All-State FB 2023: 1st Team Defense

Kingston Lopa of Sacramento Grant (left) has been a legit 6-foot-5 safety on the back end of the Pacers’ defense the past two seasons. At right is Noah Mikhail from Bonita of La Verne, one of three big-time juniors who are all-state first team at linebacker. Photos: Mark Tennis & Sports Recruits /

Here is the best of the best on defense for the 45th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Football Teams. Go inside this post for writeups of the 11 players on defense plus a punter and three of six multi-purpose players who have been selected First Team Overall. We also have selected an LB of the Year and DB of the Year. These players are being honored regardless of school size or year in school. The lineup that we went with this year once again has three defensive linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs.

For this year’s First Team Offense plus three more multi-purpose players,

For this year’s Second & Third Team (Gold Club post), CLICK HERE.

Medium Schools | Small Schools | Juniors (Gold Club) | Sophomores (Gold Club) | Players of Year by region (NorCal/SoCal) | Players of Year by positions QB, RB, WR/TE, Line, LB, DB | FINAL All-State Nominations for CIFSS plus LA, SD & Central plus NorCal

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To order a commemorative, official All-State Football patch for those who’ve been named to one of our all-state teams for the 2023 season, go to this link from our friends at Billy Tees, which has been the official merchandiser of the CIF for many years.


DL Ratumana Bulabalavu (Army-Navy, Carlsbad) 6-4, 260, Sr.
The competition at Army-Navy may be small school, but for posting some of the best sack totals for a career in state history and earning a scholarship to CFP national runner-up Washington, that’s enough for us to slot Ratumana on first team. There were no other small school all-state players who gained an overall all-state spot, including the player of the year, but Bulabalavu is in a different pool of players to be a defensive lineman and not on offense or multi-purpose. This season, in helping Army-Navy to an 8-4 season, Ratumana racked up 99 tackles and 19 sacks. He also was among the reported sack leaders for the state as a junior with 23.5 and his career total of 60.5 could be close to or among the top five in a state record category we hope to add to our record book files very soon.

Jericho Johnson of Fairfield Armijo could be the best defensive lineman from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section since Arik Armstead of Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) in 2012. Photo:

DL Carnell Ferguson
(Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 6-1, 245, Sr.

This was a breakthrough season at Sierra Canyon as the Trailblazers moved up into a top four position in the loaded CIF Southern Section D1 playoffs with Mater Dei, St. John Bosco and Corona Centennial. It was a balanced offense that helped limit someone from that side of the ball going up to all-state first team, but on defense Ferguson makes the cut. He doesn’t have a load of D1 offers like others, but is uncommitted with plenty of interest. The big honor that helped him for this team was him named as Mission League Defensive Player of the Year. He also was Defensive Player of the Year by the L.A. Daily News. Ferguson came through with 13.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss and 60 total tackles. Carnell also was a four-year varsity member and three-year standout.

DL Jericho Johnson
(Armijo, Fairfield) 6-4, 300, Sr.

Local & regional honors for players from Fairfield and Solano County can be hard to get and Johnson has been noticeably missing on those that we checked for this year’s all-state teams. That’s because the county is on the fringe of the Sacramento TV market and not really totally in the Bay Area, either. We are not missing him. Armijo was in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 playoffs so Johnson wasn’t on medium schools. We’re pretty sure being first team overall all-state will be fine. In the All-American Bowl this year in San Antonio, Johnson actually was one of the stars of the game with a defensive touchdown when he fell on the ball in the end zone after exploding past the tackle trying to block him. Some All-American types don’t always do that much as seniors in high school and that wasn’t the case for Jericho, either. He had 52 tackles and nine sacks and faced double and triple teams. He also ended his career with 18 sacks over the past two seasons. Johnson was a national recruit and has signed with Oregon.

LB Marco Jones (San Ramon Valley, Danville) 6-5, 230, Jr.
Three of four linebacking slots on first team this year were grabbed by juniors and all three are generating huge national recruiting interest for the Class of 2025. Jones looked like one of the most elite players from the NorCal region in the last 20 years in games seen last season and was selected State Junior of the Year. He had 166 tackles with three interceptions, three fumbles caused and 2.5 sacks. Jones added 10 touchdowns on offense for a team that was Top 20 state-ranked. He also was Alameda County Player of the Year by the Bay Area Newspaper Group.

