Check inside this post for the honorees who have been chosen among juniors, sophomores, medium schools and small schools. While it was essentially a two-person race for Mr. Football, it was more wide open and more difficult for each of the other player of the year categories. We did go for another Trinity League quarterback to lead the sophomores and we also have quarterbacks chosen for juniors and small schools.
To see who has been named Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year, CLICK HERE.
To see who has been named state player of the year for defense, CLICK HERE.
For a list of our all-time players of the year for juniors, sophomores, medium schools and small schools, CLICK HERE.
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Congratulations to the following additional Cal-Hi Sports State Players of the Year for the 2019 football season (joining overall honoree D.J. Uiagalelei of St. John Bosco):
STATE JUNIOR OF THE YEAR:
TYLER BUCHNER (BISHOP’S, LA JOLLA)
It’s hard to be a player of the year in any category without leading a team to a section championship, but for Buchner he had such an eye-opening season coming off of a knee injury that it proved too much for anyone else. Already named as the CIF San Diego Section player of the year by a media panel, Buchner now adds his first statewide honor.
Buchner is the first from the San Diego Section to earn top junior honors in the state since running back Gary Taylor of San Diego Morse in 1990. There’s also only been three others on the all-time list that goes back to 1933: C.R. Roberts of Oceanside for 1952, Charley Powell of San Diego High for 1949 and Amby Schindler of San Diego High for 1933.
We wrote down Buchner’s name for the first time as a promising freshman from the La Jolla school. He barely saw the field as a sophomore, however, after suffering a torn knee ligament that required surgery. Wearing a brace, we did see him throw at the Northern California Nike event last May known as The Opening at El Cerrito High in the Bay Area and he said at the time that he was good to go.
Buchner was more than good to go by the fall. The numbers that the Notre Dame-committed signal caller put up for 2019 with passing and rushing combined were just out of this world. He led Bishop’s to an unbeaten regular season and top seed for the CIF San Diego Section Division II playoffs. The Knights were knocked out in the finals in one of the wildest section playoff games in state history as they gave up a big lead in a 75-59 loss to eventual champion El Camino of Oceanside. It wasn’t the fault of Buchner, who rushed for 353 yards and five TDs and passed for 296 yards and three scores.
For the season, Buchner set a new section record and posted one of the highest totals in state history with 6,084 total offense yards. That’s based on his 4,474 yards passing plus 1,610 yards rushing. He had one game with even more total offense yards than the section semifinal with 465 yards passing (five TDs) and 295 yards rushing (four TDs) for 760 total yards in a 71-42 win over Marin Catholic of Kentfield. That last total also was just one yard off of the state record of 761.
For total offense touchdowns, Buchner also put up record-worthy numbers. He had 53 through the air this season with another 28 on the ground for a combined total of 81. He’ll enter his senior season with 6,865 total offense yards and 59 touchdowns. Not bad for someone who missed an entire season.
In addition to eventually committing to Notre Dame, Tyler received scholarship offers from numerous other major college programs, including Alabama.
STATE SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR:
NOAH FIFITA (SERVITE, ANAHEIM)
For having a breakout season in leading the Friars to a final state top 10 ranking, quarterback Noah Fifita has been selected as the 2019 State Sophomore Player of the Year. He’s a bit different than the previous Trinity League QBs who’ve nabbed this honor — D.J. Uigalelei of St. John Bosco for 2017 and J.T. Daniels of Mater Dei for 2016 (he later re-classified to senior status after 2017 season) — in that he doesn’t have the size at 5-foot-10 that the college recruiting rankings love, but clearly benefitted from going up against Trinity League competition.
Servite was coming off of a 4-5 season in which it was expected to contend for third-place in the league and perhaps get closer to the monsters at the top. With Fifita at the controls, those goals were met. The Friars beat JSerra of San Juan Capistrano and only lost by one point to St. John Bosco (although they were blown out by Mater Dei). Fifita hit on 15 of 27 passes for 227 yards and three TDs in the 27-26 loss to the Braves and he went for 272 yards and four TDs in the win against the Lions. His last Trinity League outing against Orange Lutheran wasn’t too shabby, either: 19 of 21 for 251 yards and five TDs.
For the season, Fifita passed for 2,892 yards and 37 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He didn’t have the rushing stats of other quarterbacks in the league, but his 37 TDs easily topped the Servite school record of 30 set in 1996 by Greg Cicero.
Those league games, plus a non-league win over Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, pushed the Friars into the CIFSS D1 playoffs with a No. 5 seed, which forced a matchup with unbeaten Mission Viejo in the first round. The Diablos won that game, 38-35, but Fifita had his moments with 21 completions in 34 attempts for 339 yards and four TDs.
Prior to JT Daniels in 2016, the last player from Orange County to be State Sophomore of the Year also was the last one from Servite, which would be two-way standout Dennis Shoemate in 2005. The only other from Orange County since 2000 was Jeremy Childs of Los Alamitos in 2002.
