SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Gabe Baker (left) from Nevada Union (Grass Valley) & Bo Kelly from Dana Hills (Dana Point). Photos: Elias Funez / &

For our six stops this week we hit the beaches of Southern California twice before heading to the suburbs of San Diego and Santee. When we head up to Northern California, we start in the Mother Lode Country town of Grass Valley, then head west on Highway 80 to around halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento, and finally the journey comes to an end in Silicon Valley.

We hope you enjoy this free story on Cal-Hi For our State Top 25 rankings packages for the rest of the football season plus State Stat Stars of the Week, state record updates and special features, please check out our Gold Club membership today. If you’re not a member, CLICK HERE.

Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email We are picking the winners on Monday nights for the rest of the spring season.


Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Bo Kelly (Dana Hills, Dana Point) Sr.

Southern Orange County about a mile from the beach is our destination for this week’s Southern California Offensive Player of the Week.

An old standby for yell leaders is “Go-Go-Go-Go-Go…Fight-Fight-Fight-Fight-Fight” but last Friday night on the road at nearby Aliso Niguel of Aliso Viejo, the fans on the visitors side of the field were screaming “Bo-Bo-Bo-Bo-Bo” instead after the 6-foot, 190-pound three-sport star athlete (baseball, basketball) came through with a 56-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Owen Chambers with 39 seconds remaining to pull out a 29-28 victory for the underdog Dolphins.

On the night, Kelly was 22 of 42 for 409 yards and four TDs with one interception in the first quarter that was part of three early turnovers that dug the Dolphins a hole.

On the season for 2-1 Dana Point, Kelly has passed for 1,005 yards and 10 TDs with two picks.

We would be remiss if we did not give a shout out to two other members of the Dolphins.

We don’t do co-anything on any of our vast number of awards, but Chambers could easily have been the SoCal offensive winner, so he gets to share a bit in the glory. All four TD passes went to him and he had right catches for 251 yards. He also got in on defense as a defensive back with three tackles and a QB hurry.

And finally there is head coach Tony Henney. According to a report in, the players weren’t sure their coach was going to make it to the game until he showed up on the sideline just before kickoff. The reason is that on Thursday Henney and his wife celebrated the birth of a son.

The cherry on top of the Sundae for all the Dolphins’ faithful is it was their first victory since 2013 over Aliso Niguel.

Thomas Kensinger of Venice was considered one of the top defensive linemen in the CIF L.A. City Section at the start of the season and has lived up to that claim. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Thomas Kensinger (Venice) Sr.

Just like our offensive honoree, we land at a school just about a mile from the beach but up the coast in L.A. County. There we find a Venice defensive end that was an absolute menace on defense.

Last week, in a 26-0 blanking of northern neighbor Santa Monica, Kensinger was the messenger for the Gondoliers’ defense after recording three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss on 11 total tackles.

But that’s not all. Kensinger also blocked a punt, forced a fumble and batted down a pass.

It’s no wonder the 6-foot-4,240-pound Kensinger was one of our preseason All Los Angeles City Section defensive linemen.

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

Tyler Haley (West Hills, Santee) Jr.

The East County area of the CIF San Diego Section is our destination for our Southern California Special Teams Player of the Week.

Haley occasionally shares the kicking duties but in the 4-0 Wolf Pack’s most recent outing it was only the foot of the 5-foot-10, 147-pound underclass kicker that pounded the pigskin.

Last week, in a 34-20 win on the road at Escondido, Haley split the uprights on all his attempts. He was 4 for 4 on PATs and 2 for 2 on field goals, including a 39-yarder.

Not only was Tyler perfect last week, but in the three games he’s booted the ball he’s 8 for 8 on PATs and 4 for 4 on field goal attempts with a longest of 43 yards two weeks ago in a win over Chula Vista Olympian.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Gabe Baker (Nevada Union, Grass Valley) Jr.

We head to the Mother Lode Country part of California some 60 miles northeast of Sacramento for the NorCal offensive honoree. Not only is Grass Valley where we find Baker, but it also gives a second opportunity to mention Nevada Union’s place in our history.

Cal-Hi Sports founder Nelson Tennis, who did years of vast research to re-create things from as far as 100-plus years back, and long before things were available at our fingertips on the internet, was an alumnus of Nevada Union. The only reason that George Tennis, the father of Cal-Hi Sports publisher Mark Tennis, is not an NU grad is because he went to Grass Valley High before NU opened. Nelson passed away in 2004 at 67 years old. We honor his memory because without him there would be no Cal-Hi Sports and all the things that we now do, like our Players of the Week in football, basketball, baseball and softball.

Speaking of Players of the Week, Gabe made like a bulldozer last week in a 56-42 victory over Colfax both with his arm and his legs. We can’t research it, but at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds Baker has got to be one of the biggest high school quarterbacks in California, and last Friday night he came up huge and dazzled the home crowd.

Baker only completed 12 passes but five went for TDs and he had 311 yards passing. Running the ball, and can you imagine what some defenders must be thinking when Gabe is coming their way, he had 27 carries for 248 yards and two more TDs for seven combined touchdowns.

But there’s more. As an inside linebacker, he had seven tackles with four for loss, four QB hurries, forced a fumble, and he punted twice for a 43-yard average.

Don’t let Vacaville Christian’s small school status make you think Zack Mercado is not a dominant football player. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Zack Mercado
(Vacaville Christian, Vacaville) Sr.

We hit the Highway 80 corridor around 50 miles from San Francisco and 35 miles from Sacramento to find our Northern California Defensive Player of the Week.

The Falcons are 4-0 and looking like they might make some noise in the small school ranks come playoff time and they’ve been doing it with a solid offense and a very stingy defense. In fact, Vacaville Christian has pitched three straight shutouts and has outscored its four opponents 95-6 combined.

Last week, defense was at an even greater premium in a 7-0 victory on the road at Gustine, and you guessed it Zack was the one that packed the biggest punch on defense. Mercado, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end, had nine tackles with six for loss including three sacks. He also recovered a fumble and rumbled 45 yards on the return.

In the previous week, the offense did most of the work in a 34-0 blanking of Lower Lake, but in limited action Mercado still had six tackles with three sacks, and four QB hurries. So far this season, he has 33 tackles with nine for loss, seven sacks, 20 hurries, and two fumble recoveries.

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

Joshua Ryland (Cupertino) Sr.

Silicon Valley is our destination in search of our Northern California Special Teams Player of the Week.

In Cupertino, the home of Apple, we find a defensive back, wide receiver and kick returner who played a huge role in the most recent Pioneers victory.

Last week, in a 27-21 victory over neighboring Prospect of Saratoga, the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Ryland had three kickoff returns for 138 yards, one of which he took 95 yards to the house for a score.

On offense, Ryland had two pass receptions for 50 yards, and on defense he had four tackles.

Cupertino won its second game of the early season with no losses.

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

Enjoy this article?

Find out how you can get access to more exclusive content, one-of-a-kind California high school sports content!

Learn More

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


    Latest News

    Insider Blog