Over the past eight decades, Southern California’s Catholic high schools have produced a fountain of athletic talent in all sports, and the list of CIF-Southern Section Football Players of the Year offers ample evidence.
There are Heisman Trophy winners, All-Americans and All-Pros on this illustrious list, beginning with the choice of Al Pollard of Loyola High School in 1945 and 1946 as CIF-SS Player of the Year, then selected by the Helms Athletic Foundation.
A 6-foot, 180-pound running back from Glendale, Alfred Lee Pollard rushed for 1,772 yards and scored 23 touchdowns in his senior season, and enrolled at Loyola University. But injuries cut his career there short, and he transferred to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where his backfield coach was Vince Lombardi.
Pollard became an All-American at Army in 1950, scoring 83 points, and then played four years in the National Football League with several teams (on offense and defense), plus one in the Canadian Football League before retiring. Living in Pennsylvania, he was a businessman and broadcaster for the Philadelphia Eagles. He died in 2002 at age 73, survived by his wife of 47 years, three children and eight grandchildren.
Many other Los Angeles-area Catholic high school football stars have earned CIF-SS Player of the Year honors, and national laurels as well. Few were as productive as Lorenzo Booker of St. Bonaventure, named Gatorade’s National High School Athlete of the Year in 2002, capping a career in which he rushed for 8,502 yards, scored 137 touchdowns, and led the Seraphs to a 42-0 record and three CIF titles (1999-2001).
Currently, Players of the Year in the CIF-Southern Section (including, on occasion, co-Players of the Year) are selected by Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, the Board of Southern California Prep Sportswriters and the Southern California Interscholastic Football Coaches Association.
Until 1976, Players of the Year were selected in Major (M) and Lower (L) Divisions. Beginning in 1977, with the continued expansion of divisions into conferences, more Player of the Year honors were awarded, and since 1996 POY honors have been awarded for offense (o) and defense (d) in all divisions.
The 2017 All-CIF teams and Players of the Year are expected to be named in late January, and there may be at least one (maybe more) who will join the following list of Catholic high school standouts:
1945: Al Pollard, Loyola (M).
1946: Al Pollard, Loyola (M).
1948: John Olszewski, St. Anthony (M).
1957: Henry Enriquez, Mater Dei (L).
1960: John Huarte, Mater Dei (L).
1961: Paul Horgan, Loyola (M).
1962: Steve Grady, Loyola (M).
1963: Don Swartz, Loyola (M); Paul Marguglio, St. Francis, Art Golden, Alemany, and Andy Herrera, Santa Clara (L).
1965: Pete Sanchez, Mater Dei (M); Brian Porter, Crespi, and Gilbert Gonzales, Santa Clara (L).
1966: Dan Graham, Bishop Montgomery (L).
1968: Ben Herrera, St. Bonaventure (L).
1970: Pat Haden and John McKay, Bishop Amat (M); Paul Swenson, St. Genevieve (1-A).
1971: John Sciarra, Bishop Amat (M).
1974: Dan Morovick, St. John Bosco (M).
1978: Kevin McConville, St. Genevieve (III).
1980: Jomo Page, Pius X (III).
1981: Edward Allen, Verbum Dei (IV).
1982: Steve Buerlein, Servite (I); Sean Sterle, St. Genevieve (IV).
1983: Randy Tanner, Bishop Amat (I).
1986: Russell White, Crespi (Big 5).
1987: Russell White, Crespi (Big 5); Tim Lavin, Chaminade (Desert/Mountain).
1988: Derek Brown, Servite (I).
1989: Tim Gutierrez, Santa Clara (VIII).
1990: Jason Patterson, Bishop Amat (I).
1991: David Knuff, Mater Dei (I).
1992: Wilhans Ili, Bishop Amat (I).
1994: Daylon McCutcheon, Bishop Amat (I); Chris Sailer, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III).
1995: Ralph Brown II, Bishop Amat (I).
1996: Rod Perry, Mater Dei (I/o); Antoine Harris, Loyola (I/d); Justin Fargas, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III/o); Jorge Piedra, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III/d); Billy Newman, Santa Margarita (V/o); Damien Minna, Santa Margarita (V/d); Teohua Sanchez, St. Bonaventure (X/o); Sebastian Castellon, Cathedral (XI/o).
