All-State FB 2021: 1st Team Defense

All-State first team DB Zeke Berry of Concord De La Salle (left) was one of the most fierce tacklers in the state. At right is Santa Margarita’s Hero Kanu, who has only been playing football for a few years. Photos: Willie Eashman / Cal-Hi Sports & sportstalksc.com.


These are primary standouts for the 43rd annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Football Teams on defense with 11 players plus a punter. Three of six multi-purpose players are also included who have been selected First Team Overall. This is the group that is being honored regardless of school size or year in school. This year’s defense has four on the defensive line, four linebackers and three defensive backs.

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

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

MORE OF OUR 43RD ANNUAL ALL-STATE FOOTBALL TEAMS:
Small Schools| Medium Schools | Juniors (Gold Club) | Sophomores (Gold Club) | Players of Year by positions (QB, RB, End, Line, LB, DB) | FINAL All-State Nominations for CIFSS plus LA, SD & Central plus NorCal

If you are not a Gold Club member and want to see the already announced All-State Junior & Sophomore Teams plus many, new updated state record files and more exclusive content, please sign up today. Some of the most promising freshmen will be listed next week in annual Inside the All-State Team feature (also Gold Club). You can now join for one-month rate of just $3.99. For subscription info, CLICK HERE.

FOR ARCHIVE OF ALL-TIME ALL-STATE TEAMS BACK TO THE 1970s, CLICK HERE.

All-State Football Patches will again be handled this year by our friends at BillyTees.com. For more information about Cal-Hi Sports merchandise at BillyTees.com, CLICK HERE.

To order a commemorative, official All-State Football patch for those who’ve been named to one of our all-state teams for the 2021 season, go to this link from our friends at Billy Tees, which has been the official merchandiser of the CIF for many years.

FIRST TEAM ALL-STATE DEFENSE (ELITE)
(Thanks to correspondents Chuck Nan & Daniel Poulter for providing most of the writeups)

DL Mason Graham (Servite, Anaheim) 6-4, 275, Sr.
For best two-way lineman honors in the Southland this past year, Graham was the man. The L.A. Times even went so far to name him as its Player of the Year. Graham also was dubbed the Trinity League Co-Most Valuable Lineman. On offense, he was a cornerstone for a potent rushing attack that featured lead back Houston Thomas and two-way threat QB Noah Fifita. One defense, the mammoth logged 67 tackles (21 tackles for loss) and a league-leading 14 sacks. The Michigan signee is also an established wrestler that helps with his balance. He was the Trinity League heavyweight individual champion as a sophomore in 2020. Reportedly, this mammoth has bench-pressed 300 and deadlifted 455. Graham’s numerous honors also include: All-Orange County and All-CIF-SS Division 1.

Some of Gracen Halton’s most impressive plays came on offense when people were trying to tackle him. Photo: Hudl.com.


DL Gracen Halton
(St. Augustine, San Diego) 6-3, 270, Sr.

One of the biggest names to decide on the February signing day was Halton. His final three included Oklahoma, Oregon and Miami. The four-star prospect picked the Sooners. Despite St. Augustine not having the team success from 2019 when Halton emerged as a big-time prospect (the school just a day before this team was released that Ron Gladnick would be moving down from Torrey Pines to become the new head coach), Halton maintained his dominance. The first team All-San Diego lineman had 75 tackles (20 for loss) and 5.5 sacks while facing double and triple teams. Halton also was used on offense, especially as a tight end with 14 catches for 195 yards and five TDs.

DL Hero Kanu
(Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) 6-5, 300, Sr.

The story of Hero is a remarkable one. Just one year ago, this young man had not played a single snap of high school football in his life. In that short time, he became one of the most coveted defensive line prospects in the nation. Hailing from a small town in Germany, Kanu made his way to South Orange County and blossomed into a pigskin natural. He anchored the Santa Margarita Catholic defense with his presence that forced opponents to change their game plan. For the season, Kanu had 55 tackles (19 for loss), nine sacks, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. This 6-5, 300-pound Ohio State commit will give Big Ten defensive coordinators headaches. Kanu has garnered numerous postseason honors already including: All-Trinity League, All-Orange County, All-CIF-SS Division 1 and Los Angeles Times Fall All-Star.

DL Jaxson Moi (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) 6-4, 265, Sr.
We didn’t have to have a debate about Moi and Gracen Halton from rival school St. Augustine. We picked them both first team. Moi caused chaos in the San Diego Section and beyond this year, as the strongside defensive end was a key force in Cathedral Catholic securing a CIF 1-AA state title over Folsom. The Dons had a record of 12-2 on the year and only fell to top 10 sides Centennial (Corona) and De La Salle (Concord). Moi was named the KUSI News San Diego Defensive Player of the Year and was a Polynesian Bowl All-American. Moi signed with Stanford last October and is rated as a three-star prospect and was the 34th overall defensive lineman in the nation by ESPN.

