SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Both of our SoCal/NorCal offensive players of the week — Walter Gooding from Esperanza of Anaheim (left) & Josue Torres of Milpitas — rushed for more than 300 yards in section championship games. Photos:

Even though we only had CIF section title games to choose from, our final edition with football players for this feature this season still has some memorable performances we’re honoring. This week’s winners are from Anaheim, Oceanside and Fullerton in Southern California and Milpitas, Ripon and Santa Rosa in Northern California.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. This is the final week for football honorees. This feature will switch to boys & girls basketball next week. To nominate someone by 12 noon on most Mondays, email

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Walter Gooding (Esperanza, Anaheim) Sr.

Gooding has been doing it all season but in his latest performance he picked a good time to have a career game and the Aztecs faithful are overjoyed that Walter did not falter, and for his feats, Gooding is this week’s Southern California Offensive Player of the Week.

Last week, in a 42-40 victory over Ramona of Riverside in the CIF Southern Section Division 13 title game, the 5-foot-7, 160-pound running back rushed for a career high 352 yards with four touchdowns, including a 50-yard romp that gave Esperanza a 42-34 lead.

Even with the heroics of Gooding, the Esperanza players, coaches and fans had to sweat it out after Ramona scored with under a minute to play, but the Aztecs stopped a 2-point conversion and after finishing 1-9 the past two seasons Esperanza won its first Southern Section title since 1992.

So far this season for the 10-4 Aztecs and heading into a CIF Southern Regional Division 5-A Bowl Game this Saturday against Los Angeles City Section Division I champion Reseda, Gooding has rushed for 2,632 yards and 27 touchdowns. This was Walter’s second 300-yard performance and the sixth time he’s rushed for over 200 yards so far this season.

Ramsey (21) was front-and-center after Oceanside won its 17th section football title. Photo: @ohs_foundation.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Shawn Ramsey (Oceanside) Jr.

We go back to the CIF San Diego Section for the third straight week for our Southern California defensive honoree only this time it’s the North County area where we land.

Traditional San Diego Section power Oceanside had won 16 CIF San Diego Section titles but none since 2015, so when Ramsey and his defensive teammates came through for No. 17 it was special, particularly with the Pirates being only the No. 9 seed in the D1 bracket.

Last week, in a 28-10 win over Lincoln (San Diego) in the San Diego Section Division I title game, and in a game that was tied 7-7 at halftime before the Oceanside defense took over in the second half, Ramsey ignited things early in the third quarter. After teammate Trejan Apodaca forced a fumble on a sack of the Lincoln quarterback that jarred the ball loose, the 6-foot, 185-pound strong safety and outside linebacker got a scoop and score after recovering the fumble and returning it 61 yards to give Oceanside a 14-7 lead it never relinquished.

That play alone, which was the game deciding score, would have been enough to garner this honor, but Ramsey also had a second half interception and finished with a season-high 11 tackles.

So far this season for the 11-3 Pirates and heading into a CIF Southern Regional Division 1-A Bowl Game against CIF Southern Section Division 3 champion Corona del Mar of Newport Beach, Ramsey now has his second fumble recovery with a forced fumble, three interceptions, a sack, and 86 tackles.

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

Matthias Brown (Sunny Hills, Fullerton) Fr.

The northern portion of Orange County is where we land for our Southern California Special Teams Player of the Week, and while we rarely have the opportunity to honor a freshman, this is a week we award a first year player.

Last week, in a 24-21 victory over Santa Barbara in the CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship game, Brown did not let his team down, and the Lancers needed every bit of their 6-foot, 175-pound freshman kicker’s performance after Matthias split the uprights for a 22-yard field goal and was 3-for-3 on points after touchdown. Brown also averaged over 50 yards on kickoffs just as he’s done in every game this season.

Brown would want to give a shout-out to senior teammate Wilson Cal. Cal didn’t win the SoCal defensive honor but Brown’s performance would have gone for naught had not Cal intercepted a Santa Barbara pass in the end zone with under 40 seconds left.

So far this season, and heading into a CIF Southern Regional Division 3-A Bowl Game matchup with CIF Central Section Division 3 champion Bakersfield Christian, Brown is a very solid 59-of-61 on PATs and he’s converted 5-of-7 field goals with a longest of 32 yards.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Josue Torres (Milpitas) Sr.

We go back to Santa Clara County for the third straight week for our Northern California Offensive Player of the Week and this week we land in the northeastern most city in the county that borders Alameda County.

In the horse racing business some horses are known as a “mudder” for their ability to win races in the mud, and while Torres is only 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds he was still a workhorse at running back and a mudder as well for the performance we’re honoring.

Last week, in the slop at Independence of San Jose, Torres carried a whopping 39 times for 325 yards and two TDs in a CIF Central Coast Section Division IV 27-26 title-game victory in overtime over Branham of San Jose.

