SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s statewide honorees are Jaxon Bell (left) from Liberty of Brentwood and Lior Leshem from Taft of Woodland Hills. Photos: 49ers Cal-Hi Sports &

When we talk about this feature being a way to track talent that many times comes in under the radar, and potential entries into the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book, we cover all the bases this week. For the first stop in Woodland Hills, it’s more of a grand slam as our honoree is going to put his name into the state record book in three different places. Our other stops this week are to Whittier and La Jolla in Southern California, and Brentwood, Roseville and Fowler in Northern California.

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Notes: We will continue to have flexibility to one of the honorees by calling it 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

Lior Leshem (Taft, Woodland Hills) Sr.

The San Fernando Valley is our destination in search of the Southern California Offensive Player of the Week and we land in Woodland Hills just west of Highway 101 on Winnetka Avenue at Taft High.

In these days of games with scores so high they could short-circuit a scoreboard, that’s exactly the case in the game Leshem is being honored for, because if there was a door on the end zone, the opposing Van Nuys Grant defense was figuratively opening the door for Lior last week in a 78-41 Taft victory that gets the 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior three spots in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book.

Leshem finished with 10 pass receptions for 354 yards and seven touchdown receptions. The seven TDs and the 354 yards receiving both make the record book. The seven TDs ties Leshem for No. 2 all time on the Most Touchdowns (Game) list for receiving, and the 354 yards receiving makes the top 15 on the Most Yards (Game) list. Lior broke the L.A. City Section and Taft record of six TD catches for one game set in 2006 by Jeshua Anderson. He is tied for second with Steve Ward of Anaheim Servite, who set the state record at seven at the time with seven in 1996. The state record of eight was set two years later by Earvin Johnson from Cathedral of Los Angeles.

But wait, there’s more. Leshem also had a 94-yard kickoff return for an eighth score, and eight touchdowns comes in tied for the No. 4 mark all time on the Most Touchdowns (Game) list for combined scores. For comparisons, there was just one eight TD game last season in the state and it was by Mr. Football State Player of the Year Roderick Robinson of San Diego Lincoln. The last time an L.A. City Section player had eight was Marlon Lucky of North Hollywood in 2004. The L.A. City record is nine and that state record is 11.

With 642 yards receiving so far this season, Lior also has the top reported mark in the state for receiving yards, and his 13 total TDs so far this season ties for the No. 5 reported mark in the state.

It’s been a while since we can remember an individual snagging three spots in the record book in one game, but in a bit of a twist, Leshem isn’t the only member of the Toreadors to make the record book as the team ends up with five spots in one game.

We very well could have gone with Taft quarterback Devon Conroy as the SoCal offensive honoree this week, but while he comes in behind Leshem as the runner-up for the award, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior still etches his name in two spots in the record book after throwing for 535 yards and nine TDs in the victory. The 535 yards makes the Most Yards (Game) around midway on the list in the passing section, and in the same section the nine TD passes comes in tied for No. 2 all time on the Most Touchdown Passes (Game) list.

We’re pretty sure both Leshem and Conroy would like to give a shout out to teammate Michael Mansaray. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior running back doesn’t make the record book, but in a game of big numbers he had 180 yards rushing and a 30-yard touchdown run.

Adrian Castro from La Serna of Whittier has been one of the leading defenders in the San Gabriel Valley for the last two seasons. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Adrian Castro (La Serna, Whittier) Sr.

To find our Southern California Defensive Player of the Week, we land around a half mile north of the 72 Freeway and not far from the border between Los Angeles and Orange counties in Whittier.

It’s at La Serna that we find our award winner and a 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker named Adrian Castro who had a huge hand in helping the Lancers even their record at 2-2 this season. Their losses have been to Los Alamitos and Warren of Downey.

Last week, in a 30-17 victory over Tesoro of Las Flores, Castro was like a maestro on defense after registering 12 tackles with three for losses including two sacks with a quarterback hurry.

Castro is being honored for defense but he also had hand in the Lancers’ offense after rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Last season, Adrian was the Del Rio League Defensive Player of the Year. He had 116 tackles, 19 for loss and two interceptions (both of which were returned for TDs). Castro also was the Whittier Daily News Defensive Player of the Year.

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

Jaden Mangini (La Country Day) Sr.