STATE MEDIUM SCHOOLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
DAVON BOOTH (EL MONTE)
While El Monte won a CIF D5AA state championship against a field that included many small schools, the school definitely has too large of an enrollment (more than 1,800) to be small schools for state rankings or for all-state team selections. That placement of being medium schools may have cost the Lions some state ranking attention, but it wound up not mattering for their top player as senior running back Davon Booth gets the nod as a state player of the year.
California’s leading rusher and scorer for the 2019 season is the first state medium schools player of the year from the San Gabriel Valley since lineman Ellis McCarthy of Monrovia for 2011. The list of others from the San Gabriel Valley as a medium schools’ top pick actually goes back to the early 1940s when the legendary Glenn Davis was playing at Bonita of La Verne.
Booth came to El Monte after his sophomore season at a school in Las Vegas. He made an immediate impact and was among the state leaders in rushing yards and scoring. That just turned out to be a warm-up for Booth’s senior season.
Operating out of the Lions’ double-wing rushing formation, Davon had them winning early and easily. They were 10-0 in the regular season and then went to the CIFSS Division 12 playoffs. They won in the semifinals and then were declared the section champion without playing a final due to the other presumed finalist, Adelanto, having numerous players involved in a brawl in the other semifinal. In the CIF SoCal D5AA regional final, Booth rampaged for 315 yards on 34 carries and scored three times in a 38-18 win over Serra of San Diego. El Monte then won the CIF D5AA state title after a 740-mile trip up the north coast with a 32-7 romp in the mud against Del Norte of Crescent City. Booth had 16 carries for 213 yards and four TDs in that one.
For the season, Davon racked up 2,935 yards rushing and scored 361 points. For rushing, he led the state (according to MaxPreps) by nearly 300 yards over the No. 2 total while for scoring he was nearly 100 points in front of the No. 2 total. Part of the reason for Booth’s point total being so high is that he had 35 two-point conversions this season to go with 48 touchdowns. He also had 34 two-pointers last season and 44 touchdowns. In addition, Booth played defense for the Lions and finished with 61 tackles and a team-leading six interceptions.
There were others considered for the top medium schools honor who played stronger competition than El Monte faced. But Booth’s scoring and rushing totals were just too far ahead of anyone else. Plus, the L.A. Times already has named him as its Back of the Year, an honor that could have gone to others from schools from the highest possible CIFSS divisions.
STATE SMALL SCHOOLS
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
WILL OMEY (ST. BERNARD’S, EUREKA)
Because St. Bernard’s had a Will at quarterback, there was a way to win a CIF state championship.
Omey was the arm and legs behind the Crusaders going all the way to the CIF D6AA state title and he’s now being honored as the Small Schools State Player of the Year. Those from teams generally that were D4AA and below for the CIF state bowls plus a few other smaller schools that were forced to play up in large school section playoffs due to competitive equity were eligible for the small schools selection.
Before entering the CIF regional bowls, St. Bernard’s won the CIF North Coast Section D6 title. Interestingly, the last from the NCS to be State Small Schools Player of the Year was future No. 1 NFL draft pick Jared Goff of Marin Catholic (Kentfield) in 2012. St. Bernard’s actually has an honoree on the all-time state list with running back Willie Beebe for 1976. He later became a running back at the University of Colorado.
In that section final, Omey passed for 249 yards (1 TD) and rushed for 132 yards (1 TD) in a 31-28 victory over Kennedy of Richmond. He followed that up with 325 yards passing (3 TDs) and 147 yards rushing (1 TD) in a 45-29 triumph against East Nicolaus of Nicolaus in the CIF Northern California D6AA regional final. That set up head coach Matt Tomlin’s squad to host South of Torrance in the state title game. The Crusaders again won in a similar fashion with Omey rushing for 172 yards on 29 carries with four TDs. It was wet, muddy conditions so he only passed for 155 yards (1 TD).
Helped greatly by two-way receiving, defensive back standout teammate Lane Thrap, Omey put together a senior season in which he passed for 3,664 yards and 40 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,516 yards and 20 scores for a combined offense total of 5,180 yards and 60 TDs. For his career, Omey had 6,020 yards passing with 71 TDs plus 2,975 yards rushing with 40 TDs for 8,995 yards and 131 TDs.
We’d be remiss in not mentioning that one of the three losses by St. Bernard’s this season came to Humboldt-Del Norte rival Del Norte High of Crescent City. Del Norte also would be considered small school and lost to a medium school (El Monte) in the CIF D5AA state championship. Del Norte was more of a defensive-oriented squad and does have players up for all-state small school honors, but didn’t have one player with the accomplishments of Omey. It’s not like Del Norte won that game in a rout, either. It was 27-20.
Note: Bishop’s of La Jolla junior quarterback Tyler Buchner is from a school with a small enrollment, but its placement in the CIF San Diego Section in its Division 2 playoffs makes it medium schools in our system for state rankings and for all-state teams.