Branham had the ball first in OT, scored and went for a deuce and failed. When Milpitas got the ball, head coach Kelly King called Torres’ number and carry No. 39 tied the score. From there, senior kicker Nick Miskella didn’t miss and Milpitas went to 7-6 and won its first CCS championship since 2013 and fourth in school history.

Torres’ first TD run was a 70-yard romp in the first half on the fourth play of the game.

So far this season, and heading into a CIF Northern Regional Division 5-A Bowl Game matchup on Saturday at CIF Central Section Division 5 champion and 13-1 Caruthers, Torres has rushed for 1,274 yards and eight touchdowns.

Ethan Kollenborn has been a valuable weapon with his kicking all season for Cardinal Newman head coach Paul Cronin. Photo: Harold Abend.

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

Ethan Kollenborn (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa) Sr.

The Redwood Empire portion of the CIF North Coast Section and the City of Roses is where we land for our NorCal Special Teams Player of the Week, a player nominated by NCS media credentialed Big Russ Stirling, who was at the game and saw the feats of Kollenborn and his left foot.

“I told you he can boom them,” Stirling remarked in making his nomination, and Kollenborn certainly can boom them.

Last week, in a 13-10 CIF North Coast Section Division 4 championship game victory over Marin Catholic of Kentfield, Kollenborn booted home two field goals on a very cold, rainy night in very wet conditions.

The first field goal split the uprights from 46 yards out and gave Newman a 10-0 lead. His second field goal decided the game after Marin Catholic fought back to tie it at 10-10.

After senior quarterback Jackson Pavitt completed a fourth-and-13 in the waning seconds to get within field goal range, head coach Paul Cronin called Kollenborn’s number and the 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior connected from 36 yards as time expired and the Newman players, coaches and home fans erupted. The Cardinals had finally beaten Marin Catholic after failing in three previous NCS playoff matchups.

“After Jackson (Pavitt) hooked up with Justin Lafranchi on that fourth down conversion I turned to one of the coaches and said ‘ball game,’” Cronin remarked. “Ethan has made those clutch kicks all season.”

“I feel very honored to be awarded by Cal-Hi Sports,” Kollenborn said. “I play a position that doesn’t get a lot of recognition, but I wouldn’t have gotten the honor without my teammates. Every play requires all 11 players on the field.”

Before Kollenborn and his family moved west from New York, Ethan was a wrestler since the second grade and played soccer even before that. Once he got to high school he couldn’t mix soccer and wrestling any longer so he decided to go out for football.

“I was originally a running back but I saw the kicking wasn’t as good as it could be so I tried out as the kicker and I’ve been biding my time on JV the last two years because we had a good kicker on varsity,” Kollenborn said.

When Stirling said Kollenborn can boom them, he was certainly correct. The 46-yarder wasn’t even his longest this season. Of the nine field goals he’s made so far, Ethan has kicked six of 40 yards or longer, and his best effort was a 50-yarder against cross-town Maria Carrillo.

By the way, Kollenborn, who hopes to kick in college, may have given up soccer but not wrestling. Last year in the North Coast Section wrestling championships Ethan took sixth-place in the 182-pound division.

Next up for the 12-1 Cardinals is a home game against CIF Central Coast Section Division II champion and 12-1 Los Gatos in the state CIF Northern Regional Division 3-AA Bowl Game.

The obvious question for Kollenborn is does he want to be as big a part of this week’s game as last week?

“I do but in the best way possible,” Ethan answered. “Seven PATs would be best.”

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

Danny Hernandez (Ripon) Sr.

We head just north of Modesto to a community steeped in athletic tradition. There we find Hernandez, who this past weekend was the toast of the small agricultural town of just over 15,000 after his most recent performance that had him shine on both sides of the ball, but it was his defense that’s garnering him the NorCal defensive award.

Last week, in a 21-13 victory for an underdog and No. 2 seeded Ripon over previously undefeated and top-seed Center of Antelope, Danny was pretty handy on defense after the 5-foot-10, 180-pound defensive back had a team-high 12 tackles, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble.

Hernandez is also a pretty decent running back, and in fact is the leading rusher for Ripon. He didn’t have his biggest game but against a very tough opponent he still managed 57 yards on 12 carries, but most importantly two of his rushes were for touchdowns.

So far this season for 12-1 Ripon, and heading into a CIF Northern Regional Division 4-AA Bowl Game against visiting CIF Northern Division 2 champion and 12-1 Sutter, Hernandez has 75 tackles, two interceptions, both of which he returned for TDs, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, and seven pass deflections on defense.

On offense, he’s rushed for 1,068 yards and 11 TDs, and has 30 pass receptions for 311 yards and three more scores. Danny didn’t return any kickoffs or punts against Center but he has and in fact had 95-yard and 84-yard kick-off returns for touchdowns this season as well as a punt return for a score.

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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