San Diego County is the destination we head to and we land in “The Jewel” or La Jolla in Spanish at La Jolla Country Day to honor the Southern California Multi-Purpose/Special teams Player of the Week.

Mangini, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback who’s committed to the Naval Academy, is already doing some sailing, and his most recent performance is a perfect example.

In a 48-17 thrashing of visiting Coronado last week that got La Jolla Country Day to 3-1 on the season, Mangini had a hand in all six of the Torreys offensive touchdowns. Passing the ball he was 11-of-17 for 144 yards and three TDs, and he also had three TDs rushing on 18 carries for 179 yards.

So far this season Mangini has 827 total yards that even includes one pass reception. He only started playing varsity quarterback last season but prior to that he was a varsity running back his first two seasons, and has 1,532 career yards rushing and 21 touchdowns for his career. For 14 games so far as a signal-caller, Jaden has passed for 744 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Jaxon Bell (Liberty, Brentwood) Soph.

We head to East Contra Costa County and the town of Brentwood to honor the Northern California Offensive Player of the Week.

As for Bell, whose brother Nate Bell was the Lions’ quarterback last season, the old cliché “big things come in small packages” could not be more appropriate.

Last week, in a 53-14 romp over visiting Will C. Wood of Vacaville, the 5-foot-5, 150-pound Bell rang up 280 yards rushing and six touchdowns on just 16 carries, including a 77-yard romp to the house.

So far this season, Bell has rung up 474 yards rushing with nine TDs for the 2-1 Lions, and he also has 45 yards and one TD receiving. That one loss was by one point to Los Gatos (35-34).

Bell also had 194 yards rushing and three TDs on 16 carries when the Lions topped Enochs of Modesto earlier this season. After that outing, he was named 49ers PREP Player of the Week.

Fowler High flags are raced onto the field before a football game from last season. Photo: @RedcatAthletics /

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

Jerod “Bubba” Smith (Fowler) Soph.

We head to “The Valley” as the locals like to call the CIF Central Section to find our Northern California Multi-Purpose Special Teams Player of the Week, and in doing so we remind readers that for all Player of the Week features in all sports, girls and boys, the Central Section is considered part of Northern California.

We find our honoree just off of Highway 99 around 12 miles south of Fresno in the town of Fowler, an agricultural community with lush grape vineyards and expansive farmland.

When we expanded this category from Special Teams to Multi-Purpose/Special Teams last year, it was because finding special teams players was sometimes difficult, but this week we have a kicker and quarterback who was instrumental at what he does in helping the Redcats get their first win of the season after an 0-3 start, and it wasn’t just his kicking that got a nomination from Cal-Hi Sports longtime friend and contributor Bob Barnett in his weekly Milestones missive.

Last week, in a 59-20 home victory over Minarets of O’Neals, the home fans probably could have been shouting “hubba, hubba, hubba, here comes Bubba” when Smith stepped onto the field after he set three school records.

For his Multi-Purpose Special Teams honors, he was 7-for-8 on PATs and had a 2-point conversion, plus he had one field goal and the 47-yarder was a school record, but as a quarterback Bubba set two school records. His 452 yards on 18-of-28 passing and the six TDs he tossed are both school records. For good measure, Smith added 24 yards rushing.

So far this season, Smith has passed for 1,189 yards with 11 TDs. The 1,189 yards is the No. 7 reported mark in the state and No. 4 in the Central Section.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Thomas Rominger (Valley Christian, Roseville)

Placer County and a little more than 20 miles from the state capitol in Roseville at Valley Christian is where we find the Northern California Defensive Player of the Week, and with respect to Rominger, we probably could have honored him previously, or he could have been the multi-purpose/special teams winner, but for this week he gets rewarded for his defense.

Thomas was seemingly everywhere last week in a 44-0 rout of Valley of Sacramento that evened the Lions record at 2-2 to start the season. On defense, Rominger was like a one-man wrecking crew after the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior defensive end registered 17 tackles with six for losses including two sacks, plus he had a 2-point safety, a fumble recovery and a pass defended.

On offense at quarterback, Rominger was 12-of-19 passing for 188 yards and five TDs, plus he had 32 yards rushing. About the only negative stat is that he did throw two picks.

For the season, this week’s NorCal defensive honoree has 76 tackles and not only is that the top reported mark in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, it’s No. 1 in the state. Rominger’s five sacks this season also makes the state leader board and is top 10 in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

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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