SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week are Vito Russell of unbeaten Alhambra and Paul M. Rosa from Wilcox of Santa Clara. Photos: & Mark Tennis.

We remind our readers that we also use this feature to keep track of new entries in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book as well as uncovering other outstanding performances and hidden gems. This week we lead with a player with some entries in the record book along with some exceptional performances. Included are stops in Alhambra, Inglewood and then San Diego in Southern California and then Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo, and Sunnyvale for Northern California.

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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
Special Teams Player of the Week

Vito Russell (Alhambra) Jr.

We go just east of downtown Los Angeles for our first Southern California honoree from a 12-0 team, both in the CIF Southern Section Division 13 playoffs, and that’s where we find our SoCal Special Teams award winner this week.

A lot of times we recognize a player that might not have had his top game of the season, but many times, and particularly at this stage of the season, we look at a player’s overall body of work, and for that reason Russell gets the nod this week.

Russell has been the leading reported punt returner in the state, currently holds the No. 6 reported mark nationally and that’s pretty darn good.

Last week, in a 46-14 victory over Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana in the CIFSS D13 quarterfinals, Russell didn’t take a punt to the house like he’s done three times this season, but he did have a 61-yard punt return and another for 16 yards to give him 20 punt returns with only two fair catches for 497 yards.

Vito gets busy in other aspects of the game as well. As a cornerback he grabbed his third interception of the year against Calvary Chapel, one of which early in the season he returned 96 yards for a score. Russell has 44 tackles as well, and on offense at wide receiver he only had one catch last week but on the season he has 49 receptions for 838 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Jared Heywood already has 60 TD passes and more than 4,000 yards passing this season for Inglewood and it’s possible he still has four games left to play. Photo: Win On 3 Sports Media /

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Jared Heywood (Inglewood) Sr.

This past season when they say it’s in the “wood” in Inglewood, they also mean Heywood, particularly after what he has done this season as one of the keys to the Sentinels being 12-0 this season under first-year head coach Mil’Von James.

James has used this transfer from Alemany of Mission Hills and his arm as the linchpin of the Inglewood offense and turned things around from a 0-10 record last season.

Heywood has bigger numbers this season but none came in a more important game the one where we are rewarding his performance.

Last week, in a 60-21 CIF Southern Section Division 13 victory over Santa Monica, balls were flying out of the hands of the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Heywood almost as fast as the jets flying overhead from nearby Los Angeles International Airport after he was a pinpoint 16-of-20 for 406 yards and five touchdowns.

This was Jared’s fifth game of 400 yards or more passing with a high water mark of 505 yards and nine TDs in a rout of West Torrance. On the season, Heywood has passed for 4,196 yards and 60 TDs. The yardage is the third highest reported total in the state and second in the CIF Southern Section to Zevi Eckhaus of neighboring Culver City.

The 60 TD passes is tops in the state and along with the nine TDs earlier this season, both will qualify for spots in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book. The nine TDs is tied for second all-time with several others on the Most Touchdown Passes (Game) list, and the 60 TDs this season is currently in the top 20 on the Single Season TD Passes (Overall) list. The 4,196 yards also makes the Single Season Pass Yards (Overall) list as well.

Heywood is guaranteed at least one more game and potentially four more if he can lead his team to a CIF Bowl Game title, so if the Sentinels can keep winning, Jared could be moving up on all o those lists in the record book.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Broock Desta (Serra, San Diego) Sr.

The Tierasanta District of San Diego is where we find our Southern California Defensive Player of the Week, and the reality lately is when opposing quarterbacks try to throw in the direction of Desta, the destination of football has ended up in the hands of this 5-foot-11, 176-pound cornerback more than a few times.

To say Desta was destined for this honor might be a reach, but Broock was the one doing the reaching and grabbing after picking off two passes last week in a 45-0 win over Coronado in the CIF San Diego Section Division IV playoffs. He also had seven tackles with a sack, and on offense at wide receiver Desta caught one pass for 41 yards and on that one his destination was the end zone.

This is the second straight week Desta has had two interceptions and a TD reception after doing it two weeks ago in a 48-37 victory over cross-town Patrick Henry where he also had 10 tackles.

So far this season for the 9-2 Conquistadors, Desta has dusted opponents to the tune of eight interceptions, 40 tackles, two blocked punts, and on offense he has 22 catches for 442 yards and six touchdowns.

Second-seeded Serra now faces La Jolla Country Day in the semifinals, and we can almost guarantee Desta is destined to see some balls come his way on defense for sure since Country Day has the state’s leading reported quarterback for yardage in senior E.J. Kreutzmann with 4,665 yards along with 52 TD passes.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Paul M. Rosa (Wilcox, Santa Clara) Sr.

The Santa Clara/Silicon Valley area is our destination for the Northern California Offensive Player of the Week and this week we have a young man who is the coach’s son, but his father and Chargers head coach Paul Rosa can’t be accused of playing favorites because ever since his sophomore season his son has stood out and this year is one of the top running backs in the CIF Central Coast Section.

Last week, in a CIFCCS Division I 42-35 overtime win over Menlo-Atherton of Atherton, Rosa was at his best when it counted the most.

