More State Football Players of the Year

The first-ever named State Freshman of the Year, Newbury Park’s Brady Smigiel (left), looks over the field from an early season game. At right is State Sophomore of the Year Jordon Davison of Santa Ana Mater Dei. Photos: blastathletics & @MDFootball / Twitter.com.


Check inside this post for the honorees who have been chosen among juniors, sophomores, freshmen, medium schools and small schools. State No. 2 Mater Dei of Santa Ana has collected two of them. We also have our first-ever State Freshman of the Year. Plus, versatility on both sides of the ball helps the top honorees among medium and small schools.

To see who has been named Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year, CLICK HERE.

To see who has been named Cal-Hi Sports Defensive State Player of the Year, CLICK HERE.

For a list of our all-time players of the year for juniors, sophomores, medium schools and small schools, CLICK HERE.

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Congratulations to the following additional Cal-Hi Sports State Players of the Year for the 2022 football season (joining overall honoree Roderick Robinson from Lincoln of San Diego):

QB Elijah Brown (12) stands with retiring Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson after regular season win over St. John Bosco. Photo: Mark Tennis.


STATE JUNIOR OF THE YEAR:
ELIJAH BROWN
(MATER DEI, SANTA ANA)

This would be the no-brainer choice among all of the other state player of the year selections for the 2022 season. Elijah, after all, was the State Sophomore of the Year for the 2021 fall season, he was the State Freshman of the Year for the six-game 2021 COVID spring season and he was the only Mr. Football State Player of the Year finalist who was a junior last season.

The only loss in 30 games of Brown’s career so far was the one by just 24-22 to St. John Bosco in this year’s CIF Southern Section D1 championship. A failed two-point conversion late in the contest prevented the Monarchs from tying the score and Brown never got the ball back for an attempt for the team to win the game. Elijah still had an impressive outing considering the defense he was facing as he finished 21 of 30 passing for 291 yards and two touchdowns.

For the season, Brown improved upon his sophomore totals (when Mater Dei was the unbeaten mythical national champion) of 30 touchdowns and six interceptions to end with 31 TDs and just four interceptions. He also passed for 2,785 yards. Elijah isn’t a runner like some other QBs in his national class, but he added four rushing scores.

While the Bosco defense held Mater Dei to just 119 yards passing in the first game between the two teams, Brown had several other notable outings against elite competition. He went 18 of 27 for 228 yards and three TDs in the win against national top 10 Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, he hit on 16 of 22 for 298 yards and three TDs in a win against Corona Centennial and he was 13 of 14 for 301 yards and two TDs in a win against Santa Margarita.

This is the third straight year that a player from Orange County has been State Junior of the Year. Brown follows last year’s winner, Makai Lemon of Los Alamitos, and Noah Fifita from Servite of Anaheim for the 2021 spring season.

Mater Dei’s only other State Junior of the Year honoree has been quarterback Matt Barkley for 2007. Expected No. 1 NFL Draft pick Bryce Young as a junior at MD in 2018 was in the same class as St. John Bosco’s D.J. Uiagalelei and for that year D.J. was considered Bosco’s No. 1 player for postseason honors while Bryce was No. 2 at MD behind senior Bru McCoy. Mater Dei also would have had the junior of the year for 2017 with QB J.T. Daniels, but he reclassified from being a junior to a senior after that season and thus became ineligible to be the junior winner.

Alabama, which saw Young play his final game there last Saturday in a bowl game, is one of 14 major colleges with listed offers to collect Brown’s services beginning with the 2024 season. Others on the list include USC, UCLA, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee.

STATE SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR:
JORDON DAVISON
(MATER DEI, SANTA ANA)

It definitely wasn’t as easy to arrive at Jordon being the State Sophomore of the Year as it was for his junior teammate Elijah Brown or even Elijah last year as a sophomore.

