The race for player of the year is on …

After five weeks of high school football we’re starting to get a clearer picture in the chase for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune Football player of the year. In no particular order, here are my top eight candidates. Of course, more could emerge when the games get bigger and the dust settles in the CIF playoffs.

Above: Gladstone quarterback Kevin Amezquita has been nearly perfect in leading the Gladiators to a 4-0 start.

Aaren Vaughns, Charter Oak, RB: The senior has been everything for the Chargers, but has settled in as their primary back, averaging 125 yards with seven touchdowns. He’s also caught 13 passes for 102 yards and had a highlight night against Los Alamitos, rushing for 277 yards and two touchdowns.

Koa Haynes, Bishop Amat, QB: Has done everything Amat coaches have asked him to do in compiling an undefeated 4-0-1 record. He’s completed 76 of 108 passes (70 percent) for 1,087 yards and 11 touchdowns while also rushing for 121 yards and three TDs. Not bad considering he’s done it against the area’s top challengers.

Kevin Amezquita, Gladstone, QB: Is having an incredible season leading the Gladiators to a perfect 4-0 start and is making them a serious threat to dethrone Azusa, the four-time Montview League champs. Amezquita is doing it with his feet and arms, leading his team in passing and rushing. He’s thrown for 481 yards and six touchdowns while also rushing for 506 yards and seven TDs.

Matt Simko, Chino Hills, QB: The Colony transfer has fit right in and performed well against a tough schedule, leading the area in passing with 1,454 yards with 13 TDs to go against just four interceptions. And he’s done it all against super competition.

Darren Andrews, Bishop Amat, WR/KR: The run and pass threat has been Amat’s most electrifying player. He has 15 receptions for 301 yards and three TDs. He has eight carries for 98 yards (12.3 average) and is averaging 35 yards on kick returns, including a TD.

Jake Payton, San Dimas, RB: The durable back has done it all for the Saints, rushing for 660 yards and an area leading 11 touchdowns. He’s been over 100 yards in every game, rushing for a season-best 166 yards and three touchdowns in their win over Bonita in the Smudge Pot.

Jordan Robinson, Ayala, RB: Arguably the area’s best all-around player, he’s been key in leading the Bulldogs’ resurgence from a team that was 3-7 last year to a perfect 4-0 start this season. Robinson is averaging 113 yards with 7 TDs and also has 11 receptions for 190 yards and 2 TDs.

Brandon Martinez, El Monte, QB: Despite his teams rough 2-2 start, Martinez has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Lions and can get himself back in the player of the year race by winning the Mission Valley League. He’s passed for 1,306 yards, 11 TDs while also rushing for 273 yards and 4 TDs.

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  • southhills

    aaren vaughs is not a junior!!! jus saying

  • Aram

    I think Dionza Blue and Adam Goss need to be added to the list. And maybe even Reggie Turner, but that won’t happen unless the ‘Cats have a run in league.

    Vaughns is a senior.

  • GHS

    Cade Lindsey Glendora averaging 241 yards per game rushing. 10.26 yards per carry 5 touch Downs

  • 12th man

    Player of the year would be a kid who plays a huge roll in the team’s success..Someone who makes the team better on & off the field..Right now I would consider Simko & Haynes only because of the level of football they play & also because if you remove these two players from each team..They become mediocre sub-par teams…Season is still early..let’s wait too see what each individual does in league..

  • Sierra League Fan

    I would say that Simko and Haynes are the early front runners, with Andrews close behind. I believe this because they have been very good against very good teams. I would also add Jack Austin to this list. He has made some incredible plays this year, but he did miss the opening game due to injury. I think Vaughns is a great player but his competition has been suspect.

  • Don

    Any hope for kids who play defense?

  • Koa is the real deal

    My vote is for Haynes who took a struggling, archaic offense and turned them into a unpredictable powerhouse. Sure its a team effort but this kid is the glue that holds it all together. Cant wait to see him continue to get better with each game as they play teams in their division. No Trib hype, just results with this kid.

  • SP DAd

    Haynes is the MAN! on the Lancer team… he makes things happen. This kid is 10 times better that the kid they had last year.

  • Mamas DeLancer


    The Amat defense has been terrible this season, so Fred hasn’t been able to suck-up (errrr pump-up) to any of them. But give Fred time and we all know he’ll come up with at least one undeserving Lancer! Just wait and see? He does it every year!

  • 12th man

    Amat was in the same position last year heading into league & that’s when everything went downhill losing 4 of it’s next 5 games including the playoffs..I’m not sold on Haynes yet cause we all know how brutal the Serra League can be..Let’s wait & see if Haynes is the real deal vs the Serra!!..I will give him credit up to this point for making the Amat offense a high powered scoring machine & for being a dual threat…But just like any other football fan..”We Want More”..Just how far can Haynes carry this team?..Only time can tell..Stay tuned my friends as more will be revealed~

  • reality

    @Don: About as much chance as an offensive lineman like DJ Theard 6’3″ 275 lbs from Bonita.

  • Colt74

    I nominate Justin Hornsby. This kid has gotten the short end of the stick for 2 years now.