After the teams finished tied 35-35 at the end of four quarters, Cal-Hi Sports No. 34 Wilcox (9-2) took the ball to open the extra period from the 10-yard line. Rosa put his team ahead on the second play after breaking a tackle and taking it to the end zone from eight yards out. Wilcox stuffed Menlo-Atherton on its first play in overtime and three plays later after an incomplete pass the Chargers had avenged their only loss last season in the old CCS Open Division 1 title game.

The winning touchdown was the icing on the cake for Rosa after he rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns, and got a fourth score and the only TD of the second half for Wilcox on a 74-yard trick play halfback option pass to Aaron Ah Sing with 7:52 to go in regulation. It was the only pass Rosa has thrown this season. He also played more defense than he has this season and finished with seven tackles.

It may be a cliché to say Rosa turned out the lights on Menlo-Atherton but it actually happened because the lights did go out at MA with 1:59 left in the first half, and when they came back on Rosa rushed for a 38-yard touchdown.

“It was great to avenge last year’s loss because it’s my senior season and it feels good to know we beat that team,” Rosa remarked. “Also, we did it for last year’s team as well.”

Despite missing two games with a groin injury he’s now fully recovered from, and being used sparingly recently, this was his fourth rushing performance of 232 yards or more this season and he has 1,599 yards and 14 TDs this season.

Cal-Hi Sports Editor and Publisher Mark Tennis saw him in action this season and really likes the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Rosa, and Tennis has seen a lot of the best running backs in more than 40 years of covering high school football in California.

“He’s tough, makes people miss, he’s versatile and he’s smart,” Tennis remarked. “He’s small but there’s potential for him at the next level. Bet if he was a slot receiver he’d catch a lot of balls.”

“It feels good to get statewide recognition because it puts me into a group of a lot of well-respected high school football players,” Rosa said when told he was being honored.

Rosa has some solid interest from several smaller schools and with a 4.25 GPA and the heart of a lion there is certainly a spot for him to continue playing football.

Tennis had also mentioned some time ago that Rosa reminded him of Serra head coach Patrick Walsh when he was a 5-foot-8 running back at De La Salle (Concord), and more recently Julian Edelman of New England Patriots fame when he was at Woodside.

Rosa is currently at 4,782 yards for his four-year varsity career, and that means he needs 218 yards for 5,000 in this Saturday’s CCS D1 semifinal.

The twist on this one is Rosa gets his shot in San Mateo at Serra with Walsh on the opposite sideline trying to figure out how to stop him.

At 6-7, 255 pounds it might not seem possible to have the quickness to get in there for 5.5 sacks in one game, but that’s what Thomas Cole of San Luis Obispo did last week. Photo:

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

Thomas Cole (San Luis Obispo) Sr.

We visit San Luis Obispo for our Northern California Defensive Player of the Week and it gives us the opportunity to remind readers that up until two years ago, SLO, as the home of Cal Poly is called by the locals, was part of the CIF Southern Section. Now, after being moved to the CIF Central Section, SLO gets to go in Northern California based on how we honor players for our weekly features.

Last week, in a 49-28 win versus Madera in the CIF Central Section Division 3 quarterfinals, Cole was the pride of SLO, and the 6-foot-7, 255-pound junior defensive end was anything but slow when it came to getting to the Madera quarterback after he recorded 5.5 sacks and 11 total tackles with seven for losses including the sacks.

So far this season for the 10-1 Tigers, Cole has 17 sacks, 93 tackles with 31 for losses, a forced fumble and he’s recorded a safety.

Cole will get to add to his numbers and San Luis Obispo will likely need him to as the third-seeded Tigers travel east on Highway 58 to Bakersfield where they meet second-seed and perennial small school power Bakersfield Christian in the semifinals.

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

Noah Short (The King’s Academy, Sunnyvale) Jr.

We’ve considered honoring Short more than once but the long and short of it is Short finally comes up on the long end of things this week after a solid multi-purpose performance lands this 6-foot, 180-pound junior, who is also one of the leading players on the Knights’ basketball team, this week’s Northern California Special Teams honor.

Last week, Noah was everywhere, but the biggest play he made in a 42-14 Kings Academy CIF Central Coast Section Division III victory over San Mateo was a 94-yard kickoff return he took the house for a score. Short also returned three punts for 64 yards.

Short also had four pass receptions for 55 yards and a TD, he rushed for 38 yards, and on defense he had 11 tackles.

So far this season, this solid all-around athlete has 324 yards in kickoff returns, 171 yards in punt returns, 80 tackles and four sacks and three interceptions on defense, 12 total touchdowns on offense and special teams combined, with 357 yards rushing and four TDs, and 289 yards receiving and four more scores.

Short will get a chance to lengthen his numbers when veteran CCS head coach Pete Lavorato leads his No. 1 seeded Knights up against No. 4 seed Aptos this Friday night in the CIFCCS D3 semifinals.

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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  1. Ryan Rocha
    Posted November 20, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Hey guys
    keep an eye on Mikey Ficher @ Tulare Western. After finishing the regular season 8-2 and league champs, our QB went down to a shoulder injury. Mikey (who was not even our back up) took over in the our playoff run and has led our unit to two impressive victories (42-7) and (47-10) without leaving the field. Mikey has played QB (6/7 118 yards 3td/o int) rushed for 200 yards and 3 TD’s and has has had an interception on defense as well as a 70 punt return for a TD.
    Keep an eye on Mikey!

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted November 20, 2019 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      If he had that fourth punt return last week instead of two weeks ago, he would have been picked for this week. Grid-Hoop standout too.

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