LB Taariq Al-Uqdah (Inglewood) 6-0, 225, Sr.
He was more of a quiet leader of an Inglewood team that went 11-1 and reached the CIFSS D2 semifinals, but on the field went sideline-to-sideline making plays on the field. We saw that in person in a shutout of Lawndale Leuzinger. In the playoffs, Al-Uqdah rushed for two TDs in a win over previously unbeaten St. Bonaventure. Taariq has been voted the Ocean League Player of the Year and was slated to play in the All-American Bowl on NBC. A positive COVID test knocked him out of that game, but he was okay to play later on in the Polynesian Bowl. Al-Uqdah will play next at Washington State.

LB David Bailey (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-4, 225, Sr.
One of the certain reasons for Mater Dei’s perfect 12-0 season and a national championship resided right in the middle — linebacker that is. David Bailey is a special talent that had college coaches drooling for his commitment. Athletic and strong with the versatility to take on offensive linemen or drop in coverage are skills is what makes Bailey most remarkable. He certainly shined when the stakes were high. Versus rival Servite, Bailey tracked down the Friars’ super dual-threat QB Noah Fifita and registered 3 1/2 sacks in Mater Dei’s win. In the CIF-SS rematch, Bailey came calling once again and met Fifita in the backfield. He managed 54 overall tackles, a breathtaking 20 1/2 tackles for loss, 15 1/2 sacks, six hurries and three forced fumbles. For this, he was the Cal-Hi Sports’ State Defensive Player of the Year and is also now being added as State LB of the Year. Bailey also earned the Trinity League Co-Most Valuable Player award, All-Orange County, Orange County Register Defensive Player of the Year and CIF-SS Division 1 Defensive Player of the Year.

Niuafe Tuihalamaka of Alemany has been on the radar screens of major colleges since he was a freshman. Photo: irishsportsdaily.com.


LB Tre Edwards
(Mater Dei Catholic, Chula Vista) 6-1, 220, Jr.

This sideline-to-sideline defender with great closing speed continued to show that he is one of the top players nationally in the 2023 class. The junior linebacker was considered the best player for Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) this season and helped power the San Diego Section school to a CIF D2-AA state title win over Central Catholic of Modesto 34-25 at Saddleback College. Edwards, who will be a four-year starter on a possible preseason top 10 team this fall, began his list of major honors by being named San Diego Section Defensive Player of the Year. He then won our Medium Schools State Player of the Year honor. The third year varsity starter picked up 81 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and six sacks in 13 games this year.

LB Niuafe Tuihalamaka
(Alemany, Mission Hills) 6-2, 235, Sr.

Notre Dame struck gold a few years back when the program signed linebacker Isaiah Foskey Jr. out of De La Salle High School (Concord) and the Fighting Irish have mined the state for another gem in Tuihalamaka. The middle linebacker is rated as a four-star prospect and the 15th overall linebacker in the nation. Tuihalamaka is projected at the college level to have elite running stopping ability and the senior showed it during his senior year at Alemany. Against some of the best competition in the state, the linebacker had a team high 124 total tackles and had 22 tackles for loss. He bounced back from a spring season that wasn’t as impressive to be named the L.A. Daily News Defensive Player of the Year and the CIFSS D2 Defensive Player of the Year.

Jaden Mickey was the Riverside area Defensive Player of the Year and now he adds State DB of the Year. Photo: inlandfieldhouse.com.


DB Zeke Berry
(De La Salle, Concord) 6-0, 180, Sr.

In our evaluations, based on everything he did for the Spartans on offense, defense and returning kicks, Berry was right up there with Viliami Teu of St. Francis and Tyler Tremain of Folsom to be NorCal Player of the Year. Berry ended his career as the top 2022 recruit from Northern California. With the University of Michigan signee clocking in as the No. 12 overall prospect in the state, he also was 52nd overall in the nation (according to 247 Sports). The four-star safety prospect was a versatile weapon all over the field for the Spartans, as the senior was a key contributor on offense, defense and special teams for kick returns. Berry combined high speed and top level defensive instincts to be one of the true defensive difference makers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

DB Jahlil Florence
(Lincoln, San Diego) 6-1, 180, Sr.