    I know, he’s a defensive player and not from Bishop Amat…

    But come on..restore my faith in humanity…

  • SGV Fan

    The only person Fred is marketing was #9 from last year. He’s been quiet so far this year. Can you blame him after what he went through last year? He was sold hard by the kids outspoken, marketing orientated dad. So gone are the preseason full page spreads, the constant mention to the blogs about the next great one, the best two-way player,etc. It made great reading but wasnt in the best interest for the football team. Meanwhile, the real performer the the new QB who is tearing it up. If only Haggerty would have taken a chance on the new kid and started him last year, it might have turned out to be a better season.

  • What?

    @ sgv fan .Koa did get his chance last year . Koa was not ready last year . Got to give a lot of credit to verti and staff . I think Rio would of been more successful if they ran this years offense.

  • Lousafur

    Not a Amat guy AT ALL, but if Koa continues his run and Amat gets a playoff win??? Koa hands down.

  • Valley athletics

    Dionza blue should be on the list . He has had a great year on both sides of the ball . Snoops nephew kanya has been great on both side of the ball also .

  • Rio wasnt that good

    C’mon guys- the koolaid has been dumped. Mr. Baseball should have stayed there and let Koa have the team. He would have been ready last year. “Nine” never lived up to expectations.

  • Historian

    Last year’s POY Rivera did well coming off the bench last week against Puget Sound- 4 TDs for Whittier

  • Mike

    Also, not a BA guy, but please do not reward a kid (Simko) who has transferred to 2 different schools! Hayes by a long shot! This kid is VERY good…

  • Black Tooth

    I think Darren Andrews and Koa Haynes should be Co-Players of the year. By the time Bishop Amat reaches the CIF semi finals, one of the two will be considered for CIF Player of the year!

  • real deal

    Honestly the MVP if he comes from bishop should be DARREN ANDREWS just go to a game and see what happens on both sides of the ball when he takes a breather for a play. Against Charter Oak Andrews didn’t play the second half and bishop didn’t score. Haynes is improving, but without Andrews they would have lost to Chino hills, Andrews gained all 80 yards on the final drive and the go ahead touchdown. Koa new exactly who to pass too when the game was on the line. Any bishop fan knows who the key to the wins is. It’s the player that locks down the primary receiver on defense, returns kicks and punts, runs the ball and receives it on a Full time basis. That’s Darren Andrews.

  • 12th man

    real deal,
    You bring valid points & perhaps Andrews does belong on the ballot..Here’s my argument Amat has already shown it can still win without Andrews..Don’t get me wrong..With Andrews playing that only increases their chances..But suppose the one game suspension had been given to Haynes..Do you still think Amat beats St.Paul?? Or if they make it to the playoffs..Who would need a big game? Usually in the Pac5 the QB dictates the game & determines the success of a team on how far it will go..Don’t believe me? Just ask Santa Margarita.. It goes to show just how important one player can be..The same has to be said about Simko..If he goes down..Does CH really have a chance?

  • Sierra League Fan

    12th Man,
    Fortunately CH does have a couple of quality back ups for Simko. Senior Zach Chadwick (starting LB) and Los Osos transfer soph. Herber. They can both run the offense well but would be a little less successful than Simko.

  • Not So Fast My Friend


    I think part of this discussion is determining what qualifies as MVP. Are we going to base it on stats or overall impact on the team.

    I like Matt Simko and Darren Andrews. Simko – stats and Andrews – overall impact. Koa Haynes would be third just because I don’t know if his stats/impact are better than Simko’s.

    @ Mike:
    I don’t think Simko transferring schools has any impact or should on whether or not he’s MVP material.

    @ Valley Athletics:
    So far Andrews has had more of an impact on Amat’s overall play than Blue. Just sayin.

    So is it stats based or impact based?

  • AMAT 73

    Not so fast,
    Good luck on getting just what qualifications are needed to be POY or what formula is used . Just as it’s a crap shoot on how the rankings are made for the All Trib and All Encompassing rankings, I know it’s a tough one to figure because of all the different divisons teams of the SGV play in , but some basic formula or guidelines or qualifications used would help us understand why some of the choices are made .

  • scmc

    I’m surprised Dionza Blue was not on the list.

    12th man is correct. Without a decent QB, a team is not going anywhere. I’m not sure what national poll it is, but SM got dropped from the top 50 simply due to the fact that they lost their QB!

  • 12th man

    How important is your QB in the Pac5????

    Johnny Stanton-Santa Margarita
    *** (Article) ***

    The season of one of the nation’s top dual threat quarterbacks is over and very likely is the chance of a possible mythical national championship – and state crown – for his team.

    University of Nebraska-bound Johnny Stanton sustained a torn ACL injury to his left knee during his team’s 35-27 win over St. Bonaventure on Friday and, according to his coach will be out six to ninth months.

    The strapping 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior led Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) to a California Division I State Bowl championship last season while rushing for 1,528 yards and 25 touchdowns and passing for more than 2,000.

    Thus far he’s led the nation’s No. 3 team to a 5-0 start while completing 59 of 88 passes for 949 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s rushed for 386 more yards and eight scores. Stanton is already the school’s career total offense leader with 5,558.

