SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Bruce Uperesa (left) from Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco and Lucky Sutton from Cathedral Catholic of San Diego. Photos: Willie Eashman & utrhighlightvideos /

With the funnel narrowing all the way down to the CIF state championships, all good things must come to an end and this is the final week of these honors for football. There will be MVPs from every CIF state final in all divisions (as there have been for all previous state finals since 2006) but from here on we switch to girls and boys basketball. For our final football week we start in San Diego where we had an addition to the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book, then head to San Bernardino in the Inland Empire, and finally up to Quartz Hill as the final Southern California stop. Our Northern California destinations are Oakland, Fairfield and San Francisco.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email


Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Lucky Sutton (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) Sr.

We hope they have some extra fuses for the scoreboard at Saddleback College when Cathedral Catholic and Folsom take the field for the CIF Division 1-AA Bowl Game championship. Folsom is known for having an explosive offense and after what Cathedral Catholic did in the Southern Regional Division 1-AA title game with Sutton as the centerpiece, they might short-circuit that scoreboard.

Last week, in a 71-62 road victory over Orange Lutheran, there was no way anyone could possibly say what Lucky did was due to luck. After what the 6-foot-1, 208-pound senior has done all season, his seven touchdown performance in the title-game victory only leaves one stone unturned in the match-up with Folsom.

Against Orange Lutheran, Sutton, who has offers from San Diego State, San Jose State, Army, Colorado and Nevada, was like a human highlight reel after rushing for 435 yards and six TDs, plus he had the seventh score on a pass reception.

He accounted for 480 yards of total offense, and according to local reports, when Sutton scored on a 74-yard romp to the house with around nine minutes left, he had Orange Lutheran coaches in the press box talking to themselves. And why not? On his previous two carries, Lucky scored on runs of 63 and 75 yards. His first touchdown run was for 62 yards, the second one was a 45-yarder, and his final tally came on a 1-yard plunge.

You still think it was luck for Lucky? Actually it was more like a Mack truck on jet skis.

Orange Lutheran isn’t the only team Sutton did some trucking on this season. Even in the two games the Dons lost, both to teams high up in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings, Sutton had solid performances. He went for 189 yards and scored both Cathedral Catholic touchdowns against No. 4 Centennial of Corona, and against No. 9 De La Salle he rushed for 162 yards and one score.

If the stats from last week’s game were added into what has been reported on MaxPreps, Sutton would be the No. 2 reported rusher in the state at 2,380 yards with the only player still in action close behind him being last week’s Northern California defensive player of the week Justin Guin who has 2,240 yards rushing.

On a final note not only did the two teams combine for the most points ever in a CIF Bowl Game, the 133 combined points makes the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book on the Most Points By Two Teams (One Game) list.

Kaden Willerford is getting serious looks as a Class of 2023 receiver/return prospect. Photo: @AquinasAthSB /

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

Kaden Willerford (Aquinas, San Bernardino) Jr.

The Inland Empire is our destination and in San Bernardino is where we land in search of our Southern California Special Teams Player of the Week. At Aquinas, we find a defensive back who despite being from a small school of around 375 students has found himself a spot of the radar screen of several college programs with six current offers.

Willerford didn’t hurt his recruiting chances last week when he came up with a 91-yard kickoff return he took to the house in the Falcons’ 42-28 CIF Southern Regional Division 3-AA championship home victory against Newport Harbor of Newport Beach.

The run to pay dirt was part of five straight Aquinas TDs and came on the second half kickoff to give the Falcons a 27-21 lead they never relinquished. Just prior to the end of the first half, Willerford caught a 23-yard TD pass to pull Aquinas to within a point at 21-20 after it trailed 21-7 with four minutes to go in the half.

Kaden also had two tackles on defense and the No. 3 leading receiver on the team (355 yards receiving, three TDs) had a second reception besides the TD catch.

Willerford and the rest of the 11-5 Falcons will be traveling to Northern California where they will meet NorCal 3-AA champion Vanden in Fairfield for the state title. That team features this week’s Northern California Defensive Player of the Week so read on.

We know Willerford would want to give a shout out to teammate Jusyis Solis. The freshman running back rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns in the Newport Harbor win.

On a final note, Willerford is a pretty decent baseball player. Last season he hit .328 for the 21-3 Falcons and did a little pitching as well.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Aiden Agnor (Quartz Hill) Sr.

We head up Highway 14 about 35 miles northeast of Santa Clarita to the Antelope Valley where we find our Southern California Defensive Player of the Week at Quartz Hill.

Agnor has been pretty hard for opposing offenses to ignore all season, but in the CIF SoCal Division 6-AA Bowl Game he came up huge when the Royals needed him most.

Last week, in a 26-20 victory on the road in Blythe at Palo Verde Valley, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior linebacker and running back had 17 tackles with one for loss.