The greater San Diego area has been a hotbed of talent of the last few years and Florence showed he will be one of those next in line. The late blooming cornerback prospect rocketed into the top 100 prospects list for the 2022 class after a stellar senior season at Lincoln. He had five interceptions, two of which were brought back for pick six TDs. Two first-half interceptions also helped the Hornets avenge an earlier loss in a CIF San Diego Section D1 playoff victory vs. Madison of San Diego. Oregon beat out Michigan and USC for the services of the long and athletic corner. Florence has the prototypical size to bully receivers of any height and adds experience from running track and basketball. He will play for the Ducks with Lincoln teammate Jalil Tucker.

DB Jaden Mickey (Centennial, Corona) 5-11, 170, Sr.
He is described as a quick-footed and fluid athlete — two important traits in a successful cornerback — especially when tasked with playing man coverage. Mickey signed with Notre Dame and immediately enrolled, having graduated early. In the fall, he helped the Huskies reclaim the Big VIII League championship and finish in the Top 10 in multiple national rankings. Statistically, Mickey had 43 tackles (28 solo), two tackles for loss, two interceptions, 10 passes defended, one safety and returned two kickoffs for a touchdown. He really started to make a name for himself during his sophomore year when he led Centennial’s defense with six interceptions. Mickey added two more picks in the shortened spring season, thus fewer teams tried their luck in his direction during the fall campaign. He is no doubt the most decorated player from the Inland Empire in recent times. We will add even one more honor: Jaden has been chosen the Cal-Hi Sports Defensive Back of Year. In addition, he has earned numerous additional honors: All Big VIII League, Riverside County Defensive Player of the Year, Press Enterprise All-Inland Football Defensive Player of the Year and Los Angeles Times Fall All-Star.

P Chase Barry (JSerra, SJ Capistrano) 6-5, 215, Sr.
There were a lot punts that JSerra had to do in the 2021 season, not that the Lions were that bad. It was just a tough situation playing the teams they had to face. When they punted, though, there was no one better in the state than Barry. Sure, some guys had a higher average, but many of those were compiled on far fewer than the 53 that Barry was reported with. He was remarkably consistent (hang time) and had a 41.0 average. He also had 33 punts go inside the 20. Chase was once again All-Orange County, earned five stars from Chris Sailer kicking and has signed with UCLA.

All-state football player Jadyn Marshall of Stockton St. Mary’s also is one of the top hurdlers in state history. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.


FIRST TEAM
ALL-STATE MULTI-PURPOSE (ELITE)

RB/WR Rayshon Luke
(St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 5-9, 185, Sr.

One of the most versatile offensive players in the Southland this past fall, the Arizona commit’s versatility as a runner and pass-catcher was on display each Friday night versus top-tier opponents. In the fall, Luke led the Braves in rushing with 1,044 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, while averaging more than 12 yards per carry in 11 games. He was also impactful as a receiver as he hauled in 23 receptions for 426 yards and four touchdowns. Over his three-year varsity career, Luke averaged a hefty 17.1 yards per catch. “Speedy” closed-out his prep career with a fine showing at the All-American Bowl as he scored two touchdowns — one for 64-yards — and earned the game’s most valuable player award. Also a track standout, Luke has posted double-digit sub-11.00 second marks in the 100-meters — as a freshman — including 10.55 at the CIF State Track and Field Championships in 2019. Luke was the Trinity League Co-Offensive Most Valuable Player and an All-CIF-SS Division 1 selection.

WR/RB Jadyn Marshall (St. Mary’s, Stockton) 6-0, 185, Sr.
One of the fastest track hurdlers in state history, Marshall was a danger to score whenever he touched the football, be it on offense or for special teams. The four-star recruit eventually signed with UCLA. Marshall led the Rams in receiving and was second in rushing, as the senior speedster had 87 carries for 982 yards and picked up 29 catches for 563 yards and a combined 16 touchdowns. Defenses made Marshall a focal point, allowing breakout sophomore running back Asante Carter to notch 1,195 rushing yards for the Rams. Marshall continued to add wrinkles to his game over his high school career, and has become a much more position-less Deebo Samuel-type of threat.

QB/RB Tyler Tremain (Folsom) 5-10, 175, Sr.
There were two different versions of this past season’s Folsom Bulldogs. The one that had Tyler Tremain under center for 12 games and the one who lost two of three without the star quarterback. The senior signal caller was knocked out of the loss against De La Salle (Concord) with a shoulder injury, but returned a month later in the postseason to help power the juggernaut program to another Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 title and avenge that loss to the Spartans in the NorCal Bowl game. Tremain continued in the long line of Folsom quarterbacks putting up large numbers, with the gunslinger throwing for 3,052 yards on 220-of-354 passing for 37 touchdowns. Three of the TDs that Tyler rushed for came in that win vs. DLS. His earlier honors have included Sacramento Bee MVP and NorCal Player of the Year from our friends at SportStars Magazine.

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


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