SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Nate Clifford (left) from Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach and Jayden Bryant from Moreau Catholic of Hayward. Photos: &

This is another week in which not only do we fulfill one of the purposes of this feature, and that’s to uncover hidden gems that might otherwise only get local attention, but we also use it to track potential entries for the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book. Both bases are covered but the record entry is for defense. This week’s stops are in Huntington Beach, Solana Beach and Menifee in Southern California, and in Northern California we visit San Jose, Sacramento and Hayward.

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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
Defensive Player of the Week

Nate Clifford (Santa Fe Christian, Solana Beach) Jr.

We head just north of the Del Mar district of San Diego and find ourselves in Solana Beach and at Santa Fe Christian this week to honor a junior middle linebacker who was all over the place on defense in his most recent performance.

The Eagles started out 0-4 but now they’ve won four straight to get to 4-0 in the Coastal League and the defense of Clifford has been key, like the 12 tackles with one for loss, and two pick sixes totaling 60 yards in returns he had last week in a 35-7 road win at Army-Navy of Carlsbad.

Clifford even got into the scoring column on offense from the fullback position as the 6-foot-3, 205-pound short yardage specialist rushed for a score and he pounded one in for a 2-point conversion.

So far this season, Clifford has 74 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and a blocked field goal. On offense, he’s rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns.

Hopefully getting some statewide attention will help this small-school student-athlete that besides his prowess on the gridiron, where he’s doing pretty well for having his sophomore season limited to a couple of games due to a shoulder injury, also excels in the classroom where he carries a 4.11 GPA.

There have been some great running backs over the years from Edison of Huntington Beach. That just makes Julius Gillick’s new school record extra special. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Julius Gillick (Edison, Huntington Beach) Jr.

To honor the Southern California Offensive Player of the Week, we head to the surfing capitol of Southern California and it’s in Huntington Beach at Edison where we find our award winner.

We can’t replace the cancelled nine-day trip to Maui due to the fires the Chargers’ football team was supposed to take to kick off the season with games at Baldwin-Wailuku and then Lahainalulu-Lahaina the next week, and while the games were replaced the memories of a once in a lifetime adventure can’t be replaced either. What we can do is give Gillick an award he can remember for a long time.

Last week, in a 47-20 victory over crosstown arch-rival Huntington Beach that gets Edison to 4-4 and 2-0 in the Sunset League, Gillick, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound hard to handle junior running back, rushed for a school record 312 yards and five touchdowns.

Interestingly, in one of the game’s Edison got to replace the Hawaii trip, Gillick rushed for 172 yards and two TDs in a 38-34 loss on the road at Cal-Hi Sports No. 16 ranked and undefeated Helix of La Mesa.

So far this season for Cal-Hi Sports No. 39 ranked Edison, Julius has rushed for 1,039 yards and 13 touchdowns.

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

Brady Nelson (Paloma Valley, Menifee) Sr.

The southeastern portion on the Inland Empire a few miles north of where I-15 and 1-215 intersect in Menifee is where we land in search of the Southern California Multi-Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week, and it’s at Paloma Valley where we find the award winner.

This past week was really just another day at the office for Nelson, who is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks not only in the CIF Southern Section and Southern California, but the entire state, so it seemed as though this was a good week to honor him for his most recent performance.

In a 35-32 victory on the road at Vista del Lago of Moreno Valley, Nelson was 23-of-38 for 295 yards and four TDs, plus he led the Wildcats with 86 yards rushing and the team’s lone TD on the ground.

The icing on the cake is his 11-yard TD pass to Jefferey Blalock as time expired was the game winner. It was the third TD pass from Nelson to Blalock in the game.

So far this season for 5-3 Paloma Valley, Nelson, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, is currently the No. 4 reported passer in the state and No. 2 in the Southern Section with 2,237 yards and 28 TDs with only three interceptions, plus he’s rushed for 255 yards and six scores.

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

Jayden Bryant (Moreau Catholic, Hayward) Jr.

The East Bay and Southern Alameda County around 20-miles south of Oakland on Mission Boulevard in Hayward is our destination in search of the Northern California Multi—Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week, and it’s at Moreau Catholic where we find our honoree.

Bryant, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior running back and defensive back, had to sit out the Mariners’ first five games due to the CIF North Coast Section transfer rules, but he came out blazing last week to help Moreau even its record at 3-3 this season.

In his first game out of the box, Bryant scored TDs three different ways. Jayden ran for 108 yards and three TDs on eight carries, returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD and also caught a 25-yard touchdown pass.

Toby Black of Rio Americano is the second player from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section this season to collect enough sacks in one game to gain a listing in the all-time state records. Photo: Rio Americano football / MaxPreps.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Toby Black (Rio Americano, Sacramento) Sr.

A little over 5-miles east of the state capitol and a stone’s throw from the banks of the American River at Rio Americano is where we come ashore to honor a member of the Raiders as the Northern California Defensive Player of the Week.

Last week, in a 31-13 victory against Christian Brothers of Sacramento that gets Rio Americano to 7-0 and 3-0 in the Capital Athletic League, Black was on the attack after recording 11 tackles (10 solo) from his outside linebacker position. The number that was the big one, however, was the seven sacks that he was in on.

The seven sacks makes the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book and will be tied for the No. 4 mark all time on the Most QB Sacks (Game) list. Earlier this year, Yuba City’s Cesar Gonzalez earned this same honor by getting six sacks in one game. That total is going into the book as well.

So far this season, and heading into the toughest game do far this season at Vista del Lago of Folsom, Black has 34 tackles, 14 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The 14 sacks is tied for the No. 3 reported mark in the state and is tops in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Jack Lewis (Branham, San Jose) Jr.

Like the popular 1968 song sung by Dionne Warwick “Do you know the way to San Jose?” Well, we do, and it’s around 6-7 miles south of downtown San Jose at Branham where we find the Northern California Offensive Player of the Week.

Last year, Branham produced the first quarterback in Northern California history to both pass for 2,000 and rush for 2,000 yards in one season, Will Augenstein, and for Bruins’ head coach Stephen Johnson it was almost déjà vu in a 66-20 victory on the road in Gilroy. Augenstein’s accomplishment, by the way, was confirmed when we recently added state total offense records into our on-line files.

“I thought it was Will Augenstein out there for a second,” Johnson wrote in a text to the Bay Area News Group’s Darren Sabedra.

It was sort of déjà vu for Johnson as Augenstein may have passed for over 2,000 yards last season but the most he had in any one game was 274 yards and six touchdowns.

Lewis only equaled the six TD passes of Augenstein but his 23-of-30 for 449 yards passing against Gilroy smashed the high-water mark of his predecessor.

Earlier this year, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Lewis had 353 yards passing and five TDs in a win over Soledad, and he already has 1,449 yards and 16 TDs with no interceptions, and at 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the Santa Teresa League – Foothill Division it’s looking like Branham will make the playoffs so the season is basically just half over.

Lewis also can run the football but he’s not nearly as prolific as Augenstein. He had 35 yards and one TD rushing in the Gilroy win and has 197 yards and eight TDs on the season.

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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