All-State FB 2019: 1st Team Defense

These two first team all-state defensive linemen — Kobe Pepe from St. John Bosco (Bellflower) & Jamar Sekona from Marin Catholic (Kentfield) — are both headed to USC and could eventually start alongside each other there. Photos:

To go with the 11 players written up for First Team Overall on offense, here’s the 11 that have landed as First Team Defense for the 41st annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. For this group, we have gone with two that easily could have been multi-purpose in some years but with all of the big-time quarterbacks we have in California this year those two have gotten slots for defense (and their defensive stats are deserving anyway). We also went with a 4-4-3 lineup of DLs, LBs and DBs to get to 11. Go inside as well for three more multi-purpose player profiles.

For this year’s First Team Offense plus three more multi-purpose players,

For this year’s Second & Third Team (Gold Club post), CLICK HERE.

Small Schools | Medium Schools | Juniors (Gold Club) | Sophomores (Gold Club) | Players of Year by positions (QB, RB, End, Line, LB, DB)

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To order a commemorative, official All-State Football patch for those who’ve been named to one of our all-state teams for the 2019 season, go to this link from our friends at Billy Tees, which has been the official merchandiser of the CIF for many years.


DL Lance Keneley (Mission Viejo) 6-5, 240, Sr.
Mission Viejo’s defensive line was probably the best among all defensive lines in the state and was a major reason for the team finishing fourth in the final State Top 50 with just the one loss to Mater Dei in the CIF Southern Section D1 semis. Keneley would be the top honors candidate from that unit. Over the last two seasons, he had had 108 tackles with 23 sacks. This season, he also came up with three fumble recoveries. Keneley is an honors student (4.7 GPA) so it was no surprise that he eventually chose Stanford for college. He’s already been named All-Orange County and All-CIFSS.

Serra of San Mateo defensive end Nusi Malani collected has collected postseason honors almost as much as the candy he got after team posted big win over Valley Christian. Photo: Mark Tennis.

DL Nusi Malani (Serra, San Mateo) 6-6, 245, Sr.
It’s hard to miss the all-out style of Malani when he’s on the field for the Padres since he plays with more emotion than just about anyone else. Malani also makes an impact as a disruptive force on his side of the line. He already has been named the Defensive Player of the Year by the Bay Area News Group for a Serra squad that won the CIF Central Coast Section D1 title and lost to Corona del Mar in the CIF D1-A state final. Malani also was one of the top unsigned seniors in the West coming into the February signing window and surprised some by his selection of Virginia, which doesn’t tend to get too many players from California. Malani also had offers from Nebraska, Arizona, Arizona State and more. Nusi had nine tackles with a forced fumble and fumble recovery when Serra beat Wilcox of the Santa Clara in the CCS D1 semifinals.

DL Kobe Pepe (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-2, 300, Sr.
It takes on a different tone these days of course with anyone named Kobe, but this one would have made his namesake Kobe Bryant proud by the way he played during the 2019 season. Pepe is the brother of all-state Bishop Montgomery of Torrance basketball player Khylee Pepe and now he’s officially on an all-state team as well. Kobe assured himself of being first team by collecting the Defensive Player of the Year honor for the All-CIFSS D1 team. He had 80 tackles with 11 sacks and one caused fumble for the Braves last season. After he looked great at the SoCal Opening Regional Camp last spring, Pepe began collecting a lot more college attention. Once he got offered by USC, though, it didn’t take long for him to commit to the Trojans. It’ll be interesting to see if his sister (one year behind him) ends up going there, too.

DL Jamar Sekona (Marin Catholic, Kentfield) 6-4, 295, Sr.
The L.A. Coliseum will no longer be the home for Marin Catholic grad Jared Goff and L.A. Rams beginning this fall as the QB and his team move to the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. But the school will still be represented on the L.A. Coliseum turf by Sekona, who will be at USC and will join St. John Bosco’s Kobe Pepe in what could be a very dominating interior of the line in a couple of seasons. Sekona has been well known as one of the top defensive line prospects in the Bay Area since his sophomore season. Named once again as Lineman of the Year in the Marin County Athletic League, Jamar had 82 tackles and 10 sacks this season for a Wildcats’ team that lost its only game on a last-second field to eventual CIF D3-AA state champion Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa in the title game of the CIF North Coast Section D4 playoffs.

