SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s NorCal/SoCal player of the week honorees are quarterback Marcus Castaneda of Santa Paula and defensive back Malachi Young from St. Mary’s of Berkeley. Photos: Contributed by school to & Ben Enos / SportStars.

For the third straight week we accomplish the main goal of this feature by tracking potential entries in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book and uncovering a few diamonds in the rough who don’t always get big-time attention. Our stops this week in Southern California are in Santa Paula, Torrance and San Bernardino, while in Northern California we visit Berkeley, the city of Lincoln and Oakland.

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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 Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Marcus Castaneda (Santa Paula) Sr.

To find the Southern California Offensive Player of the Week honoree, we head to Ventura County and around 15 miles east of Ventura in the orchards surrounding the city of Santa Paula where the high school is in the center of town.

At Santa Paula, we honor a record setting quarterback who performed his feats in a high-scoring playoff affair.

Last week, in scoreboard lighter-upper 62-55 victory over El Monte in the CIF Southern Section Division 13 opening round, Castaneda broke the Ventura County record for passing yards in a playoff game and also set the school record for yards and TDs after going a pinpoint 34 of 38 for 531 yards and seven touchdowns.

The seven TDs falls one short of making that list in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book, but the passing yardage does not. Besides the 531 yards making the Most Yards (Game) in the passing category, Marcus now also takes his place as No. 2 all-time in Ventura County on the list behind the 588 yards in 2009 by Jeff Mathews of Camarillo.

Castaneda and the 7-4 Cardinals will look to advance this week on the road in Redlands at Arrowhead Christian.

On a final note we’re sure Castaneda would want to give a shout out to his favorite target, senior Bryce Zavala. He set and tied school records with 14 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns.

Sophomore Ben Drewery of Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) enters this week’s CIFSS D13 playoff game with a state-leading nine interceptions. Photo: @BMHSGridiron /

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Ben Drewery (Bishop Montgomery, Torrance) Soph.

The South Bay portion of Los Angeles County is our destination in search of the Southern California Defensive Player of the Week and it’s in Torrance at Bishop Montgomery where we land and find a defensive back who is making a name for himself despite playing in just his first season of varsity football.

It wasn’t a humungous performance for which Ben gets penned for a write-up this week. However, as the funnel narrows with less games to choose from, what he did was key to the outcome of a playoff game, this first playoff win for Bishop Montgomery since 1983, and also rewards Drewery for his overall body of work so far this season.

Last week, in a 28-21 opening round victory over Pioneer of Whittier in the CIF Southern Section Division 13 playoffs, the 6-foot, 150-pound sophomore had two interceptions, including one with just over four minutes to play that was key in the game.

Drewery now has nine interceptions so far this season. The nine picks are a new school record, and not only that but it’s the top reported mark in the Southern Section and ties for tops in the entire state.

Ben is going to have some work to do to get to 14 interceptions this season and make the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book Most Pass Interceptions (Season) list, but he’ll get a chance to add to his totals when he and his Knights’ teammates move on to the quarterfinals this week at Colton.

Ben’s teammate, Dominic Marchiondo, also deserves a shoutout this week as he set a school record with 16 catches for 178 yards in the win vs Pioneer.

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

Yaqiym Halliburton (Aquinas, San Bernardino) Jr.

The heart of the Inland Empire in San Bernardino is we go to honor the Southern California Multi-Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week.

At Aquinas we find a 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior defensive back, wide receiver, running back and kicker who actually had a bigger single-game performance on defense than this week’s SoCal defensive honoree, but Halliburton did more than just shine on defense.

Yaqiym did not just dream about getting three interceptions last week in a CIF Southern Section 27-0 Division 5 blanking of Jurupa Hills of Fontana, he did it, and all three came in the first quarter. The three picks in a quarter is one shy of the state record and a spot in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book Most Pass Interceptions (Quarter) list. There’s only a couple that we know that have done that so three in one quarter is likely a local record.

Besides the three first quarter interceptions, Halliburton opened the scoring with a 29-yard field goal in the first three minutes of the game.

Halliburton also had a 22-yard third quarter TD reception and prior to that he caught a 34-yard pass he got to the one-yard line that set up a score.

Yaqiym will get another chance this week when he and his Falcons teammates take on Bishop Alemany of Mission Hills.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defense Player of the Week

Malachi Young (St. Mary’s, Berkeley) Sr.

The border between Berkeley and Albany is our exact location to uncover the Northern California Defensive Player of the Week. At St. Mary’s, which straddles the border, we find a defensive standout who is starring at the same school where Black Panther and Wakanda Forever co-writer and director Ryan Coogler was a track and football standout in the early 2000s.

Last week, in a Tri-County Athletic League – Stone Division battle for the league championship between two teams that came into the game with 9-0 records, the 6-foot,170-pound cornerback led the defense in a 28-20 victory over rival St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo with two pass interceptions and nine tackles.

With the victory, St. Mary’s secured the top seed in the CIF North Coast Section Division IV playoffs where Young will get to lead the defense once again in a first round game with visiting Arcata.

Ryan Henning’s huge outing for Lincoln in its playoff win last week put him over 1,800 rushing yards for the season. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Ryan Henning (Lincoln) Sr.

We tried hard to not go to the Metro Sacramento area again this week for our Northern California Offensive Player of the Week, and although we’re in Placer County, our visit to Lincoln about 25 miles northeast of the state capitol is where we find a performance too hard to overlook. At Lincoln, we discover a Fighting Zebras’ running back who besides getting some local props, now snags a statewide honor.

Besides being back in the Sacramento area again this week there’s another twist to this award. The award-winning performance by Henning came against the same Sacramento Natomas team that last week’s NorCal offensive honoree, quarterback Marino Fragata of Sacramento Hiram Johnson, victimized.

Fragata did it with his arm, but last week in a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section 52-26 Division 4 victory by Lincoln over visiting Natomas, Henning did it with his legs, and the 5-foot-11, 212-pound running back was like a freight train in doing so after Ryan rushed for 352 yards on 35 carries with five touchdowns.

The performance was a career-high for Henning and was also the third straight week he’s rushed for 200-plus yards and the sixth time this season for 6-5 Lincoln.

Henning, who has committed to Air Force, will get to add to his current 1,869 yards and 29 TDs rushing when he and his Fighting Zebras teammates move on to the quarterfinals against Kimball of Tracy. The 1,869 yards rushing is currently the No. 2 reported mark in the CIFSJS and No. 11 in the state.

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

Isaac Espinoza (McClymonds, Oakland) Jr.

For our Northern California Multi-Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week we didn’t need to use the expanded format started this season by including multi-purpose to the mix because at Oakland small school powerhouse McClymonds we have a pure kicker with a booming leg as our honoree.

Last week, Isaac had one heck of a kick when he split the uprights on a field goal from 53 yards out in a 60-6 rout of crosstown Castlemont.

The 53-yarder was his only field goal attempt but Espinoza was also 7 for 7 on PATs, and had 10 kickoffs that averaged 55.5 yards per kick with five touchbacks. The 53-yarder was not only a career-high for the 6-foot, 165-pound junior, who also occasionally punts and even has come in as a reserve quarterback, it was the longest reported field goal in the state this season, and the air isn’t thin in Oakland.

So far this season, Espinoza has made all 46 PATs he’s attempted, is 4 of 6 on field goals, with two of the other three he’s converted besides last week’s coming from 47 and 41 yards. He’s averaging 62.7 yards per kickoff with 42 of 58 touchbacks and a longest of 73 yards, and finally, when Isaac has punted, and that was only five times this season in a 24-21 win over Bellarmine of San Jose, he averaged 39.6 yards per punt.

With those kinds of numbers, one would think Espinoza would show up on some kicking recruiting sites and radar screens, but he doesn’t. Maybe now that will change after Isaac has snagged a statewide honor.

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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