1997: Mike McNair, Mater Dei (I/o); Justin Fargas, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III/o); Jashon Sykes, Serra (III/d); Carson Palmer, Santa Margarita (V/o); John Minardi, Santa Margarita (V/d); Chris Hanks, Cathedral (XI/o); Rob McShea, Paraclete (XI/d).
1998: Matt Grootegood, Mater Dei (I/d); John Lopez, St. Paul (III/d); James Dunn, St. Monica (XI/d); Robert De La Cruz, Cathedral, and Michael Washington, Paraclete (XII/o); Tommy Breech, Paraclete (XII/d).
1999: Casey Clausen, Alemany (I/o); Matt Grootegoed, Mater Dei (I/d); Travis Johnson, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III/d); Tucker Bennett, St. Bonaventure (XI/d); Robert Fockaert, Paraclete (XII/o); Robert Watts, Paraclete (XII/d).
2000: Matt Ware, Loyola, and Matt Leinart, Mater Dei (I/o); Lorenzo Booker, St. Bonaventure (XI/o); Mike Bonelli, St. Bonaventure (XI/d); Curtis Brown, Paraclete (XII/o); Michael Washington, Paraclete (XII/d).
2001: Lorenzo Booker, St. Bonaventure (XI/o); Brandon Mascarro, St. Bonaventure (XI/d); Curtis Brown, Paraclete (XII/o).
2002: Marcel Marquez, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III/o); Whitney Lewis, St. Bonaventure (IV/o).
2003: Scott Deke, Loyola (I/o); Brandon Nicolas, Mater Dei (I/d); KC Croal, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III/d).
2004: Dwight Tardy, St. Paul (III/o); (D) Cary Harris, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (III/d);
Randle Harris, Crespi (X/o); Daryl Fields, Crespi (X/d).
2005: Henry Burge, Loyola (I/o); Allen Bradford, Loyola (I/d); Garrett Green, Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks III/o); Dwight Robertson, St. Bonaventure (IV/d); Josh Morgan, Crespi (X/o); (D) DJ Holt, Crespi (X/d).
2006: Curtis Wilson, Verbum Dei (Mid Valley/o); Akeem Ayers, Verbum Dei (Mid Valley/d); Michael Williams, St. Bonaventure (Northern/d).
2007: Cierre Wood, Santa Clara (Mid-Valley/o); Dave Green, Paraclete (Mid-Valley/d); Loren Powers, St. Bonaventure (Northern/d); Austin Shanks, Crespi (PAC-5/o); Aubrey Haynes, St. Paul (Western (O); David Flores, St. Paul (Western/d).
2008: Brandon Buteyn, Paraclete (Mid Valley/o); Kyle Swanson, Paraclete (Mid Valley/d); Patrick Hall, St. Bonaventure (Northern/d); Robert Woods, Serra (Northwest/d).
2009: Robert Woods, Serra (Northwest/o); Cody Fajardo, Servite (PAC-5/o).
2010: Cameron Carvalho, Paraclete (East Valley/o); Darian Thompson, Paraclete (East Valley/d); Malik Felton, Servite (PAC-5/o); Matthew Inman, Servite (PAC-5/d); George Farmer, Serra (Western/o); Marquis Lee, Serra (Western/d).
2011: Johnny Stanton, Santa Margarita (PAC-5/o); Chris Frost, Santa Margarita (PAC-5/d).
2012: Terrell Newby, Chaminade (Western/o); Adoree' Jackson, Serra (Western/d).
2013: Marquis Ware, Salesian (Northeast/d); Josh Rosen and Shay Fields, St. John Bosco (Pac-5/o); Jaleel Wadood and Chandler Leniu, St. John Bosco (Pac-5/d); Brad Kaaya, Chaminade (Western/o); Adoree' Jackson, Serra (Western/d).
2014: Josh Rosen, St. John Bosco (PAC-5/o).
2016: Wyatt Davis, St. John Bosco (1/o); Jacob Callier, St. John Bosco (1/d); KJ Latu, Paraclete (6/d); Johnny Buksa, St. Anthony (10/o); BJ Busbee, St. Anthony (10/d).