CIF State Football Title Game MVPs

We have picked one for every game we’ve seen since the first one of the modern era in 2006, and have chosen one based on posted stats & media coverage for every other state final. Perhaps the hardest one this year was for Woodland Christian in D5-A. We also have one freshman and three sophomores who are joining our collection.



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Open Division
Elijah Brown (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)

While the MD defense was a dominant as can be in the 35-0 win over Serra of San Mateo, there wasn’t one player that did something that pushed himself clearly ahead of all others. On offense, that wasn’t the case. Four-year starter and Stanford-commit Brown only threw perhaps a couple of bad balls all night long and was on target for four touchdown passes to four different receivers. Elijah also finished 17 of 22 for 298 yards.

Luke Fahey (Mission Viejo)

The other QB in the Diablos’ duo that alternated series all season long, Draiden Trudeau, orchestrated a nice touchdown drive to start the second half, but Fahey had the more impressive overall game in the 27-14 triumph against De La Salle of Concord. A sophomore, Fahey went 10 of 17 for 99 yards and two TDs passing, but broke the Spartans’ hearts on defense several times on runs in which he avoided a sack. Just before halftime, he had a 43-yard run that set up a field goal by Michael Salgado. Luke also had five carries for 83 yards rushing to go with the 99 yards passing.

Luke Fahey of Mission Viejo looks to complete a pass during team’s game last Friday vs De La Salle. Photo: Scott Kurtz.

Ryder Lyons (Folsom)

What a difference a year makes for the Lyons family. Last season, Walker Lyons (one of the highest ranked tight ends in the nation) suffered a knee injury and missed the rest of the season. Younger brother Ryder then steps into the quarterback role as a sophomore at Folsom and leads the Bulldogs to a state title. He directed two late scoring drives in the last five minutes of the game to turn a 14-7 deficit into a 20-14 win over St. Bonaventure of Ventura. Lyons threw a 2-yard TD pass to Jameson Powell with 20 seconds left for the winning points. He showed all of those in the SoCal media how effective he can be as a runner with 22 carries for 97 yards and one TD. As a passer, Lyons went 13 of 21 for 137 yards and one score.

Owen Long (La Serna, Whittier)

This was a harder choice than most since Lancers’ QB CJ Ceron also did a lot more than just on offense during the Lancers’ 21-19 win over Grant of Sacramento. But Long was such a standout on defense to go with what he did on offense that he gets the nod. Long scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Ceron early in the fourth quarter in which he battled a couple of defenders and came up with a juggling reception. He also rushed for 53 yards on 11 carries. On defense, Long was La Serna’s leading tackler with 14, helping contain Grant’s dynamic duo of Wayshawn Parker and Devin Green. Neither one of those backs had a long touchdown run, which had been normal in recent weeks for the Pacers.

Bryson Donelson (Central Valley Christian, Visalia)

He led the way in the Cavaliers’ 45-42 victory over Los Gatos by scoring four touchdowns on runs of 11, 70 and 10 yards, plus he had a 62-yard reception from QB Brent Kroeze.Donelson rushed for 203 yards on 32 carries and ended the season with 3,298 yards, which is fourth best in CIF Central Section history, according to section historian Bob Barnett. Bryson also finished with 58 touchdowns, second most in section history.

Sully Bailey (Acalanes, Lafayette)

It wasn’t so much about Sully’s stats that he had for the Dons when they defeated Birmingham of Lake Balboa, 35-23, it was how he did it. Bailey took a direct hit on his left knee during a play in the third quarter and it was even thought it could be serious based on TV replays. He came back out for Acalanes on its next series, however, and completed two passes to Trevor Rogers for 59 and 34 yards to push the Dons into a 28-23 lead. Then with 31 seconds left in the game, Bailey zipped a 10-yard TD pass to Paul Kuhner that sealed win. For the game, Sully completed 23 of 36 passes for 290 yards and four TDs.