LB Noah Mikhail (Bonita, La Verne) 6-3, 225, Jr.
Big honors also have already come in for Mikhail. He was the All-Inland Defensive Player of the Year by the Riverside Press-Enterprise (which includes Riverside & San Bernardino counties and parts of L.A. County). It’s funny that Noah has been reported with the same number of tackles (166) as Marco Jones. In his 12 games, Mikhail also had 15 tackles for loss and two interceptions. Like Jones, Noah also was first team juniors but he’s from a medium school so this is actually the third all-state team that he’s been on for this cycle. Offensively, Mikhail has contributed to the Bearcats. He had 363 yards rushing last season with 37 catches for 455 yards and he scored 13 times. Alabama, USC, Oklahoma and Oregon all had visits to Bonita just this week, including Oregon head coach Dan Lanning.

LB Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-2, 235, Sr.
The only senior of the four linebackers on first team all-state is a no-brainer. That would be the leading tackler for the season at St. John Bosco and a player we’ve already named as State Defensive Player of the Year. Viliamu-Asa also would now be the State LB of the Year on that all-time list. Viliamu-Asa also has already been named the L.A. Times Player of the Year and Long Beach Press-Telegram Player of the Year (including offensive players). For the season, the Notre Dame recruit had 114 tackles (13 for loss) with one pick six touchdown and 1.5 sacks. Kyngstonn also played as a tight end in goal-line situations and had three TD catches.

LB Nasir Wyatt (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-3, 215, Jr.
Here is the third of the big-time junior linebackers in the state. Wyatt is the only one of the three who was first team all-state also as a sophomore. He’s a bit different than Jones and Mikhail in that he’s more of a rush end type of player and not sideline to sideline with a starting point more toward the middle of the field. He also doesn’t have offensive totals like the other two, but of course at Mater Dei he wouldn’t be needed to. Wyatt was the Orange County Register Defensive Player of the Year and the No. 1 honors candidate off a defense that blanked Serra of San Mateo in the state final and helped MD beat Bosco 35-7 in the CIFSS championship. Nasir had two sacks in that state final and led the Monarchs with 16 on the season. He also had 21 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. Alabama, USC, Oregon, Georgia, Michigan, Washington and many others are among the 24 colleges reported by 247 Sports to have offers into him.

State DB of the Year Peyton Woodyard of St. John Bosco also was recently named Man of the Year by a selection committee at the All-American Bowl for excellence community service and athletic distinction. Photo: NBC Sports.

DB Kingston Lopa
(Grant, Sacramento) 6-5, 190, Sr.

A prototype safety of the future may be like Kyle Hamilton of the Baltimore Ravens at 6-foot-4 and capable of making plays against other similarly tall receivers. Lopa was like that on the back end of the Pacers’ defense the past two seasons, one that ended in 2022 with the CIF D3-AA state title and this one for 2023 that ended with a loss to La Serna of Whittier in the CIF D2-AA state final. He could have been multi-purpose for all-state, but fit best on defense and at a position he’s slated to be playing in college at Oregon. The four-star recruit capped his season with 72 tackles with four interceptions and 4.5 sacks. On offense, he also shined at Grant with 41 receptions for 727 yards and 16 touchdowns.

DB Isaiah Rubin (Los Alamitos) 6-1, 170, Sr.
There are other DBs ranked higher as recruits than Rubin who did not get up to first team, but he’s not that far behind any of them and he has the additional strength behind his resume of having had a terrific high school season. Rubin ended the season with seven interceptions to rank among the state leaders. In a CIFSS D2 playoff win against Upland, he had two interceptions (one returned for a score). Isaiah also had 58 tackles and was the Sunset League Defensive Back of the Year. In addition, he was first team All-Orange County. Rubin had 12 major college offers before he committed and later signed with USC.

DB Marcelles Williams (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 5-11, 180, Sr.
It’s impossible for us not to think of Marcelles’ older brother Max when considering him for all-state recognition. We just happened to have been on the sidelines when Max suffered a season-ending knee injury during his senior year playing at Serra of Gardena during a game at the Honor Bowl in Mountain View. Despite the injury, Max still went on to play well at USC and recently declared his eligibility for the 2024 NFL Draft. The Trojans will not be without a member of the family, however, as Marcelles unsurprisingly will be there next season. He gradually rose up all of the recruiting rankings during his St. John Bosco career and was part of a defense that last season was one of the best in state history and this season got a shutout in the first matchup against eventual CIF Open Division state champ Mater Dei. Williams was one of the team’s top tacklers this season with 65 and he had a pair of interceptions.

