-Hi Sports No. 45 Oak Ridge to 4-2 (not including a forfeit win) overall and 2-2 in the Sierra Foothill League, the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder came up huge on defense with a fumble recovery he returned 86 yards to the house for a touchdown, two pass interceptions, two pass deflections, and six tackles (four solo) from his defensive back position.

What makes his performance Multi-Purpose is Jacobs did rush for two TDs despite on his only two carries of the night but it was for a total of nine yards rushing, and he only had one pass reception for eight yards.

In another bit of a twist the two TDs rushing was actually his most in a game this season as Jacobs has three total, but as a receiver his output was a miniscule fraction of his season totals of 30 receptions for 442 yards and six touchdowns.

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

Brayan Salazar (Seaside) Jr.

San Francisco Bay is not the only famous big bay in Northern California, and it’s the other big and historic bay we visit when we land on the shores of Monterey Bay to honor our NorCal special teams award winner.

Last week, in a Battle of the Bay 23-20 Seaside victory over arch-rival and neighboring Monterey, Salazar, the Spartans’ junior kicker, booted home a 36-yard field goal with 2 seconds left on the clock that avoided overtime and possibly blowing a 20-7 lead, and sent the visitors back home from Monterey Peninsula College to the huge sand dunes Seaside is known for as a winner.

In another interesting twist, this is the second straight year the Battle of the Bay has been won by a last second field goal. But wait a minute, it gets even better.

Last year it was Monterey that prevailed, 29-26, in a season opening win at Monterey Peninsula College. The field goal that split the uprights was by Tony Barragan and to complete the ultimate twist, Salazar and Barragan are cousins.

Of note as well is the loss last year sent Seaside into a tailspin and a season in which the Spartans only won a single game. This year’s win over Monterey improved Seaside to 6-0 and tied for first at 2-0 in the Pacific Coast Athletic League – Mission Division.

Castillo doesn’t run it that often for Patrick Henry, but will take the yards when it’s there. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Matthew Castillo
(Patrick Henry, San Diego) Sr.

There were a couple of big time offensive performances from Southern California that earned spots in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book but only one student-athlete can be honored since we don’t have ties or co-winners for any of our of award selections and never have in over 40 years of dishing out thousands of honors.

So, we head to the CIF San Diego Section and the hills of east San Diego near Mission Peak where we find our offensive honoree. Last week, in a 70-36 victory over Kearney of San Diego, Castillo, a senior quarterback, went 22-of-37 for 447 yards and eight touchdowns. The yardage is 23 yards short of making the state record book, but the eight TDs makes the Most Touchdown Passes (Game) list.

So far this season, Castillo has passed for 2,279 yards and 31 touchdowns. The 31 TDs is the top reported mark in the San Diego Section and the passing yardage is third.

It isn’t really a twist but last season the Patriots passed for less the 1,000 yards with Castillo getting the bulk of it, but that was under a different head coach and they only won a single game. This season, the Patrick Henry helm is in the hands of J.T. O’Sullivan, so it’s no wonder they are passing more and off to a 4-3 start. O’Sullivan was a standout quarterback at Jesuit (Carmichael), and then UC Davis before an 11- year professional career, mostly in the NFL.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Bryce Buchanan (West Ranch, Valencia) Sr.

We don’t know if Bryce has a nickname, but a good one might be “The Disruptor.” He’s been getting into the backfield of the opposing team’s plays quite often and has been the defensive leader of a team that will be looking to go to 8-0 later this week.

In West Ranch’s 36-11 victory last Friday over Canyon of Canyon Country, Buchanan shined with a season-high 18 tackles with four of those for negative yardage. He also had a forced fumble and increased his season total for tackles for loss to 23. For the season, Bryce also has 85 tackles to lead the team, including previous season highs of 14 in a game twice.

A 6-foot, 210-pound senior who has added 20 pounds of muscle since last year, Buchanan already has more tackles than last season but has yet to surpass his junior year total of 5.5 sacks. The way he and the Wildcats are going, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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

Josh Baron (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta) Sr.

This kicker came to our attention earlier this season when Cal-Hi Sports Editor and Publisher Mark Tennis saw him boot a 50-yard field goal in an early September 24-6 victory over host Capital Christian of Sacramento.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior kicker hasn’t had one quite that long since then, but last week in a 37-17 victory at previously undefeated Chaparral of Temecula that pushed the Broncos to 5-2 and in sole possession of first place at 2-0 in the Southwestern League, Baron booted field goals of 32, 31 and 45 yards.

It takes five field goals in a game to make the Most Field Goals (Game) list in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book but three field goals in a game is a pretty decent accomplishment and good enough to earn Josh this week’s Southern California Special Teams Player of the Week.

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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