California high school football is known for producing many of the country’s best quarterbacks and wide receivers – plus an abundance of talented running backs – and this year is no different. Here’s a look at 30 early candidates for Offensive Player of the Year in California high school football.
The main criteria are players’ individual statistics relative to team success and strength of schedule from the first three weeks of the 2021 fall season. Individual success from prior seasons was also taken into account.
Numerous situational factors go into a player’s statistical production and OPOY case aside from talent. So, this list is not the exact same thing as simply listing the 30 best offensive players in the state, and it’s not a recruiting ranking. Many of the state’s top offensive players have other elite players at the same position sharing targets, carries, or even snaps under center. And often in those situations, blowout wins regularly lead to all of them sitting out the second halves of games. Other elite offensive players play difficult schedules without the requisite talent around them to maximize their production.
Additionally, offensive lineman don’t have traditional statistics by which they can be evaluated, and aren’t included on our list despite their importance.
If your favorite player is off to a great start but didn’t make the cut, don’t worry. Many elite players who just missed the cut are in consideration, and we will have our eyes out for the best players in the state all season long. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with statistics to nominate a player we didn’t include, and we will consider them going forward.
The list is arranged by section.
CALIFORNIA OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES
QB Elijah Brown – Mater Dei – SO.
Even though the Monarchs have only played one game, they have three no-brainer top candidates, starting with their 4-star 2024 signal caller.
In five games as a freshman, Brown threw for 973 yards and 15 touchdowns to one interception on 69.2% completion for the consensus top team in the state. In his fall debut, a win at Texas powerhouse Duncanville, the 4-star sophomore completed 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
WR C.J. Williams – Mater Dei – SR.
Brown’s clear top target, a 4-star Notre Dame commit, is a very safe bet to have an all-state or all-American type season. He’s long been one of the clear top receivers in California, but has the opportunity this season to carry a heavy enough load to where his talent translates straight into production. Williams is off to a great start, having caught for a touchdown and over 100 yards in the Duncanville win.
RB Raleek Brown – Mater Dei – SR.
Like Williams, Brown had a touchdown and 100 yards of offense in Mater Dei’s season-opener, and he might be the first Mater Dei running back in quite a while to get enough usage to be on such a list. Everyone knows the 5-star Oklahoma commit is one of the best RBs out there – the only question is if the Monarchs need him to carry the rushing load he’s capable of. His proficiency as a pass-catcher certainly helps the cause.
QB Noah Fifita – Servite – SR.
Sticking with the theme of no-brainer candidates in the Trinity League, Servite seniors Noah Fifita and T-Mac could very well end up being the top two candidates with the best OPOY cases in the state by the end of the season. Fifita, a 3-star Arizona commit, has already thrown for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns in two games, and has also run for 128 yards and a touchdown.
WR Tetairoa McMillan – Servite – SR.
McMillan, a 4-star Oregon commit, has been called the top offensive player in the state by many entering his senior season. He’s up to 164 yards and three touchdowns receiving through two games, but there’s a chance his statistical case gets hampered by two factors. One would be his substantially increased role this season on defense, and the other is Servite having multiple other high-caliber receiving threats healthy this year such as TE Keyan Burnett and WR Mikey Welsh, who leads the team in receiving yardage through two games.
RB Jabari Bates – St. John Bosco – SR.
St. John Bosco is the perfect example of an elite team with so many offensive weapons that there might not be one player with OPOY numbers. But after three games, Bates is the Braves’ top candidate with 250 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and a touchdown catch. He’s a 3-star prospect with six offers, including Michigan and Oregon.
Bates shares carries with all-state RB Rayshon Luke, another potential OPOY candidate. With QBs Katin Houser and Pierce Clarkson splitting snaps for Bosco and WR Chedon James, WR Logan Booher, and TE Matayo Uiagalelei among those splitting their targets, it would be an uphill battle for anyone in the passing game to put up the individual numbers, but it’s certainly possible.