Here’s how it went: Two others who were leading contenders, quarterback Husan Longstreet of Inglewood and running back Dane Dunn of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, happened to be on teams that played each other for the CIFSS D2 championship. Dunn had a big night in leading Sierra Canyon to the win, which gave him the edge over Longstreet. But Sierra Canyon had a loss early in the season to JSerra of San Juan Capistrano and JSerra was routed twice by Mater Dei, which also had a very highly regarded sophomore running back. Although Davison didn’t have as many yards rushing as Dunn and other sophomore RBs, he sure had a lot of impressive outings against superior competition and thus he’s the one getting the top honor.

In Mater Dei’s win against JSerra in the CIFSS D1 playoffs, Davison rushed for 158 yards on 14 carries and scored three TDs. He also had 10 carries for 124 yards and two TDs in the semifinals vs Los Alamitos. Then in the first game against St. John Bosco (in the regular season), he had 22 carries for 114 yards and one TD. For the season, Davison piled up 1,514 yards rushing (an average of 8.9 yards per carry) and led the team in scoring with 17 touchdowns.

Davison also has already posted a total that put his name into the all-time state records and that was the 99-yard touchdown run he had in Mater Dei’s regular season triumph against Santa Margarita. There also was a 95-yard TD run that Jordan had in a win over Mililani of Hawaii.

Although he began playing with the Monarchs as a freshman, Davison came to the school from Northern California after junior high and still lists Walnut Creek as his hometown. He was one of two underclassmen, along with sophomore Ajon Bryant, who were back-up running backs for the 2021 season at Mater Dei behind Raleek Brown, now at USC and also from Northern California (Stockton).

Davison was recently ranked as the 14th best prospect nationally for the Class of 2025 by 247 Sports and he was the highest ranked running back.

This also is the second straight year that Mater Dei has had the State Sophomore of the Year. Jordon follows Elijah Brown from last season plus two others from the school who also earned the same honor since 1990 — Rod Perry for 1994 and J.T. Daniels for 2016. Daniels was still listed as a sophomore for 2016, but then in 2017 after the season he reclassified from being a junior to a senior and thus skipped being State Junior of the Year.

STATE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR:
BRADY SMIGIEL
(NEWBURY PARK)

As mentioned in a previous column, it’s finally time to start selecting a State Freshman Player of the Year. We’ll also eventually go back and list one for every season since around 1980. For now, it’s time to celebrate the first one and a pretty easy one to pick as well.

We don’t usually have a freshman leading a team to a higher division state title, which is what happens for leading player of the candidates later on, so when there’s one breaking records like Brady did this season at Newbury Park that’s too much to go against. He is in fact the first-ever honoree for a freshman and we can’t wait to see how his high school career unfolds.

Playing for head coach and dad Joe Smigiel for the Panthers, Brady got going in his very first game with 324 yards and four TDs in a 38-21 win over Golden Valley of Santa Clarita (a team that later would play in the CIFSS D7 final). Smigiel had a season best six TD passes in a win against Agoura and he threw for a season best 418 yards in a loss to Thousand Oaks. In a CIFSS D4 playoff win of 41-14 over Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach, Brady bombed away for 395 yards on 17 of 25 passing and had five touchdowns.

For the season, Smigiel set a new state freshman records of 46 TD passes and 3,479 yards in 12 games (the team finished 9-3). His TD total bested the previous record of 40 set in 2018 by A.J. Duffy from Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley. His yardage beat the total of 3,042 yards set in 2015 by then listed freshman J.T. Daniels of Mater Dei.

This is also a player that also seems destined to get a lot of recruiting attention and not just big-time numbers. Brady is a 6-foot-4, 185-pounder and already has D1 offers.

The father and son were spotted at the Rose Bowl earlier this week watching former Newbury Park QB Cam Rising lead Utah against Penn State. Rising unfortunately had to leave the game with an injury, which is how Brady’s season ended as well in a playoff loss to Newport Harbor of Newport Beach. That didn’t matter, though, when it came time to select this first-ever freshman player of the year.

Troy Leigber of Laguna Hills led the state in scoring and made folks at his school remember a player in the late 1990s who scored 91 touchdowns over three seasons. Photo: Laguna Hills Hawks football.


