SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Our two final SoCal/NorCal offensive players of the week for this season — QB Dereun Dortch of San Jacinto and QB Joseph McCray from Grant of Sacramento — will be leading their teams when they play each other on Saturday for the CIF D3-AA state title. Photos: Fernando M. Donado / For OC Sports Zone & Willie Eashman / Cal-Hi Sports.

During the regular season we had in the range of 500 games to choose from for these honors but once the playoffs started the funnel narrows as the field is basically halved each week until this final week of honoring football players when we only had 26 games in the whole state. Despite that fact, we still have six solid performances to reward and there’s even a twist. The NorCal and SoCal offensive honorees will be squaring off against each other in the CIF D3-AA state championship.

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Notes: We had a new twist to this feature this season that gave 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. For next week, this feature switches to boys and girls basketball – two from the north, two from the south. To nominate anyone, email

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Dereun Dortch (San Jacinto) Sr.

The Inland Empire is our destination and it’s just over 10 miles east of the I-215 and just north of where Highways 74 and 79 intersect in Hemet that we land in San Jacinto to find our Southern California Offensive Player of the Week. The reality is the most recent performance by the 6-foot, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback was outstanding, but it wasn’t his best of the season, however it did come in the biggest game of his career.

Last week, in a 49-45 CIF Southern Regional 3-AA championship game victory over University City of San Diego, and in a game where the host Tigers almost squandered a 21-point lead, Dortch wasn’t ready to pass the torch to University City and kept it for himself and his San Jacinto teammates and fans after passing for 258 yards and four TDs and rushing for 100 yards and three more scores.

So far this season, and heading into a showdown in Sacramento on Saturday with host Grant for the CIF D3-AA state championship, Dortch has torched opponents for 3,261 yards passing and 47 TDs with only two interceptions, one of which came last week. Dereun has also run for 533 yards and 11 touchdowns.

We know Dortch would like to give a shout out to his Tigers teammates, particularly Dylan Gresham. The junior wide receiver broke loose for a 46-yard TD reception with 1:08 left to play that gave San Jacinto the lead, and then moments later intercepted a pass to seal the deal. Gresham finished with six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 81 receptions for 1,864 yards and 28 TDs receiving. Gresham is not being honored this week but Dortch won’t mind sharing the award with his favorite target as it’s worth noting his 1,864 yards is the top reported mark in the state and No. 3 in the nation. Also, the 28 TD receptions ties him for the most ever in one season in the Inland Empire and also ties for No. 10 all time according to the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book.

It will be interesting to see what the Dortch to Gresham combination does this week against the Grant of Sacramento defense.

Adam Harper is the leading rusher and one of the leading tacklers for 14-1 Northwood of Irvine. Photo: Tim Burt / OC Sports Zone.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Adam Harper (Northwood, Irvine) Sr.

We head to Orange County and the city of Irvine in search of the Southern California Defensive Player of the Week and we find our honoree at Northwood.

We could have honored Harper as the Multi-Purpose/Special Teams award winner for his most recent performance, but it’s his prowess on defense for which he receives this season’s final defensive award.

Last week, in a defensive battle that saw Northwood prevail 10-7 on the road at Kennedy of Delano in the Southern Regional 4-AA championship, Harper had 19 tackles (14 solo) according to Northwood head coach J.C. Clarke, and the Timberwolves needed all of his efforts on defense as they had to hold off Lancaster after leading 10-0.

Harper, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound free safety and running back, also had 130 yards rushing and the lone TD for Northwood.

When Adam and his defensive teammates got a stop on fourth-and-one on their own 24-yard line with just over two minutes remaining, the Timberwolves turned to Harper to run out the clock, and that’s exactly what he did.

Harper and his Timberwolves teammates now have a date on the road with Escalon this Saturday night for the CIF D4-AA state championship.

Complete defensive statistics were not readily available, but according to Clark, Harper now has 2,452 yards rushing and 30 TDs for 14-1 Northwood this season. Adam also has thrown a touchdown on all four pass completions this season. If reported, the rushing total would be the No. 2 mark in the CIF Southern section and the No. 3 in the state.

There also are many mentions on Adam’s Twitter page about games in which he’s had 10 or more tackles in a game.

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

Life Pollard (Classical Academy, Escondido) Sr.

The North County area of the CIF San Diego Section and in the city of Escondido about a mile east of where I-15 and Highway 78 intersect is where we land to honor the Southern California Multi-Purpose Special Teams Player of the Week.

It’s at Classical Academy where we find a 6-foot, 182-pound senior defensive back and running back who more than meets the criteria for this award this season that we tweaked to make more players eligible by adding Multi-Purpose to what was previously only a Special Teams category.

Last Friday, in a 34-14 victory of Lancaster in the CIF Southern Regional Division 6-AA Bowl Game championship, Pollard scored three touchdowns three different ways.

As a running back, Pollard had 89 yards rushing and one TD on a 27-yard run on a fourth-and-2 situation that gave Classical Academy a 10-0 lead as time expired in the first quarter. Three plays into the second quarter, Life came to life once again as a defensive back when he gave the Caimans a 17-0 lead on a pick six he took 65 yards to the house.