The 17 tackles would be a career day for most high school linebackers, but for Aiden it was like another day at the office. Twice this year Agnor has registered 21 tackles in a game. For the season he has 136 tackles with 24 for losses, including 4.5 sacks. Agnor also has two pass interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He only got one carry for 11 yards against Palo Verde Valley but for the season Aiden has rushed for 279 yards and three scores.

Heading into the CIF D6-AA title game on the road in Northern California at Argonaut of Jackson, the 136 tackles is top 30 in the state and if Agnor can get to 150 he can crack the top 10 on the reported list.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Jaivian Thomas (McClymonds, Oakland) Jr.

It’s been awhile since we visited the CIF Oakland Section for football but that’s not because McClymonds, a small school of under 400 students, has not been producing consistent winners in football from a school with a long tradition of athletic excellence.

Last week, in a 40-21 victory over nearby Campolindo of Moraga in the CIF Northern Regional Division 3-A title game that got Mack to 11-1 this season, Thomas, who was also a key player on last year’s 6-0 Warriors, rushed for 239 yards on a mere 11 carries with three of the runs going for touchdowns.

With the Warriors trailing 7-0 Thomas exploded for a 64-yard TD run on his first carry of the game on the first play of the ensuing drive to tie the score. After McClymonds forced a turnover on downs on its own 19, Thomas got the ball on the first play of the next drive and his second carry of the game and this time he raced 81 yards to pay dirt. Mack was in business and had a 12-7 lead it would never relinquish. Jaivian’s third TD run came on an 11-yarder just over midway through the second quarter.

Now, Thomas and his teammates will try to get to 4-1 in CIF state title games. McClymonds won the CIF state 5-A title in 2016, the 5-AA state championship in 2017, and the 4-A crown in 2018. The Warriors were 2-A Northern Regional champs in 2019 but lost in the state championship game..

This time, Mack meets Birmingham of Lake Balboa of the Los Angeles City Section in a battle of city section teams on Saturday in Oakland. Birmingham (9-5) won the SoCal 3-A title with a 42-35 victory over Patrick Henry of San Diego.

There wasn’t anything dull about the way that Orion Null of Vanden played in last week’s NorCal D3-AA title game. Photo: Harold Abend.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Orion Null (Vanden, Fairfield) Jr.

The shadow of Travis Air Force Base is our destination in search of our Northern California Defensive Player of the Week, and in a bit of a twist, we actually witnessed the performance of our NorCal defensive honoree in person for the second straight week after watching Justin Guin of Novato San Marin win the award last week.

For Null there was nothing dull about his performance last week in a 56-28 victory over host Windsor that helped the Vikings capture the Northern Regional Division 3-AA Bowl Game championship. In fact, Orion had Windsor seeing stars.

At one point, one of the assembled media blurted out “they can’t block number 40,” and that was after Null had gotten his second sack of the game. After all was said and done, the 6-foot, 209-pound junior defensive end, who was moved to the line after previously playing linebacker for the Vikings, finished with four sacks and 14 tackles with two more for losses.

So far this season and heading into the CIF 3-AA state title game, Null leads Vanden with 70 tackles with a high water mark of 17 he had two weeks ago in the Vikings’ 49-21 victory over Merced in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.

He will take his defensive game into the 3-AA state championship against Aquinas of San Bernardino, and in a bit of a twist will be matched up with SoCal Special Teams Player of the Week Kaden Willerford.

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

Bruce Uperesa (Sacred Heart Cathedral, San Francisco) Sr.

The City by the Bay is our last stop in Northern California and just west of downtown San Francisco is where we land to find our Northern California Special Teams Player of the Week.

Uperesa, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker and wide receiver, is being honored for his special teams play, but if we had a Multi-Purpose category like we have for many of our All State teams, he would certainly qualify after his performance in the 31-7 victory by the Fighting Irish over Chico in the Northern Regional 4-A championship.

As for how Uperesa made the play that wins him the honor, it was done in a bit of a strange twist.

With the Irish ahead 14-0 and Chico stalling at midfield with 31 seconds left in the first half and facing fourth-and-2, the visitors chose to punt after initially keeping the offense on the field.

Sacred Heart Cathedral didn’t have anyone back to field the punt so Uperesa ran back to field the punt, something he had never done before. All Bruce did was spruce up the Irish’s lead after returning the punt 90-yards to the house to make it 21-0 and at that point pretty much took the starch out of Chico.

“The coaches just pointed me to go back there,” Uperesa told Ethan Kassel of Prep2Prep. “When I saw how fast the ball fell, I thought I could break it.”

On offense Uperesa, was the leading receiver with six catches for 102 yards with two key receptions that set up scores. On defense he forced a fumble in the second half.

After finishing 3-4 in the West Catholic Athletic League and 4-7 to end the regular season, the Fighting Irish have reeled off four-straight wins, including a 27-3 victory over Gilroy Christopher in the CIF Central Coast Section Division III title game. Now, Uperesa and his Fighting Irish teammates are 8-7 and looking for the school’s first state championship in football when Covina Northview comes to historic Kezar Stadium this Saturday for the CIF 4-A state championship.

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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