NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week are running back Devon Rivers from Heritage of Brentwood (left) and running back/linebacker William Parra from St. Genevieve of Panorama City. Photos: @HeritagePats / &

This week we visit a couple of state-ranked teams, one of which has some big-time stars, but those players were not the ones honored. We also uncovered some diamonds in the rough, plus one from a well-known family in the Bay Area. Our stops are in Brentwood, Woodlake and El Dorado Hills in Northern California, and Los Alamitos, Valencia and Panorama City in Southern California.

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Notes: We have a new twist to this feature that gives more flexibility to one of the honorees by expanding the Special Teams category to now be Multi-Purpose/Special Teams. Multi-Purpose is already a category for All State honors. For these honors, we also consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Devon Rivers (Heritage, Brentwood) Sr.

We start off this week in East Contra Costa County and in Brentwood at Heritage High just east of Mt. Diablo and a few miles west of the Delta area is where we find our Northern California Offensive Player of the Week.

When it comes to Rivers to say as the old expression goes, “it’s in the blood,” is somewhat of an understatement.

Rivers’ father Ron Rivers, the current softball head coach at Heritage where his Patriots just won an NCS Division I championship, was a 1989 All-State First Team selection at running back from San Bernardino San Gorgonio who went on to Fresno State where he set rushing records before enjoying a six-year NFL career.

Devon’s older brother, Ronnie Rivers Jr., also attended Fresno State after a first team all-state high school senior season at Freedom of Oakley. The other first team all-state running back when Ronnie Jr. was named to that team was Najee Harris from league rival Antioch. At Fresno State, he broke his father’s Bulldogs school rushing TDs record, and is currently a rookie with the Los Angeles Rams. Older sister Malia played softball at Fresno State after playing in high school at Heritage.

As for Devon, it probably comes as no surprise where he will be attending college after the 5-foot-7, 170-pound running back committed last year to Fresno State.

Now, after the family bloodlines and ties to Fresno State, what did Rivers do to earn this week’s NorCal offensive honors?

The bottom line is we probably could have picked Devon for any his first four performances for the 4-0 Patriots, but this is the week we chose so here we go.

Last week, in a 41-0 thrashing of what was thought to be a fairly decent Napa Vintage, Devon was on for his fourth straight 200-yard rushing performance after he rambled for 271 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He also intercepted a pass on defense, deflected a pass and had a couple of tackles as a defensive back.

The 271 yards was only his second-highest yardage output this season. Two weeks ago in a 30-13 win over Whitney of Rocklin, Rivers rushed for 280 yards and two TDs, plus he had a third score when he took a punt 70 yards to the house. The week before in a 54-14 win over Livermore Granada, Devon went for 237 yards and three TDs rushing, plus he had a fourth score on another punt return, this one going 85 yards to pay dirt. In a season-opening 42-7 win against Dublin, Rivers ran for four TDs and gained 203 yards rushing.

Devon now has 991 yards rushing and 13 TDs with a whopping 11.8 yards per carry. His TD total is 15 so far. The rushing yardage is the top reported mark in the CIF North Coast Section, No. 1 in Northern California and No. 5 in the state, but No. 1 for players with four games.

For his career, and despite only playing 11 games combined in his freshman and sophomore seasons due to the pandemic, Rivers currently has 3,156 yards rushing. In order to make the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book he’ll need to crack the 5,000 yard mark and that’s only going to happen if he continues his 247.8 yards per game average and Heritage makes a deep run in the NCS playoffs.

Who knows? The saga continues this Friday night on the road in Union City at James Logan.

There could be a lot of close games for Oak Ridge in upcoming Sierra Foothill League games so having a kicker like Carson Nichols may be very important. Photo:

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

Carson Nichols (Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills) Sr.

The search for our Northern California Multi-Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week takes us around 30 miles east of the state capital on the Highway 50 corridor to the beginnings of the Sierra foothills just south of Folsom Lake.

In El Dorado Hills at Oak Ridge is where we find Nichols, and the preseason All-Sac-Joaquin Section senior placekicker has been showing off his booming leg for the past two seasons.

Last week, in a 41-10 victory over Pleasant Valley of Chico that helped the Trojans snag the final spot in this week’s state top 50 rankings, and makes them one of four state-ranked teams from the powerful Sierra Foothill League, Nichols was on.

The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder, who recently had a visit to Nevada and is also a D1 baseball prospect, was 5-for-5 on PATs and 2-for-2 on field goals, including splitting the uprights from 45 yards out. So far this season Nichols is 30-for-30 on PATs and 4-of-6 on field goals.

The 45-yard field goal is just shy of his personal best and school record 46-yarder he drilled last season.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Nate Martinez (Woodlake) Sr.