RB Desmin Jackson – Orange Lutheran – SR.
Orange Lutheran is turning heads three impressive wins into the season, and Jackson, a 3-star RB/SB, is a huge reason why. He’s run for 245 yards and two touchdowns and also leads the team with 153 yards (tied) and three touchdowns receiving so far this season. OLu’s difficult schedule will only get harder as the Lancers approach Trinity League play, but Jackson will remain a serious OPOY candidate if he can keep up his impressive play down the stretch. QB Logan Gonzalez is also off to a great start and could emerge as a candidate.
QB Justyn Martin – Inglewood – SR.
Martin was named the Daily Breeze Offensive Player of the Year for the spring season, in which he threw for 13 touchdowns in 4 games. Don’t be surprised to see the 4-star Cal commit explode statistically as a senior.
RB Jayson Cortes – Corona Centennial – JR.
Through two games as a junior, Cortes is arguably the biggest breakout skill position player in the state. He’s already run for 325 yards and four touchdowns on 10.8 yards per carry in wins over elite opponents in Cathedral Catholic and Sierra Canyon. At this rate, Cortes could very well finish the season as the top offensive producer on a top-five team in the state and top-25 team in the country.
QB Malachi Nelson – Los Alamitos – JR.
Nelson, a 5-star Oklahoma commit and consensus top-five player in the Class of 2023, won the Gatorade California Player of the Year award in the spring as just a sophomore. Last season, he completed 85 of 115 passes for 1,513 yards and 23 touchdowns in six games for the 6-0 Griffins, who stormed their way to a Sunset League title. Los Al’s offense is yet to reach peak form so far far this fall, but they’re still off to a 3-0 start, and Nelson remains as strong an OPOY candidate as anyone in the state. His top receiver, another 5-star 2023 Oklahoma commit, Makai Lemon, is another major threat to emerge as a top OPOY candidate if he’s not needed even more at DB.
QB Nicholaus Iamaleava – Warren – JR.
Another 5-star junior QB, Iamaleava threw for 17 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards in just four games in the spring, and has already thrown for 866 yards, 18 touchdowns, and no interceptions in three games this season.
RB Tahj Owens – Loyola – SR.
Owens, a 3-star RB with seven offers, is averaging over 150 yards of offense per game for one of the better teams in SoCal through three games. If he can lead the Cubs to a near-perfect record for the rest of the season and a playoff run, he won’t have any trouble remaining in the mix.
QB Kyle Crum – Norco – SR.
Quite possibly the most underrated quarterback in the state right now, Crum has already had a special calendar year as the Cougars’ QB1, and his senior campaign is just getting started. In the spring, the 3-star recruit led Norco to a 5-0 record and sweep of the Big VIII League – including their first rivalry win against Corona Centennial since 2009 – throwing for 14 touchdowns and 1,254 yards with an outstanding 139.2 passer rating. He also ran for 185 yards and five touchdowns. Somehow, he’s been even better in three games as a senior, already up to 834 yards and eight touchdowns passing with a 143.2 passer rating plus 233 yards and four touchdowns rushing.
RB Jaydn Ott – Norco – SR.
Crum isn’t the only Cougar who ‘Ott’ to make the list. The 4-star Cal commit is back at Norco after two seasons at Bishop Gorman (NV), and he’s already run for 460 yards and seven touchdowns on 10.7 yards per carry in just three games.
RB Max Garrison – St. Francis (La Cañada) – SR.
Garrison isn’t the most well-known name on this list, but he could potentially make a run (no pun intended this time) at some serious accolades this season. A 3-star San Diego State commit with double-digit offers, he ran for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns in six spring games, and totaled over 1,000 yards of offense. In the Golden Knights’ fall debut, he ran for 362 yards and six touchdowns in a win against Mira Costa. And through two games, he’s also the team’s leading receiver. With a strong O-line and talent in the passing game around him, he’s in a great situation to rack up big numbers.
