NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s final NorCal/SoCal players of the week for the 2023 season are Sam Jimenez of Escalon (left) and Isaiah Hasten from St. Augustine of San Diego. Photos: Samantha Schmidt / FrontRowPreps &

With so few games being contested in the final week of football playoffs, as has been the tradition with this feature since even before we went to a full slate of CIF regional/state championships, this will be the final week for football players of the week as we switch to basketball. As one would expect, all six honorees did great work in helping their teams win CIF section titles. They are from Tulare, Orangevale and Escalon in Northern California. In Southern California, we visit Los Angeles, Fontana and San Diego.

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

Sam Jimenez (Escalon) Jr.

We head around 10 miles north of Modesto and 10 miles east of Manteca on Highway 120 to the town of Escalon that is no stranger to winning CIF Sac-Joaquin Section titles and small school CIF state championships, and last week it was Jimenez that helped write the latest chapter in Cougars’ history.

The performance came in a 36-35 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 nail-biting victory by top-seeded Escalon over No. 3 seed Patterson after Sam was definitely the man in a lot of ways that delighted the Cougars’ faithful.

On offense, the 6-foot-1 junior wide receiver had nine pass receptions for 128 yards and three TDs, on special teams Jimenez had a 74-yard kickoff return he took to the house for a touchdown, plus, as a defensive back he had an interception and three tackles.

The biggest play Sam was involved in won the game when he caught his final TD pass on the game’s final tally after pulling in a 13-yard reception from quarterback Donavan Rozevink with under a minute to play.

Rozevink also gets a shout out because he took it himself on a keeper for a 2-point conversion that won the game. Escalon will now go to the CIF Northern Regional Division 3-AA title game on the road at Acalanes of Lafayette this Friday.

After winning a third straight Sac-Joaquin Section title, Escalon will be looking to go 4-0 in the NorCal and ultimately to go 4-0 in state championships.

Evan Combs from Casa Roble of Orangevale runs through a tunnel of cheerleaders after team won CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D5 title. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Evan Combs (Casa Roble, Orangevale) Sr.

To find the Northern California Defensive Player of the Week we head to Sacramento and Hughes Stadium on the campus of Sacramento City College where Cal-Hi Sports co-founder and publisher Mark Tennis was on hand to see the performance Combs is being honored for.

The feats of Combs came last week in a 23-22 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 victory by second-seeded Casa Roble over host and top-seeded and unbeaten Twelve Bridges after the senior linebacker recorded a whopping 20 tackles with 12 solo including four for losses of which one was a sack.

We’re not sure how many of Evan’s 20 tackles came in the second half, but what we do know is Casa Roble trailed 22-15 after two quarters and Combs and his Rams’ teammates shut out the Raging Rhinos after halftime and won it when junior quarterback Conor Campbell scored on an 8-yard run with around two minutes left in the game, and then passed for a 2-point conversion that won the game.

Heading into a CIF Division 4-A Northern Regional title game matchup at Soquel on Friday, Combs has recorded 213 tackles with 26 for losses including 13 sacks, plus an interception, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

The 213 tackles in the No. 3 reported mark in the state and No. 2 in the Sac-Joaquin Section. The 13 sacks is also a top 30 mark in the state and tied for No. 8 in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Daniel Gonzalez (Mission Oak, Tulare) Sr.

The search for the final Northern California Offensive Player of the Week takes us a little less than halfway between Fresno and Bakersfield, and just southeast of where Highways 99 and 137 intersect in downtown Tulare.

It’s at Mission Oak High where we find a quarterback who had a huge hand in leading the Hawks into unchartered waters in his most recent start.

Last week, in a CIF Central Section Division III 34-14 victory by the third-seed Mission Oak over No. 5 seed Kerman, Gonzalez, a 6-foot, 150-pound senior who played last season at Redwood of Visalia, was a pinpoint 20-of-24 for 300 yards and four TDs, plus he rushed for 38 yards and a fifth score.