Classical added a field goal but gave up two TDs and with the Caimans lead cut to 20-14 on a Lancaster TD with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter, Pollard answered back with a 97-yard return on the ensuing kickoff and the romp to the house by Life breathed life back into Classical and the defense shut out Lancaster from there.

Next up for Life and his Caimans teammates is a trip to the Bay Area to meet San Jose public school Santa Teresa in the CIF D6-AA state title game.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Joseph McCray (Grant, Sacramento) Sr.

We head to Sacramento and the Del Paso Heights neighborhood a little less than 10-miles northeast of the state capital to check in on McCray. There we find this season’s final Northern California Offensive Player of the Week, and it’s at Grant, a school with a strong football tradition.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior didn’t have huge numbers last week, but McCray has come to play all season for the 11-2 Pacers and he did more than enough to guide Grant to a CIF Northern Regional 3-AA title on the road at El Cerrito after passing for 244 yards and two TDs in 36-7 victory on the road, and in a game where Grant spotted the hosts a 7-0 lead before scoring all the game’s remaining points.

Like we said previously, at this stage of the season, McCray is being honored not only for what he did last week, but all season for a Pacers’ team that will be making a second appearance in a CIF Bowl Game championship after legendary Grant head coach Mike Alberghini led the Pacers to the first-ever CIF Open Division title when in 2008 they beat Long Beach Poly, 25-20, in Carson.

Heading into the CIF D3-AA state championship showdown at home with San Jacinto, and matched up against this week’s SoCal offensive honoree, Dereun Dortch, McCray has passed for 3,796 yards and 48 TDs with only five interceptions. His high-water mark was 515 yards and eight TDs in a big win over crosstown McClatchy.

San Ramon Valley clutch kicker Austin Shelton is shown from action earlier this season. Photo:

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

Austin Sheldon (San Ramon Valley, Danville) Jr.

Just like our NorCal defensive award winner, we stay close to Mt. Diablo only this time we land in Danville where we honor the final Northern California Multi-Purpose Special Teams Player of the week for this season.

As previously mentioned, we tweaked the criteria for this category this season to make more players eligible by adding Multi-Purpose to what was previously only a Special Teams category, but in Sheldon we find a junior placekicker who didn’t need the expanded category after his award-winning performance came via his foot.

Trailing 17-16 with 18 seconds to play, Shelton fought off rain and gusting winds to hammer home a 35-yard field goal that won the game in a 19-17 victory last Saturday over visiting Marin Catholic of Kentfield in the CIF Northern Regional Division 2-A Bowl Game championship.

The winning boot was not his first field goal of the game. With the Wolves trailing 14-13 with less than a minute left in the third quarter, Sheldon nailed a 37-yard field goal that gave San Ramon Valley a 16-14 lead.

We’re not sure if it was a bad snap or just a miss, but the only gaffe Sheldon had in the game came on a missed PAT early in the game that left the Wolves with a 7-6 deficit.

So far this season for 12-2 San Ramon Valley and heading into a state CIF D2-A state bowl match-up with Granite Hills of El Cajon on Saturday afternoon at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Sheldon has made 69 of 72 PAT attempts and he’s 7 of 9 on field goals.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Jonathon Guerrero (De La Salle, Concord) Jr.

It’s not very often that we venture to Sparta since more often than not we’re not looking for players on the state’s most highly ranked teams to honor, but at the base of majestic Mt. Diablo in Concord at De La Salle is where we find ourselves this week to honor this season’s final Northern California Defensive Player of the Week.

For the second straight game, Guerrero came up with an interception and it was key in the Spartans’ 17-14 victory over Folsom that not only ended a two-game skid against the Bulldogs, it gave De La Salle the CIF Northern Regional Division 1-AA Bowl Game championship.

After De La Salle got a 39-yard field goal from Spencer Brien with 1:42 left in the half to give the Spartans a 10-7 lead, Guerrero helped take the starch out of the Folsom offense with an interception he returned 17 yards to the Folsom 3-yard line. Two plays later, Charles Greer ran it in for a TD and De La Salle had a 17-7 lead.

Guerrero also had an interception in the CIF North Coast Section Open Division 30-23 victory over Pittsburg. On that play, he also ran it back to the 3-yard line. Plus, Guerrero had an interception in the team’s regular season finale vs Clayton Valley of Concord.

Heading into the CIF D1-AA Bowl Game championship on Friday night against Lincoln of San Diego at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Guerrero now has seven interceptions this season, and that’s the No. 2 mark in the NCS and a top 20 reported mark in the state.

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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  1. Dereus Dortch
    Posted December 6, 2022 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    #3 Dereun Dortch which is the Qb for San Jacinto is one of the Quarterbacks that’s been slept on and doubted. He lead his team to make history and it’s bout time people recognize my lil brother name

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted December 7, 2022 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Congrats to your brother. Sorry the item was marked as a premium story. It’s supposed to be free so family like yourself can see it easily. Everyone should be able to see it now.

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