RB Jason Jones – Sierra Canyon – SR.
Jones is something of a sleeper on this list, but don’t be surprised to see the 3-star pass-catching RB come on strong as an OPOY candidate down the stretch. The Trailblazers’ offense is yet to reach peak form relative to their brutal schedule, but Jones has already run for 271 yards and caught for 105, good for over 125 yards of offense a game. If Sierra Canyon rounds into the form its capable of and remains a top-10 team in the state, Jones’ stock is guaranteed to rise quite a bit in the coming months.
WR/RB Jordan Williams – Etiwanda – SR.
A high 3-star WR who can also dominate running the ball, Williams could very well have an all-state caliber senior year if Etiwanda capitalizes on its high ambitions. He caught for 1,218 yards and ran for 242 as a sophomore, and had over 500 yards of offense and nine touchdowns in just four games as a junior.
QB Maalik Murphy – Serra (Gardena) – SR.
A 5-star Texas commit, Murphy has already thrown for over 900 yards in just three games to go with six touchdown passes and two rushing TDs. And he’s been doing it against great competition, which is why the Cavs are only 1-2 to start. With the likes of RB Cincere Rhaney and WRs Darrian Anderson and Matthew Coleman helping the cause, Serra’s offense could reach a level that vaults Murphy into the very upper tier of OPOY contenders.
SAN DIEGO SECTION:
RB Roderick Robinson – Lincoln – SR.
To start his senior season, the 3-star recruit hardly played in a 49-0 win, and then ran for a total of 275 yards and four touchdowns against two great teams in Los Alamitos and Mission Hills. The Hornets have numerous big-time playmakers including QB Jalen Daniels and WRs Nathan Acevedo and Marcus Moore, but if Lincoln needs Robinson to carry a major load, he’s well-positioned for an all-state type year.
QB Jackson Stratton – Vista – SR.
It’s only been three games, but the 3-star Washington commit has already thrown for 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns to one pick. He’s also run for 79 yards and a touchdown. As La Jolla will be an underdog to most of its league opponents, Stratton will need to continue putting up insane numbers and lead the Vikings to some eye-opening showings to stay in the mix. But he’s likely up for the challenge, and will have the opportunity to make a ton of noise in the Division 2 playoffs.
RB Lucky Sutton – Cathedral Catholic – SR.
Sutton, a 3-star prospect with a handful of D-1 offers, ran for 721 yards and six touchdowns in just four games as a junior. He did it on an impressive 9.2 yards per carry, and also caught for 68 yards. As a senior, he’s expected to be the top offensive player on the top team in the San Diego Section. Dons QB Charlie Mirer could also emerge as an OPOY candidate.
RB Christian Washington – Helix – SR.
Washington, a 3-star prospect, enters his senior season as one of the most underrated RBs in the state. He ran for 1,110 yards as a sophomore, totaled 1,242 all-purpose yards in just six games as a junior, and has now already run for 433 yards and six TDs in two games this fall. Washington is on pace to be a clear all-state guy this fall if Helix reels off enough wins down the stretch.
NORTH COAST SECTION:
QB Jaden Rashada – Pittsburg – JR.
A 4-star recruit and top-five QB prospect in the Class of 2023, Rashada split snaps with a nationally-ranked senior in the spring, but still threw for 412 yards and eight touchdowns. Now he’s the full-time signal caller on one of the best teams in NorCal. Multiple other Pirates could emerge as OPOY candidates down the stretch too, in particular 4-star WR Rashid Williams.
CENTRAL COAST SECTION:
QB Jakson Berman – Valley Christian (San Jose) – SR.
After a strong but unspectacular junior season, Berman has stepped up through two games as one of the top dual-threat QBs in the state. He’s thrown for 252 yards and five touchdowns with a solid passer rating of 118.8, and run for 286 yards and five touchdowns on an incredible 16.8 yards per carry.