MEDIUM SCHOOLS PLAYER OF YEAR:
TROY LEIGBER
(LAGUNA HILLS)

It makes sense to always compare what Troy did this season to his older brother, Mitch, who started at running back this past season at Stanford and like Troy was a player at Laguna Hills who could do anything on a football field.

But it might be more appropriate to compare Troy to the first and only other Laguna Hills player before him this week who has been named State Medium Schools Player of the Year, which was running back Michael Jones in 1997. Jones led the Hawks to a 13-1 record that season and to a CIF Southern Section title. He finished with 39 touchdowns scored and is among the all-time career leaders for the state and Orange County with 91 for his career. Leigber led the Hawks to a 15-1 record and to the CIF D3-A state championship with a state-leading 52 touchdowns and 312 points scored.

Jones also rushed for 2,684 yards in that 1997 season (in two less games than Troy played), which was a record that Troy topped barely with 2,695 yards. It’s what Leigber did in his final games, however, is what will go down most vividly in the minds of the Laguna Hills’ faithful.

In the CIFSS D7 championship vs Golden Valley of Santa Clarita, Leigber rushed for 204 yards with an 84-yard TD in the third quarter and he blocked what would have been a late game-tying PAT in a 28-27 victory. Then in the CIF D3-A state final, with the Hawks trailing by 20 points to Bellarmine of San Jose, Leigber fueled a big comeback, including a 62-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, and finished with 222 yards rushing in another 28-27 win.

For the season, the Orange County Register’s Offensive Player of the Year, also had four interceptions on defense, two forced fumbles, two blocked kicks, caught 24 passes for 436 yards and five TDs and he had three kickoff return touchdowns.

Other than the two Laguna Hills players for this year and 1997, the only others from Orange County appearing on the all-time state list of Medium Schools State Players of the Year are John Huarte from Mater Dei of Santa Ana (it was medium schools then) for 1959 and 1960 and Norm Veeh of Tustin for 1943.

Leigber is currently undecided about his college plans. He has offers from Air Force and Northern Colorado and tweeted out preferred walk-on offers this week from UCLA and UC Davis.

Escalon’s Ryker Peters looks to slice through a crease in the defense of Irvine Northwood during CIF D4-AA state title game. Photo: FrontRowPreps.com.


STATE SMALL SCHOOLS PLAYER OF YEAR:
RYKER PETERS
(ESCALON)

As the leading two-way player for the team that ended as the State Small Schools Team of the Year, it only makes sense that Ryker Peters of Escalon adds the State Small Schools Player of the Year honor to a couple of them he already has gained.

Perhaps the best example of what Peters meant to the Cougars would be the 16 straight carries he had on a mud-soaked field in a 100-yard scoring drive (including penalties) that led Escalon to its 28-7 win against Northwood of Irvine in the CIF D4-AA state championship game. He ended that night with 33 carries for 177 yards.

The 6-foot, 215-pound fullback/linebacker had several rushing outings like the one against Northwood, ones that also saw him collect double-digit totals of tackles on defense. He had 202 yards rushing (3 TDs) and eight tackles in an overtime loss to large school Buchanan of Clovis, he had 140 yards rushing (1 TD) and 10 tackles in a section playoff win over previously unbeaten Sutter and he had 179 yards rushing (3 TDs) and six tackles in a regional playoff win vs Pleasant Valley of Chico.

For the season, Ryker rode high with 2,208 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns scored. He also had 86 total tackles from his linebacker position (just three less than last year).

The two big honors that Peters already has gained would be Modesto Bee Player of the Year (among all schools) and FrontRowPreps.com Small Schools Player of the Year.

Peters is the first player ever from Escalon, a program that has won three CIF state titles in its history, to earn the State Small Schools Player of the Year selection. He is the first from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section to get it since Louis Bland of Modesto Central Catholic in 2007. The section winner prior to that was Nathan Costa of Hilmar for 2005, but there was only one before that since 1990.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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  1. […] new California state freshman records of 46 touchdown passes and 3,479 passing yards in 12 games, according to CalHiSports. The Panthers went 9-3 in the […]

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