To find our Northern California Defensive Player of the Week selection, we head to “The Valley” as the locals affectionately call the CIF Central Section, and we take this opportunity to remind readers that for all Player of the Week features, for all sports, both boys and girls, the Central Section is considered Northern California.

Our landing spot where we find Martinez is in Woodlake, just northeast of Visalia, and it comes from Central Section historian and longtime Cal-Hi Sports friend and contributor Bob Barnett by way of his weekly Milestones missive.

Last week, in a 28-16 victory over Lindsay that gets the Tigers to 3-1 this season, Nate baited the Lindsay quarterback and the Cardinals signal-caller bit to the tune of three interceptions by the senior defensive back.

Martinez now has six interceptions this season and that is not only the top reported mark in the CIF Central Section but for the entire state.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Damian Henderson (Los Alamitos) Sr.

Orange County just east the I-605 on the other side of the freeway from Long Beach in Los Alamitos is where we find our Southern California Offensive Player of the Week, and it’s not 5-Star USC-committed senior quarterback Malachi Nelson, or fellow USC-committed senior wide receiver and State Junior of the Year Makai Lemon. Instead, the deserving honoree is recent Colorado State-commit Henderson.

Last week, in game billed by some media outlets as the top matchup in the nation, and one that had previous state No. 11 ranked Los Alamitos hosting previous No. 5 Santa Margarita Catholic of Santa Margarita in a battle of two heavyweights, Henderson was the main attraction in a wild 69-49 victory.

Apparently the Santa Margarita strategy was to try and neutralize the Nelson to Lemon passing attack, and it appears that it backfired after Los Alamitos head coach Ray Fenton adjusted the offense and his 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior transfer from Long Beach Jordan romped for 306 yards rushing on a whopping 38 carries, five of which he took to pay dirt.

Two weeks ago, Henderson rambled for 202 yards and three TDs in a 47-14 Trinity League win over Anaheim Servite. That’s 508 yards and eight TDs against two Trinity League members of a league most everyone considers the strongest in the nation by far.

It would be unfair to say the Griffins’ two big stars didn’t show up against Santa Margarita because that’s not the case, and Henderson would want to give some props to them. Nelson passed for 203 yards and in the process broke the school record for career passing yards, and Lemon was on the receiving end of 11 of the passes for 184 yards and one touchdown, plus he returned a kickoff 96 yards to the house for a second score.

With the win, the Griffins are now up to No. 9 in the most recent state rankings and with the addition of Henderson to an already potent offense Los Alamitos may be poised to make some noise.

Brady Van Bennekum of West Ranch (Valencia) may look playful in this photo, but he’s been serious about big plays for his team. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Brady Van Bennekum
(West Ranch, Valencia) Sr.

The Santa Clarita Valley is our destination in search of our Southern California Defensive Player of the Week and we set down just west of the I-5 in Valencia at West Ranch to find our honoree.

Last week, in a 45-0 shellacking of neighboring Canyon of Canyon Country that gets the Wildcats to 5-0 and up five spots to No. 30 in the most recent rankings, Van Bennekum had an interception he returned 21 yards for a pick six, a sack and eight tackles.

It’s the third straight game the 6-foot-3, 212-pound senior linebacker has picked off a pass, and the second-straight game he returned one for a score. Two weeks ago, in a rout of St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs, Brady brought back an interception 50 yards to pay dirt for a score. Last week was also the second straight week Van Bennekum has registered a sack.

On the season, besides the three interceptions and two sacks, and the two TDs on defense, Brady leads the team with 41 tackles. He had eight tackles vs the Cowboys.

We couldn’t find a lot of recruiting information on Van Bennekum, but after getting a statewide honor and according to his Twitter handle he possesses a 4.34 GPA, academic schools should be drooling over his possibilities.

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

William Parra (St. Genevieve, Panorama City) Sr.

We’re San Fernando Valley-bound in looking for our Southern California Multi-Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week. We land about midway between Hwy 170 and I-405 in Panorama City at St. Genevieve to find our honoree, and he’s a player who epitomizes the newly expanded multi-purpose/special teams category.

To say that Parra played a big part in helping the Valiants get a much needed 27-21 win over Burbank after an 0-3 start would be an understatement.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior wide receiver and defensive back had six catches for 101 yards and a TD on a 65-yard pass. He didn’t score on the ground but he had two carries for 92 yards, including a 75-yard romp that led to a score.

On defense in the same game, Parra had two interceptions and nine tackles. Finally, on special teams, he had two kickoff returns, one of which he took 90 yards to the house for a score.

Parra now has 207 yards receiving and two TDs for the season, and on defense he has three interceptions.

William is the son of Valiants’ head coach Billy Parra, who also coached Camdan McWright last year (who was one of the state’s top small school players.

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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