WR Jurrion Dickey – Valley Christian (San Jose) – JR.
Through two games, the 4-star ATH has caught for over 200 yards and four touchdowns, run for a touchdown, and already racked up 186 yards and a touchdown on kickoff returns.
RB Hassan Mahasin – Serra (San Mateo) – SR.
A 4-star ATH prospect, Mahasin enters his senior season as one of the premier RB/SBs in the state. He was named the Bay Area News Group Offensive Player of the Year in the spring for his 745 yards of offense, five rushing touchdowns, and five receiving touchdowns.
Mahasin forms arguably the best QB/RB duo in NorCal with 3-star signal caller Dominique Lampkin, who could very easily find his way onto this list. Oftentimes, neither of them have to put up huge individual numbers before Serra pulls the starters in blowout wins. That hurts their individual OPOY cases, but the Padres’ prospects of going on a Division 1 state title run boost their chances back up in turn.
L.A. CITY SECTION:
RB Dijon Stanley – Granada Hills Charter – JR.
Stanley, a 3-star prospect with multiple Power-5 offers, was the most productive offensive player in the City Section’s upper ranks in the spring. He’s already off to a great start this season with 217 yards and five touchdowns rushing in a season-opening win.
QB Nate Johnson – Clovis – SR.
A 4-star Utah commit, Johnson surpassed 1,000 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in just five spring games. He threw for over 200 yards in both of his first games as a senior, and also has three touchdown passes and 110 rushing yards through two games.
RB Tristan Risley – Clovis – SR.
One of the state’s most underrated and productive running backs every season, Risley is primed for a huge senior year. He’s already run for 508 yards and seven touchdowns and caught for 80 yards and a touchdown in three games, all wins.
QB Tyler Tremain – Folsom – SR.
As a junior in the spring, Tremain threw for 2,024 yards and 27 touchdowns in just six games, and also ran for 178 yards and two TDs. So far as a senior, he’s picked right up where he left off for one of the better offenses on the West Coast, throwing for 830 yards and 16 touchdowns in three games while already nearly matching his spring rushing totals. Multiple other Bulldogs could be in the Offensive Player of the Year mix this season, including WR Rico Flores Jr. and TE Walker Lyons.
MORE CANDIDATES ON OUR RADAR:
QB Jayden Denegal – Apple Valley – SR.
QB Julian Sayin – Carlsbad – SO.
WR Kevin Green Jr. – Alemany – SR.
RB Floyd Chalk – Alemany – SR.
RB/WR Blake Nichelson – Manteca – SR.
WR Jadyn Marshall – St. Mary’s (Stockton) – SR.
RB Sheldon Canley – Lompoc – SR.
QB Kadin Semonza – Mission Viejo – JR.
WR Mikey Matthews – Mission Viejo – SR.
RB/WR Darian Leon-Guerrero – Vacaville – SR.
QB Brandon Rose – Murrieta Valley – SR.
WR Tiger Bachmeier – Murrieta Valley – JR.
QB Tyler Voss – Valencia (Valencia) – SR.
QB Dayton Tafoya – Central (Fresno) – SR.
WR Arlis Boardingham – Birmingham – SR.
RB Jakob Galloway – Banning (Wilmington) – SR.
RB Blake Allen – San Clemente – JR.
QB Luke Dermon – De La Salle – SR.
RB Nico Brown – Edison – SR.
WR Jake Calcagno – California (San Ramon) – SR.
QB Michael Ingrassia – Marin Catholic – SR.
RB Justin Guin – San Marin – SR.
RB Freddy Fletcher – Cajon – SR.
QB Travis Throckmorton – Simi Valley – SR.
RB Devon Rivers – Heritage – JR.
RB Dylan Smith – Vintage – SR.
TE Jack Endries – Monte Vista – SR.
QB Dylan Gutierrez – Damien – JR.