Annual honor that goes back for more than 100 years usually has a finalist group of five, six or even seven players. This year, though, it’s a much different dynamic with two of the nation’s top players (both quarterbacks) both in California and both clearly out in front for all postseason accolades. We only realistically could put one other player as a finalist with the first two and he happens to be from the same county as one of the other two.
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Congratulations to the following three players who have been chosen as finalists for the 2019 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year honor. This is the only state football honor that has more than 100 years of history attached to it. Last year’s winner was Santa Ana Mater Dei receiver/defensive end Bru McCoy.
(All players listed in alphabetical order)
(Corona del Mar, Newport Beach) Sr.
The younger brother of Cal quarterback Chase Garbers, Ethan had the type of season as a senior that in many years of doing these honors would be strong enough to make him a runaway winner for Mr. Football. Obviously, however, with what this year’s other two finalists did over the last two seasons for teams that won mythical national titles, that’s going to make it very hard to do that. Still, in addition to being all-state first team, we wanted to single out what Ethan did this season from a historical standpoint and state publicly that he’s a finalist for Mr. Football along with the other two. In his final game for the Sea Kings last Saturday, Garbers completed 28 of 41 passes for 255 yards and four TDs in a 35-27 victory over Serra of San Mateo for the CIF Division 1-A state title. In the same game, he also rushed 15 times for 142 yards and one TD. For the season, Ethan wound up with 5,035 yards passing and 71 TDs. Both marks make it onto the all-time state lists. For touchdowns, his total is even more significant since its the best in CIF Southern Section history and ranks No. 3 on the all-time state list. The only other totals higher are by the same player, Jake Browning of Folsom, who had 75 TD passes as a junior (2013) and 91 as a senior (2014). Browning later went on to start for Washington, which is where Garbers signed with on Wednesday.
D.J. Uigalelei (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) Sr.
The State Junior of the Year from last season closed the season with two spectacular outings. First, in the Braves’ avenging win over Mater Dei of Santa Ana that qualified them for the CIF Open Division state final and denied the Monarchs a shot at winning three titles in a row, Uigalelei passed for 446 yards and five touchdowns. Then in the state title game vs. De La Salle of Concord, he went 23 of 28 passing for 398 yards and four TDs and also rushed five times for 64 yards and one score in a 49-28 victory. Uigalelei already had surpassed the 10,000-yard mark for his career before playing De La Salle. With 4,225 yards and 48 TDs (the second straight year he had 48 TD passes) on the season, D.J. capped his career with reported totals of 10,496 yards and 127 touchdowns. What stands out the most about him, though, is his sheer size and strength standing in the pocket. He’s built more like an NFL tight end at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and not so much as a high school quarterback. Uigalelei signed on Wednesday with national power Clemson and will be in attendance when the Tigers take on Ohio State in the national semifinals.
Bryce Young (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) Sr.
Already named as the Gatorade State Player of the Year and the USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year, it could be argued that while Young didn’t win a state title this season, he did get one as a junior and did have a more impressive all-around season than his rival from St. John Bosco. Young had 256 yards passing and three TDs with another 78 rush yards and two scores when the Monarchs beat the Braves during the regular season. He had 405 yards and five TDs but three interceptions in the second game when Bosco won. During the season, Young had two separate games with seven TD passes and came close to the state record with a 17-for-17 outing in a win against JSerra. For the season, Bryce passed for 4,528 yards and 58 TDs. For his career, counting his freshman and sophomore seasons at Cathedral of Los Angeles, he had 13,250 yards and 157 touchdowns. He’ll go down at No. 3 in state history for career yards and No. 2 for career TD passes.
We’re not going to do a Twitter poll with these three because we don’t want to cheapen in any way what they’ve accomplished. All will go down among the all-time greats of our state. Whether they go down among the all-time great quarterbacks to have ever come from our state, that’s going to be a much harder road to navigate. We guarantee there’s some kid out there no one’s ever heard of perhaps from a small town somewhere like Firebaugh, California, who in four or five years perhaps will have become a comparable NFL Draft prospect than any of the three.