We are six weeks into the high school football season, and the seventh game arrives before October does.
Given that the top teams generally expect to play at least 12 games, including the playoffs, we’re going with this week as the midpoint of the season and to initiate the debate as to who are the leading contenders for Bee honors.
The Bee for decades has named a Player of the Year, and since 1993, we added Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year honors to represent a trio of stars that shape the season.
Statistics are not nearly as paramount as championship team success. The playoff grind can be as many as six extra games, which any coach will tell you is the real season.
Player of the Year candidates
Joe Ngata, Folsom: The Bee’s 2017 Player of the Year, Ngata has again been a brutally difficult cover, catching 27 passes for 474 yards and seven touchdowns (double him and beware of Elihjah Badger: 17 for 407 and six). The top-ranked Bulldogs are steamrolling all local teams — again.
“Joe’s the best player around, bar none,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said.
Daniyel Ngata, Folsom: How about we stir up debate at the Ngata home by wondering which brother is actually better? But please, no food fights. Daniyel may be the region’s most complete player, a terrific runner with burst and power who can catch the ball. What sets him apart is his penchant for delivering devastating blocks.
“Man, the things he does, just a phenomenal player,” Richardson said.
Kaiden Bennett, Folsom: Last season’s Offensive Player of the Year is sizzling again with pinpoint passing and poised leadership. He’s thrown for 1,473 yards and 21 touchdowns with no interceptions since the opener at De La Salle.
Zach Larrier, Monterey Trail: He could be the finest player in program history, smooth at quarterback, effective in the secondary and blur fast, including two 90-yard-plus touchdown runs on Friday in a win over Paraclete to move the Mustangs to 5-0. A campus leader, he has 15 total touchdowns and averages 235 yards of offense a game.
D’Marcus Ross, Capital Christian: A fourth-year varsity starting running back, Ross has eclipsed 1,000 yards and has 91 career touchdowns, a program record. He’s physical, fast and equally effective on defense as a linebacker/safety.
“He’s the best player in the city, no doubt,” Capital Christian coach Casey Taylor said.
Isaiah Rutherford, Jesuit: An ankle injury slowed the national recruit running back/cornerback in the first three games but he’s found a familiar groove of late. Teammate Laiatu Latu is also a candidate for his impact as a tight end and linebacker.
Joey Capra, Placer: What, a lineman for top honors? Why not. It does start in the trenches, and for the unbeaten Hillmen, that means an expressway of wing-T excellence behind the Oregon-bound tackle who is a team leader and scholar.
Dawson Hurst, Del Oro: A three-year starter, Hurst has turned games on defense in the secondary, with touchdown receptions and with leadership. Another section title — shoot, even another state-title appearance — would be hard to overlook.
Calder Kunde, Bear River: Should the Bruins go unbeaten this season, or even just charge into a state final, this quarterback/leader would be a primary reason, as would last season’s co-coaches of the Year, Terry Logue and Scott Savoie.
Coach of the Year candidates
Kris Richardson, Folsom: If Folsom repeats as a state champion, that would be a regional first and would be testament to a stellar coaching staff that could have four such banners this decade.
Jeff Walters, Del Oro: In his second season at his alma mater, the Golden Eagles are rolling at 6-0 and ranked second by The Bee. Should Del Oro topple Folsom in Week 10 for the Sierra Foothill League championship, heads will turn.
Casey Taylor, Capital Christian: A 10-0 start would be one thing, but a CIF state win would resonate as the quantum leap Taylor expected when he took this post a year ago after 15 championship seasons at Del Oro.
Mike Alberghini, Grant: The famed coach has his youngest team playing beyond its years, and if he were to win his eighth section championship, it would be his most remarkable title yet.
Joey Montoya, Placer: The pressure is welcomed in Auburn, where Montoya has 17 returning starters from a team that fell just short of winning a state crown.
T.J. Ewing, Monterey Trail: The Mustangs figure to go 10-0, but the real prize is a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title, meaning a likely road through Folsom and/or Oak Ridge.
Kyle Stowers and Bradley Hunkins, Woodcreek: The team is a school-record 6-0, and a seventh win would be a school standard. So would a playoff win.
Tony Martello, Colfax: How about a lifetime achievement award, too? What Martello has done over the decades at Colfax — win with superb offensive teams and with declining enrollment, and surviving a powerhouse small-school league — has been remarkable.