Some others in the media have already picked a state player of the year or will do it soon. It’s more of a process, however, for the annual Mr. Football statewide selection. It’s been done every year for more than 40 years and it’s been researched over the course of state history back more than 100 years. This year, the finalists are from the top two teams in the nation — St. John Bosco and Mater Dei — along with a running back from San Diego and a multi-purpose star from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. The winner will be announced after we do all of our final team rankings, all of our first-draft all-state nominees and all of our State Coaches of the Year.
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Congratulations to the following players who have been chosen as finalists for the 2022 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year honor. This is the only state football honor that has more than 100 years of history attached to it. Last year’s winner was Tetairoa McMillan from Servite of Anaheim.
(All players listed in alphabetical order)
Elijah Brown (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) Jr.
The last two junior QBs from Mater Dei also were Mr. Football contenders, but there’s no twist attached to Brown’s candidacy. In 2017, that QB was T.J. Daniels, who was a junior at the time he was named a finalist but had reclassified and was a senior when the final selection was made (which he won). Then the very next season, future Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young was in the running, but at the time the Monarchs’ faithful were more supportive of senior Bru McCoy, who had some defensive accomplishments to go along with being a top pass catcher on offense. McCoy was the eventual winner. Similar to Young as well, Brown’s junior season is one in which Mater Dei defeated St. John Bosco in the regular season only to fall short in a rematch. Despite that, Brown’s resume remains impressive and perhaps still superior to any one individual player at Bosco. He only passed for 119 yards but had a rushing TD in the 17-7 win in October. In the loss in the CIFSS D1 final, Elijah passed for 291 yards and two TDs. For the season, he had 2,785 yards with 31 TD passes and just four interceptions. The last loss to Bosco also snapped a 29-game winning streak for the Monarchs, a school record and a streak in which Brown started in all of those games. He’s expected to be a four-year starter at Mater Dei next season unless there’s a reclassification we don’t know about.
Blake Nichelson (Manteca) Sr.
For offense, defense and special teams, even though Blake didn’t play for a team that didn’t end up in the top 25, he’s perhaps the epitome of a player of the year selection in which it’s not offense or defense but everything. In leading the Buffaloes to their first CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 title and a 11-2 record, the Florida State commit didn’t rush for as many yards as he did as a junior, but caught a lot more passes and the team itself was improved as junior teammate Bryson Davis became more of a factor at running back. Nichelson ended with 1,719 yards rushing and 27 rushing TDs. He also caught 29 passes for 703 yards and 14 TDs plus he had two punt return TDs and he had 44 tackles and one interception on defense. For his career, Blake will end among the leaders in section history with 90 touchdowns and 576 points. He also had more than 4,000 career rushing yards.
Roderick Robinson (Lincoln, San Diego) Sr.
The comparisons in the San Diego Section to some of the all-time greats like Heisman Trophy winners Marcus Allen, Ricky Williams and Reggie Bush may still be premature, but for what Roderick did this season for the Hornets it’s impossible not to single him out. In the CIF D1-AA state title game, he was limited in the first half by the De La Salle defense, but found room in the second half and ended with 22 carries for 222 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-28 triumph by Lincoln. He also had 181 yards rushing and four TDs in Lincoln’s win over Sierra Canyon in the CIF SoCal D1-AA final. Roderick’s most memorable outing, however, would have to be the 476 yards and eight TDs that he had in a 56-20 win against eventual CIF D2-AA state champion Mater Dei Catholic. For the season, the Georgia-committed power back had 2,378 yards rushing and scored 39 touchdowns.
(St. John Bosco, Bellflower) Sr.
Singling out anyone from this year’s CIF Open Division state champions is almost impossible since the balance and depth on offense and defense is what helped make the Braves so impressive. While Matayo doesn’t have stats like the others, he was without question an impact player on both sides of the ball. With all of the elite level players at Bosco and Mater Dei (Santa Ana), anyone who is a two-way player amidst those lineups says plenty about how well that player is doing. Uiagalelei, a tight end and defensive end, has been a three-year standout who as a sophomore in that short COVID spring season in 2021 was honored as the State Sophomore of the Year. The younger brother of 2019 Mr. Football State Player of the Year D.J. Uiagalelei also is the highest ranked recruit from this year’s team at St. John Bosco. He is inside the top 20 nationally by both 247 Sports and Rivals.com.
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: @CalHiSports
Nicholson only played a half a game in 9 contests. Stats could have been double.