Charles Williams (Marin Catholic, Kentfield)

With teammate Mario Crocitto coming up with four sacks and quarterback Peter Macauley with three TD passes and one TD run in the Wildcats’ 38-18 victory against Mayfair of Lakewood, Williams still is the pick for this MVP honor. He’s been a standout at MC since his sophomore year and has added more defensive stats to his offense this season. Williams had two interceptions for the game on defense while on offense he caught one TD pass and ran for a score. He also helped the cause with kick/punt return yardage.

Braylen Noble (Soquel)

This team’s top honors candidate probably is senior Jordan McCord, who ended his career with 40 touchdowns in a myriad of ways. But in the 28-7 victory against Jurupa Hills of Fontana, Noble was the one with the most notable outing. He came through on defense with a pair of interceptions while on offense he had a touchdown catch.

Eli Dukes (Palma, Salinas)

This is a team with Notre Dame-committed receiver and CIF state second-place long jumper Logan Saldate, but the one who had the top outing in the 42-19 victory against Mission Oak of Tulare in the state final was just a freshman. Eli, who hadn’t played tackle football before until this season, has been a playoff nightmare running the ball during the CIF Central Coast Section playoffs, NorCal regional and now the state final. He led the way vs Mission Oak with four touchdowns and 208 rushing yards.

Royce Mendoza (Ramona, Riverside)

Yes, there were others for the Rams who could be listed for what they did in their 35-7 win against Pleasant Valley of Chico (such has Angel Barrios with 17 tackles or Peter Mesa with a 76-yard pick six), but Mendoza had such an outstanding overall postseason that it has to be him. In the state final, Royce added to his lore with one interception plus he hauled in a TD catch from QB Jeremiah Acosta. He also had three catches for 102 yards overall. The one interception gave Mendoza eight for the playoffs alone and 10 for the season. He also had four pick six TDs on the season.

Devin Herrera (Woodland Christian)

The Cardinals had more than one versatile player on their roster that helped them complete their 15-0 season with a 23-13 win over Banning of Wilmington. Noah Hinkle and Isaiah Hunt sure fit the bill as weel. It was Herrera, however, who scored twice on runs of 1 and 3 yards and pushed across a two-point conversion as well. The junior WR/DB/RB with a 4.0 GPA finished with eight rushes for 47 yards and caught six passes for 21 yards. He also made plays on defense and special teams.

Mason Caturegli (St. Vincent de Paul, Petaluma)

The future is bright for the Mustangs since Mason is a sophomore and several others will be back next season. Here’s what he did for head coach Trent Herzog’s squad in its 27-6 triumph over Wasco: rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries, caught a 21-yard TD pass from QB Gabe Casanovas (also a sophomore), and he had five tackles on defense.

William McCoy (Colusa)

He’s the leading rusher on the season for the balanced Redhawks and in the 33-19 state championship win against Sweetwater of National City he was the leading rusher again with 14 carries for 72 yards. Teammate Aiden Selover scored three times but had 32 yards. McCoy also is one of the top three tacklers on defense for the team. We did not get tackle stats in time to make this selection, but assume he was one of the reasons that Sweetwater’s rushing attack checked in with much lower totals (240 yds on 41 carries) than had been the case in recent weeks.

Tanner Pidgeon (Ferndale)

Folsom didn’t have the only sophomore QB in a state who never gave up. The Wildcats had one with Pidgeon, who led them to a 29-21 win over Fairfax of Los Angeles for his school’s first-ever state title. Ferndale fell behind 21-0 and in state finals comebacks from that kind of a deficit are very rare. Pidgeon scored three of Ferndale’s four touchdowns, beginning with a 9-yard run late in the second quarter that cut the lead to 21-8. He later scored on a run of 40 yards and then a plunge of one yard.

Gerardo Ruiz (Strathmore)

This was one of the easiest MVPs to choose from any of the CIF state finals. Gerardo came through with leading rusher Jacob Poole sidelined and sparked the Spartans to a 42-7 rout of Bell Gardens. He ended with 225 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

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