LB Justin Flowe (Upland) 6-2, 220, Sr.
Some guys get the hype from national recruiting services based on their performances in summer combines and showcases and perhaps don’t do that much as high school players in actual games. Flowe will always be known as someone who blew people away in both situations. Regarded as one of the best LBs from the state perhaps since Vontaze Burfict of Corona Centennial in 2008 (some even think Justin should be higher than that), Flowe had 145 tackles as a junior and 123 as a senior (with one less game played). He’s already been selected as State Defensive Player of the Year, State LB of the Year and for just about every All-American team. He should make an immediate impact next season at the University of Oregon where he’ll join last year’s State Defensive Player of the Year (Oaks Christian’s Kayvon Thibodeaux).

LB Josh Henderson (Grace Brethren, Simi Valley) 6-2, 200, Sr.
Typically a player with type of two-way totals that Josh put up for the Lancers is going to get him onto the all-state team as multi-purpose. We have so many great pass-rush QBs that just had to be first team, though, that Henderson had to be considered for defense. He makes it regardless. On defense playing for his father, head coach Josh Henderson, the younger Josh had 115 tackles season with five sacks and one interception. That wasn’t as many tackles as last year (157) or even his sophomore season (160), but he also had to play more on offense. Henderson’s best rushing game was 273 yards and five TDs when Grace Brethren knocked off all-state DB Clark Phillips and his team at La Habra 49-45 in the CIFSS D3 semifinals. He finished with 1,424 yards rushing for the season (29 TDs) and he had 3,365 for his career (39 TDs). Henderson will play next at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He already has been named the Ventura County Star Defensive Player of the Year and CIFSS D3 Defensive Player of the Year.

LB Caleb McCullough (Pacifica, Oxnard) 6-2, 215, Sr.
Ventura County has another all-state LB to go with Grace Brethren’s Josh Henderson. Tackle stats can be hard to verify, but McCullough did get to play 16 games in the 2019 season so his total of 217 equates to almost 17 per game. And if you see him play, with exceptional sideline-to-sideline coverage, that also makes sense. McCullough also was credited with more than 200 tackles as a junior. He’s already at Arizona State where he hopes to play early. We couldn’t get one of Pacifica’s other players off of its 15-1 team that won the CIF D2-A state title onto first team all-state but do have one on second team and others on medium schools.

John Humphrey followed up a breakout spring in 2019 with a fall season that ended with Pasadena player of year honors. Photo: Mark Tennis.

LB Anson Pulsipher (Temecula Valley, Temecula) 6-1, 200, Sr.
The last of six Pulsipher siblings (four older brothers, one older sister) to play sports at Temecula Valley, Anson was the leader of a Golden Bears’ squad that tied for the Southwestern League title with Vista Murrieta and Murrieta Valley and then won the CIFSS D7 title. He was the Riverside Press-Enterprise Defensive Player of the Year and will play next at Stanford (which makes sense because Anson has a 4.2 GPA). Longtime SoCal coach Bert Esposito has described Pulsipher as a “once in a career” type of player and he had the stats to back that up. For the season, Anson had a team-best 151 tackles (11 for loss), two sacks and seven interceptions. For his career, he also set the school record with 350.

DB Joey Hobert (San Juan Hills, San Juan Capistrano) 5-11, 180, Sr.
The first recommendation for Joey to be first team all-state this year came from veteran L.A. Times sportswriter Eric Sondheimer at the CIF state championships. The trick became where to get him on. In the end, it became on defense. It was on that side of the ball where the versatile Hobert (obviously an all-L.A. Times all-star choice) had 114 tackles and five interceptions in helping the Stallions win the CIFSS D4 championship. He’s listed as a receiver by the recruiting networks and was equally impressive on that side of the ball with 78 catches for 1,216 yards and 18 TDs. In all, Joey had 25 touchdowns scored. In addition to the 18 on receptions, he had two on pick sixes, two on punt returns, one on a fumble return and one on a kickoff return. Hobert’s next stop will be Washington State.

DB John Humphrey (Muir, Pasadena) 6-2, 180, Sr.
Yes, it will be fun when John is playing at UCLA someday and gets to cover John Humphreys of Stanford. Unlike Humphreys, who was already getting tons of attention following a record-breaking junior season at Corona del Mar, Humphrey came on last spring. He was the MVP of the DBs at the prestigious NorCal Opening last May at El Cerrito High and showed that he had the quickness and speed to play corner to go along with his length (which he’ll need to battle those tall receivers like Humphreys). Humphrey proceeded to have a more than solid senior season for the Mustangs. He had six interceptions on defense, added 12 TD catches on offense plus he scored on kickoff and punt returns. John already has been named Player of the Year by the Pasadena Star-News.