DB Peyton Woodyard (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-2, 190, Sr.
As has been mentioned many times over the years, there are no ties or co-players of the year in any of the honors that Cal-Hi Sports has ever done. The State DB of the Year for this cycle is another example. It could have gone to either of the two four-year contributors for the defensive secondary at national powerhouse St. John Bosco, but in a close call it went to Woodyard over teammate Marcelles Williams. For this season, Williams had more tackles (65 to 51), but Woodyard had more interceptions (3 to 2). Woodyard also had more career tackles by a slight margin and over their careers has tended to have been higher in national recruiting rankings, but not by everyone at the end of the season and it is a case of comparing a safety to a corner. Woodyard has just been such a physical presence on the back end of the Bosco defense all three years. He, like Marcelles, was a national recruit and is currently getting ready to play next season at Alabama.

P Michael Salgado-Medina (Mission Viejo) 6-3, 190, Sr.
He’s one of the highest ranked kickers and punters in the nation and lands a spot on first team all-state as a punter. As a punter, Salgado-Medina averaged 39.3 yards per punt on 48 kicks with a long of 61 yards and a whopping 20 that were downed inside the 20-yard line. For the kicking part of it, Michael helped the Diablos win the CIF D1AA state title by making 15 field goals (out of 21 attempts) with a longest of 51 yards. He will kick and punt next at the University of Arizona.

Julian Sayin led Carlsbad to back-to-back appearances in the four-team CIF San Diego Section Open Division playoffs. Photo:


QB/RB Julian Sayin (Carlsbad) 6-1, 190, Sr.
Honors for Sayin so far for the 2023 season have been all over the map. The San Diego Section media panel did not vote for him to be its player of the year, instead going for the top lineman at Open Division champion Granite Hills. On the other hand, Julian was the Gatorade State Player of the Year. The senior also is the top-ranked QB in the state according to recruiting rankings. Picking him in front of Mater Dei’s Elijah Brown with all of Brown’s four-year career accomplishments for high school couldn’t happen for us for Mr. Football State POY, but Sayin still has to be in any discussion about the top players in the state. He doesn’t have many rushing yards, but has more than Brown so he goes on for first team all-state in this placement. For the season, and playing for a Carlsbad team that was unbeaten until the SD Section Open semis in an overtime loss to Granite Hills, Julian had 2,369 yards passing in 10 games (he missed one) with 24 TD passes and just one interception. For his career, he ended with 7,970 yards and 86 TDs. Both career totals will go on to all-time state lists. Older brother Aidan was starting during Julian’s freshman year. Sayin has been busy since the end of the season, too. He graduated and headed to the University of Alabama to start college, then went into the transfer portal after head coach Nick Saban retired and new head coach Kalen DeBoer brought another QB in with him (Folsom grad Austin Mack). Sayin is now at Ohio State.

QB/RB Akili Smith Jr. (Lincoln, San Diego) 6-5, 205, Jr.
The CIF San Diego Section is going to have one of the nation’s top-ranked QB recruits next season as well. Akili is the son of the former NFL first round No. 3 pick Akili Smith Sr. and he had a fantastic junior season after transferring to his father’s alma mater from Vista Murrieta (Murrieta). Smith was needed to become a huge threat for the Hornets after their graduation losses from the previous season, especially State Player of the Year Roderick Robinson (now at Georgia). He led them to a perfect regular season and a top seed in the SD Section Open Division playoffs. That four-team bracket, however, included two other unbeaten teams (Carlsbad & Granite Hills) and when the smoke cleared Lincoln had its 23-game win streak snapped in the title game in an overtime loss to Granite Hills. Akili passed for 2,431 yards and 25 TDs, including not one but two 99-yard TD passes (ties state record). He added 196 yards on the ground with three scores. He’s among the top-ranked junior QBs in the nation (usually as dual-threat) and has committed to Oregon. That’s also where his pops played.

RB/DB Charles Williams (Marin Catholic, Kentfield) 6-1, 175, Sr.
Marin Catholic was in the spotlight last week when graduate Jared Goff was back in the Bay Area to lead the Detroit Lions against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. Williams kept the Wildcats in the spotlight locally for much of the recent season. About the only big game he didn’t have was the one we saw when the team lost in a Marin County Athletic League showdown with San Marin of Novato. For the entirety of the season, however, Charles had a great season and gets elevated to first team all-state after previously getting all-state medium schools first team honors. The two earlier honors that pushed him up were San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area Player of the Year and SportStars’ Magazine NorCal Player of the Year. Williams ended the season celebrating a CIF D3-A state title win over Mayfair of Lakewood and was the leading rusher two years ago when the Wildcats won another CIF state title. He rushed for 1,361 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 418 yards and two other scores. It’s what he did on defense, however, that pushed him up to get all the honors. Williams ended with 11 interceptions (second highest reported total in the state) and came up to get big hits on opposing running backs. He had D1 offers from San Diego State, Fresno State and Oregon State, but in the end signed with Wyoming.

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

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