With the victory, Mission Oak will be advancing to a CIF regional playoff game for the first time in the 15-year old school’s history. The Hawks meet Rio Hondo Prep of Arcadia in the Southern Regional Division 4-A Bowl Game on Saturday afternoon at Tulare Union in Tulare.

Heading into the regional title game championship for 9-5 Mission Oak, Gonzalez has passed for 2,866 yards and 34 TDs with 10 interceptions, plus he’s rushed for 462 yards and 12 additional scores.

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

Isaiah Hasten (St. Augustine, San Diego) Jr.

It’s in San Diego where we find ourselves in the search for the Southern California Multi-Purpose Special Teams Player of the Week and we land just east of Balboa Park at St. Augustine to honor this week’s award winner.

Last week, in a 13-0 victory over Mission Hills of San Marcos in the CIF San Diego Section Division 1 title game at Mesa College, Hasten fastened himself to five passes for 105 yards receiving as a wide receiver with his 56-yard reception setting up one of the Saints’ touchdowns.

Obviously, the St. Augustine defense was a big part of the victory and Isaiah did his thing there as well with two interceptions and four tackles as a defensive back. Hasten also had a 27-yard punt return.

Heading into a CIF Southern Regional Division 1-A regional title match-up with St. Bonaventure of Ventura, once again at Mesa College, Hasten has 60 receptions for 1,167 yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, he has seven interceptions and 58 tackles.

Jurupa Hills of Fontana used two big defensive plays by Michael Ephraim to win a CIF Southern Section title. Photo: Jurupa Hills football /

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Defensive Player of the Week

Michael Ephraim (Jurupa Hills, Fontana) Jr.

To find the Southern California Defensive Player of the Week we head to the Inland Empire and land around a half mile south of I-10 and five miles east of the I-15 in Fontana.

It’s at Jurupa Hills where we find our honoree and the Spartans’ faithful are calling Ephraim “the terminator” after his most recent performance.

Last week, in a 21-14 victory over Covina Charter Oak in the CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship, Ephraim had a fumble recovery and an interception and both were decisive in the victory.

The fumble recovery resulted in a scoop-and-score after Michael picked up the loose pigskin and the 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior rumbled 38 yards for a score that made it 21-0 midway through the second quarter.

After Charter Oak closed it to 21-14 with eight minutes left to play and then was driving to either tie the score or win it on a 2-point conversion with under a minute left, Ephraim did his terminator routine when he intercepted a pass in the end zone and Jurupa Valley was able to run out the clock.

With the win, Ephraim and his Spartans’ teammates are now in the CIF Southern Regional Division 4-AA title game at home against Torres of Madera.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Offensive Player of the Week

Ivan Levant (Fairfax, Los Angeles) Sr.

The City of Angels and the Los Angeles City Section is our destination where we find the Southern California Offensive Player of the week. It’s just south of West Hollywood in the Fairfax neighborhood at Fairfax High.

We missed Levant earlier in the season as a player of the week when he etched his name into the Cal-Hi Sports Online Book with a top 10 mark of 616 yards passing in a 59-26 victory earlier this month over Panorama of Panorama City. Levant gets his kudos this week, and although his numbers were not anywhere near as high as against Panorama, his third highest performance of the season came in the Lions’ most important game so far this season.

Last week, in a 20-14 victory over Chatsworth that delivered an LA city Section Division 2 title for Fairfax, Levant passed for 292 yards and two TDs. He also had a hand in the Lions’ other score when he rushed for a TD and had 45 yards on the ground.

Ivan is going to have to wait a week to pad his stats but because Fairfax has a bye for this week’s regional playoffs. It’s the only bye among all section champions. The Lions will advance to the CIF Division 7-AA title game in two weeks against the winner of a game in Northern California between Portola and Ferndale.

Until then, the 3,563 yards with 44 TDs is the No. 7 reported mark in the state and No. 3 in the LA City Section. If Levant can pass for 283 yards against the winner of the Portola versus Ferndale NorCal 7-AA winner, he will be the section’s passing leader.

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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