DB Clark Phillips (La Habra) 5-10, 185, Sr.
Already honored as our State DB of the Year and the OC Varsity Defensive Player of the Year (over anyone from Mater Dei), Phillips is one of those cover corners that didn’t have a ton of defensive stats to back up his resume because very few passes came in his direction. He still made a difference in other ways, such as a receiver (he had 29 TD catches the last two seasons) and as a kick returner (he had two TDs on kickoffs this year with one punt). He also still had six interceptions. Phillips at one point was thought to be headed to Ohio State, but he’s staying closer to home and will play next at Utah. The Utes are losing former State Athlete of the Year Javelin Guidry (Vista Murrieta) and former all-state first team corner Jaylon Johnson (Central of Fresno) to the NFL next season so there may be an early opportunity for playing time next season for a player like Clark.

PK Jack Stonehouse (Chaminade, West Hills) 6-3, 175, Jr.
Coming from a well-known family of kickers and punters, Jack has that rare combination of having great high school stats to go with outstanding performances at national/regional camps. As for his stats, he averaged 44.8 yards per punt this season for the Eagles and he had six inside the 20. He also already has been named as the L.A. Times’ all-star punter. As for the camp, in Jack’s case it was the Kohl’s Western Showcase held just after the end of last season. Stonehouse won top honors in the punting category. His cousin, Ryan, is currently punting at Colorado State.

C.J. Stroud led Rancho Cucamonga to the Baseline League title, which is the same league that features Upland and State Defensive Player of the Year Justin Flowe. Photo:

(Three more first team multi-purpose choices listed with first team offense)

RB/DB Shamar Garrett (De La Salle, Concord)
5-9, 185, Sr.

It’s not always easy coming up with De La Salle’s No. 1 honors candidate, but with the way that Garrett played throughout the 2019 season it sure ended up that way. Garrett was the team’s leading rusher with 1,141 yards and 19 TDs and he caught 16 passes for 258 yards and two more scores. He also was one of the team’s leading defenders. In his writeup as the Player of the Year by the Bay Area News Group, St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro called Garrett one of the very best players that his team faced. In De La Salle’s 49-28 loss to the Braves, Garrett rushed for 113 yards and three TDs and he had 12 tackles with a forced fumble. The San Jose State recruit also has been already named NorCal Player of the Year by us as well as SportStars Magazine. He also was the San Francisco Chronicle All-Metro Player of the Year.

QB/RB C.J. Stroud (Rancho Cucamonga) 6-3, 195, Sr.
If in a few years it is C.J. who is the one from this year’s phenomenal crop of California QBs who is winning the Heisman Trophy or getting picked high in the NFL Draft, no one will be surprised. He was MVP last summer at the Elite 11 Finals among all of the top QBs in the nation who were there (D.J. Uiagalelei wasn’t) and he’s going to a college (Ohio State) that competes for national titles just as much as Clemson or Alabama. Stroud emerged as a big-time prospect last season as a junior and has continued to improve. The Sun/Bulletin Offensive Player of the Year only rushed for 130 yards and four TDs so calling him “multi-purpose” could be viewed as a stretch, but there’s no way we weren’t going to have him on first team. CJ passed for 3,878 yards and 47 TDs. For his career, he also had 6,569 yards and 70 TDs.

QB/RB Bryce Young (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-0, 180, Sr.
Going by the multi-purpose category and alphabetically, Bryce is the final player to write up for this year’s group of those named first team all-state. Going by what he did on the field for the Monarchs, however, he could have been first, even ahead of Mr. Football POY D.J. Uiagalelei. Young had better totals for the season than D.J. and higher career totals (especially counting his first two years at Cathedral of Los Angeles). He also could see the field more quickly as a starter at Alabama (where he is already taking classes) than D.J. will at Clemson. Still, we’re pretty consistent over the years of not having ties for any team or player selection and also in rewarding the player who wins the biggest game at the end (which Bosco did by defeating Mater Dei in the CIFSS D1 final and then winning the state and national titles). We just hope we get to continue to watch these two at the highest levels of the game in the coming years.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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