    Beyond that, he is the heart and soul of the squad, keeping his teammates calm in the most stressful spots. He did that time after time last season and also in 2012.

    The school sent out a press release Saturday night revealing the injury and pending surgery, and in a phone conversation with head coach Harry Welch later, he confirmed that Stanton will be out for the season but said that he would be 100 percent by the time he enrolls at Nebraska next summer.

    “I’ve had better Saturday nights,” Welch said. “In 40 years of coaching, this is one of the toughest injuries one of my teams have had to deal with because Johnny is one of the greatest kids I’ve coached.”

    Welch isn’t sure when Stanton sustained the injury. The athletic quarterback favored the leg from the first quarter on. Welch said an orthopedic surgeon and three trainers were on the Santa Margarita sideline Friday and checked him out several times during the game.

    “He kept saying it was a cramp, that he was OK,” Welch said. “We thought maybe it was just a bruise. We really didn’t know it was serious until after the game on the table. We knew then he’d need an MRI. … He played courageously. He’s a tough young man. A lesser person couldn’t have possibly finished that game.”

    In the state-bowl title game last season a 42-37 win over Bellarmine Stanton accounted for 375 of his team’s 407 yards and all six touchdowns, including the game-winning 1-yard sneak with 16 seconds left.

    “I’d take my guy (Stanton) over any player in the country,” Welch said after the game.

    The road through the Southern Section and Southern California playoffs would appear too stiff for Santa Margarita to make it through without Stanton. Junior Josh Canty (5-11, 178) will be the new starter.

    “Josh Canty is a fine young man and will give his very best,” Welch said. “But you don’t replace a Johnny Stanton. … We’ll find out what we’re made of.”

    Santa Margarita has a bye this week and opens rugged Trinity League play Oct. 5 against Servite.

  • Saints Fan

    Jake Payton, RB at San Dimas acutally has 13 TDs on the season (12 rushing/1 recieving). Out of 5 games this season, he has only played all 48 minutes in 2 of them. Coach Z doesn’t believe in running up the score or stats, but if he did this kid’s stats would be unreal.

  • one game at a time

    I’ve been watching Amat games since the late 80’s and I have seen the best, Bieniemy, McCutcheon, Brown, Fields, Wagner, McCleskey, al and I gotta say Darren Andrews belong with that elite group in terms of impact player and the premier go to guy for the score! He’s got my vote. Koa will have his turn next year!

  • Lupe

    @ one game at a time

    If Koa deservers it ( i think he does ) he should get it know. Ask Justin Hornsby if he can wait till next year. Anything can happeen. I believe the differnce in Amat this year and the last few years is the play at QB.

  • Fan of Football

    I have to say that without any over-hype, favoritism, and bias from the trib; based on pure performance and bottom line results, Koa is the winner. There are some greats on the list, but this single player has turned around the Amat team. Haggerty, wish you wouldn’t have fallen into the trap that last year’s QB was the greatest, all based on Fred and dad’s meaninglessly, feeble attempt to market a kid. That “marketing” cost us one season of a winning football team. Even the Amat faithfuls who kept silent last year are now voicing their concerns. Let’s never let that happen again, and in the future, no matter what the hype and publicity, please pick the best person for the job. Clearly, Koa is that person!

  • Not So Fast My Friend

    @ Amat 73

    I totally agree.

    @ Fan of Football

    Totally disagree. Koa is not the impact player on Amat’s team. That’s Andrews. On top of that, I don’t believe his numbers are better than Simko’s (back to that stats vs. impact thing). Clearly the BMOC of Amat’s football team is Andrews.

    @ Fred/Aram

    Word on the street is Los Osos starting QB is suspended for tonight’s game. That’s going to impact their offense big time. The available backup isn’t as polished a player as the starter.

  • One Perspective

    Looks like someone from Amat has started their POY campaign? As far as the Amat team goes, the impact players go in this order: 1)Darren Andrews by a wide, wide margin. Two way player, fast, physical and Eeeelectric!!! 2) Dionza Blue, two way contributor that can make things happen and 3) Koa Haynes, makes things happen, buys himself time and can run with the ball however, without the two guys mentioned before him, the offense doesn’t work and the defense gives up 50+ points a game. You can’t win without those other weapons. If teams do not have to honor Andrews stretching the field or Blue breaking out of the backfield Amat’s opponents pin their ears back,shadow Haynes and the warm fuzzy feeling in Lancerland disippates quickly. Be ready for a good one tonight Amat, Culver City is 3-1 and definately should not be taken lightly. Gonna need a win tonight to carry over the Bye week to league.

  • AMAT 73

    I know it is kind of tough for a defensive player to be POY because so much focus is on offensive players as you can see by Fred’s list , not one defensive player listed.But I have to say Sal Velasquez is playing lights out ball on D and beginning to be a force on offense. He is being used sparringly on O but man when he is on the field it just adds to our weapons ,either by blocking , running , or catching the ball . On the D side he roams from sideline to sideline like a caged tiger waiting for prey to come his way or chasing them down . Look for him to be a big factor for the LANCERS in league .