There has never been a Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman Football Player of the Year, but there will be one named after the 2022 season is in the books. Here’s a quick look at five top contenders, why we’re doing this now, if we’ll do our usual approach of going back and naming one historically over the past 40 or 50 years and if we also are going to do an all-state freshman team.
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Maybe it’s an old-school approach and those of us who do most of the work for Cal-Hi Sports over the last 40 to 45 years are now actually old, but there has been a reluctance to have too much attention placed on ninth graders in high school.
This group of kids is still closer to being in junior high than getting ready for college and they really should be concentrating on all of the basics for being a student-athlete, like becoming a good student, developing consistent training and practice habits and just playing as many sports as they can. Wondering or worrying about being on some list or collecting honors for a resume really should be low on their list of priorities.
For baseball, softball, boys basketball and girls basketball, however, there has been a State Freshman Player of the Year selected for recent seasons and there have been freshmen on the all-state underclass teams for boys and girls basketball.
It’s just time to add a Freshman of the Year for football. Some of the best are of course not doing too much as back-ups at big-school powerhouse programs, but it’s not going to be based on future recruiting potential and just like everything will have to be based mostly on what each player does at the varsity level.
A good example of being a back-up as a freshman is one of the nation’s current No. 1 junior quarterbacks, Julian Sayin, of Carlsbad. He was on his varsity team as a freshman, but was backing up his older brother, Aidan, a senior at the time. We’re sure Julian doesn’t mind that he wouldn’t have been considered a state freshman of the year contender for that season since instead he got to experience being with his older brother in that role.
Unlike boys and girls hoops, however, and like baseball and softball, it still isn’t possible in our opinion to select an all-state freshman team for football. It is hard enough to find enough qualified sophomores for that all-state team in the offensive and defensive line positions and it just wouldn’t work in football. And you just can’t pick an all-state football team without linemen.
What we will do is offer a list of freshmen to watch (first one will be this week) and then will update it once the season is over. Again, it can’t be a recruiting list because too many top ninth graders are not yet on varsity rosters at the schools you know we mean – Mater Dei, St. John Bosco, etc.
There’s also a business reason to offer more lists and more attention to some of these freshmen athletes, which also is pretty obvious. Their parents are more likely to subscribe to the web site for a longer period of time than if they sign up later.
All of our various football player of the year lists, including DB of the Year, NorCal & SoCal Players of the Year, also have a historical element to them. No one in California has actually come close to covering the entire state as long as we have so if we’re naming a player of the year from the 1980s and 1990s these are seasons that we covered before. We will soon be adding a freshman state player of the year list going back perhaps 40 to 45 years.
With all of those qualifiers, here would be a look at the very top contenders heading into the final two weeks of the regular season to be the first-ever State Freshman of the Year in football:
(Listed in alpha order)
Khalil Abdul-Aziz (Orange Vista, Perris) 6-2, 170, QB
With a 7-1 record in the first eight games, Orange Vista could be a team to go on a nice run in a lower division of the CIF Southern Section playoffs. And if that happens, Khalil’s season totals as a QB could go way up. He’s already among the leading freshman QBs statistically with 1,632 yards and 20 TD passes in those eight games. He had 369 yards and four TDs in his first game vs Lakewood.
Dutch Horisk (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-3, 240, DL
Unlike Mater Dei and Corona Centennial, the Braves don’t usually put up as many top ninth graders on the varsity roster. Horisk not only is on the roster, but plays a lot as a rush defensive end. In the team’s shutout just last week of JSerra (SJ Capistrano), Dutch had two tackles for loss. He’s been noticed by college recruiters already as well. He has offers from Arizona and Louisville.
Kreet Makihele (San Marcos) 5-10, 170, QB
Who knows how the season may play out for the Knights, who could go far in a lower CIF San Diego Section playoff division? Makihele has been prolific so far and had 1,990 yards passing and 25 TDs after eight games. He also already has had two single games with more than 400 yards.
Kenneth Moore (St. Mary’s, Stockton) 5-10, 155, WR/KR
When the Rams put up their shocking 47-7 win over Central Catholic of Modesto, one of the reasons for the score was that Moore collected three TD catches. He also returns kicks with elite top end speed. Moore also may have the opportunity to come up with some big outings in upcoming St. Mary’s games in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
Brady Smigiel (Newbury Park) 6-4, 185, QB
He’s the son of Panthers’ head coach Joe Smigiel and comes from a program that has had its share of great quarterbacks, including former State Player of the Year Keith Smith and current Utah quarterback Cam Rising. Smigiel already has become the first Ventura County freshman QB to pass for more than 2,000 yards (2,006) and heading into last week’s game he also had thrown for 25 TDs. Brady upped that total to 30 TD passes after this week’s game.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: