NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Dominic Nankil from Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista and Wes Garton from San Marin of Novato. Photos: @honorgroup / & Harold Abend.

As the funnel narrows and there are a limited number of teams still playing, it can sometimes be hard to find performances that can fill all six of the Player of the Week awards. We not only have some very deserving honorees, but a bit of an anomaly as two of the winners will be facing each other this week when our NorCal offensive winner and his Shafter Generals travel to Walnut after being placed in the CIF Southern Regional playoffs. Our other winners are from Novato and Orland in Northern California, and in Southern California the other honorees are from Chula Vista and San Diego.

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Notes: Next week’s six players for football will be the last of the 2022 season so get those nominations into us from the regional finals. For state games, an MVP will be chosen for every game (which we have done for every state final since 2006). 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
Defensive Player of the Week

Wesley Garton (San Marin, Novato) Jr.

The Redwood Empire portion of the CIF North Coast Section a little less than 30 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge is where we find our Northern California Defensive Player of the Week, and when we say find we mean find because we were at the game where Garton had his award-winning performance.

Last week, in a 42-28 victory over Miramonte of Orinda that made the Mustangs NCS Division V champions for the second straight season, Garton had three of the five interceptions of UCLA-committed Miramonte quarterback Luke Duncan, and he returned two of them for pick sixes of 26 and 30 yards.

Both of the interceptions Garton took to the house came in the final 3:23 of the first half and turned a 21-7 lead into a 35-7 Mustangs halftime advantage.

His third interception came on the opening drive of the first quarter for Miramonte. Just when it was looking like the visiting Matadors were driving for a score and the lead, Garton timed it perfectly and stepped in front of the would be wide receiver in the end zone for a touchback.

If that wasn’t enough, the 6-foot, 190-pound Garton also had two tackles for losses and he also helped break up a pass that gave the Mustangs the ball back on downs where they scored on the ensuing possession.

Garton will get another chance this week when San Marin hosts Central Coast Section Division Menlo of Atherton on Saturday in the CIF Northern Regional Division 4-A Bowl Game.

On a final note, we know Garton would like to give two shout outs. First it’s to senior teammate Frankie Quinci who had the other two interceptions and 54 yards as a wide receiver, and second is to the player he beat out for the award in a game we also witnessed, and we told Garton about him. That’s Lincoln of San Francisco senior Xavier Solares. He had two pick sixes of 53 and 80 yards, coincidentally for the Mustangs of San Francisco in their 44-7 Turkey Day San Francisco Section championship victory at historic Kezar Stadium.

Orland’s Grant Foster celebrates during game from last season. Photo:

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

Grant Foster (Orland) Sr.

The CIF Northern Section around halfway between Sacramento and Redding on the I-5 is where stop to honor this week’s Northern California Multi-Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week.

We tweaked the criteria for this award this season to make more players eligible by adding Multi-Purpose to what was previously only a Special Teams category, and this is one of those weeks the new format gets utilized.

A lot of small schools use the quarterback on defense and Orland is one of those schools. Not only is Foster a running quarterback but the 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior also plays cornerback.

Last week he did a little of everything for 13-0 Orland in a Northern Section Division 2 33-19 victory over a University Prep of Redding team that came into the game with an 11-1 record.

We said Foster is a running quarterback and in the game he only attempted three passes and completed two for 22 yards, but it’s with his legs where once again he did his damage after rushing 22 times for 198 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, Grant intercepted a pass and had two tackles. Not surprisingly, he also is the punter for the Trojans and against University he punted twice with one inside the 20.

So far this season, and heading into a CIF Northern Regional Division 5-A Bowl Game matchup at home with North Coast Section Division VII champions Clear Lake, Foster has rushed for 1,659 yards and 27 TDs with two 2-point conversions, and he’s passed for 373 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. On defense, he has 21 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, four passes defended, and a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He’s also punting at a 37.7 yards per punt clip.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Ezekiel Osborne (Shafter) Fr.

We head just north of Bakersfield on Highway 99 to the CIF Central Section town of Shafter to find our Northern California Offensive Player of the Week, and while there we remind readers that for all our Player of the Week features, boys and girls, the Central Section is considered part of Northern California.

It’s in Shafter that we find a freshman who was nominated by Central Section historian and longtime Cal-Hi Sports friend and contributor Bob Barnett for what he did in his most recent performance.

Last week when his Generals’ team played for the Division IV championship on the road in Caruthers, Osborne acted more like a seasoned veteran than a freshman. Ezekiel went from a freshman to a hero when he brought home the bacon, and the headline of the local Shafter Press pretty much says it all.

“Champs! Generals come back for first Valley title in 67 years.”

We certainly know who led the comeback and it was Osborne after he passed for 372 yards and four TDs in a 41-35 victory.

Shafter led 14-7 in the second quarter but Caruthers ran off four straight touchdowns to make it 35-14 in the early third quarter.

It was at that point Osborne got the Generals marching. On the next possession after Caruthers took the three-touchdown lead, Osborne found Jesse Osborn on a 10-yard TD pass that cut it to 35-21. The defense got a stop and that led to a 63-yard TD pass from Osborn to Maryon Sloan and it was 35-28. The defense forced another punt and this time Osborne connected with Sloan again on a long pass that got the ball down to the 19 of Caruthers. Three plays later Koa Rhodes scored the equalizer on a 1-yard plunge with two minutes left in the third quarter.

There was no score again until Osborne and Sloan hooked up again on a long pass that kept a drive alive and another pass to Alex Aguirre that got the ball inside the five and set up a 20-yard field goal by Ernesto Guerrero that gave Shafter a 38-35 lead. The defense came through again and Shafter got the ball on downs with three minutes left. From there Osborn moved the Generals down field and set up a 25-yard field goal with just over a minute left for the game’s final points.

This is not the first game that the 6-foot-2, 160-pound Osborne has shined for the 10-4 Generals. So far this season he’s passed for 3,013 yards and 32 touchdowns, and he’s rushed for three more scores.

Now, Ezekiel gets another chance to prove his mettle when the Generals travel around 30-miles east of downtown Los Angeles to Walnut for the CIF Southern Regional 5-A Bowl Game championship.

Phil Cotton is the defensive leader for CIFSS D11 champion Walnut (and added a pair of TD catches in title game). Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Phil Cotton (Walnut) Sr.

Around 30-miles east of downtown Los Angeles in Walnut is where we land to honor this week’s Southern California Defensive Player of the Week.

It’s there that we find Cotton, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior linebacker who’s been like a tackling machine for the 11-3 Mustangs.

Last week was like another day at the office for Cotton, the difference was this performance came in a 27-14 CIF Southern Section Division 11 victory over Bellflower where Phil filled up the stat sheet with 18 tackles.

Cotton could have been a Multi-Purpose/Special Teams winner after he also had three pass receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns. We also could have picked Cotton, pardon the pun, last week when he registered 20 tackles in an 18-14 semifinal win over Campbell Hall of North Hollywood.

So far this season, and heading into a CIF Southern Regional 5-A match-up at home against Shafter, Cotton has 151 tackles with 18 for losses, plus a fumble recovery. On offense he has 520 yards and five TDs receiving and two TDs rushing.

The 151 tackles is also the No. 20 reported mark in the state and with at least one more game he should move up on that list.

Cotton will go head-to-head with this week’s NorCal offensive honoree, Ezekiel Osborne of Shafter, in the regional final.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Dominic Nankil (Mater Dei Catholic, Chula Vista) Sr.

The CIF San Diego Section and around seven miles north of the border with Mexico is our destination in search of our Southern California Offensive Player of the Week, and it’s at Mater Dei Catholic where we find our honoree who not only had a huge performance last week, but also quarterbacked the Crusaders to the CIF Division 2-AA Bowl Game state championship last season as a junior.

Last week, in a 34-29 victory by Mater Dei Catholic over Mission Hills of San Marcos in the San Diego Section Division 1 championship, Nankil was 30 of 38 passing for 305 yards and three touchdowns.

Nankil killed the hopes of the Mission Hills faithful when his third TD pass came with three seconds left on a remarkable catch by senior Jerry McClure. One official initially ruled it out of bounds but after all of the officials conferred they said it was good and the celebration for the Crusaders and their fans was on.

Mater Dei Catholic and Nankil need two more wins to get back-to-back CIF 2-AA titles, and the next chapter comes this week when they travel to Downey in quest of the Southern Regional 2-AA title.

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

Samuel Cooper (University City, San Diego) Sr.

To find our Southern California Multi-Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week we head to San Diego and land smack dab in the middle of a triangle formed by I-5 on the west, I-805 on the east, and Highway 52 to the south.

At University City, we find a senior dual-threat quarterback who started out at San Diego Lincoln as a freshman quarterback and is now a 6-foot-3 and 230-pound signal-caller and linebacker with seven college offers including Army and Navy that are looking at him to possibly play defense.

Last week Cooper was super in a 33-28 victory over cross-town Point Loma in the CIF San Diego Section Division 3 title game. Samuel rushed 17 times for 112 yards and one TD and passed for 193 yards and two touchdowns.

Cooper will now lead the 11-2 Centurions into the CIF Southern Regional Division 3-AA Bowl Game championship with 1,456 yards and 16 TDs passing and 7124 yards and 10 touchdowns on t ground.

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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