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Prep Rally: High school football gets real starting this weekend

Big-boy football gets under way with league play in the Trinity, Mission, Sunset and new Big West Conference.
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Los Angeles Times
Prep Rally

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. Big-boy football gets under way with league play in the Trinity, Mission, Sunset and new Big West Conference. There's favorites but making it through the gauntlet of competitive teams will produce some interesting final scores. And the City Section's toughest leagues also start play.

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Big games begin

The best part of the regular season in high school football starts Friday night. League play in the strongest leagues begin. It's all about depth, avoiding injuries and pulling out victories in the big games. Teams also could get a boost this week in that the sit-out period for transfers who did not move ends.

The Trinity League will reach a fever pitch Oct. 7 when Santa Ana Mater Dei hosts St. John Bosco at Santa Ana Stadium. After that, it will be about who can finish in third place, which makes Friday's game between Santa Margarita and Orange Lutheran at Orange Coast College a huge game.

In the wide-open Mission League, Chaminade (5-0), Gardena Serra (4-1) and Bishop Amat (4-1) look like the teams to beat. Sierra Canyon (2-3) is lurking as a spoiler. In the Sunset, Edison (5-0) and Los Alamitos (3-2) are on a collision course to play Oct. 13. Corona del Mar hopes to disrupt that meeting. The Big VIII League and Southwestern League have combined to form the Big West Conference and two leagues. Corona Centennial (4-1) is the team to beat in the upper league.

Lots of teams had byes this past week to prepare for the grind ahead. It gets serious starting this week.

In the City Section, the Marine League begins with the rivalry game matching Banning against Carson. Both teams started slow but are coming off big wins last week. In the Northern League, the title should be decided with unbeaten Eagle Rock hosting unbeaten Franklin on Friday.

Midseason report

Newbury Park quarterback Brady Smigiel passes against Royal.
Newbury Park quarterback Brady Smigiel passes against Royal on Friday. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

It's midseason in high school football, which means time to reveal which players have been reaching or exceeding expectations.

Since linemen rarely receive attention unless their number is mentioned for a holding penalty, let's start by singling out the Edison duo of Makai Sagiao and Nathan Gates for their blocking contributions in helping lead the Chargers to a 5-0 record.

Gates, who is 6 feet 5 and 275 pounds, had plenty of accolades before the season. Sagiao, a 6-2, 297-pound junior transfer from Newport Harbor, was so anonymous that he wasn't even listed on Edison's MaxPreps roster going into this week.

Here's a look at players producing at midseason.

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Football rewind

Junior running back-linebacker Jerry Misaalefua of Carson scored five touchdowns against Cleveland.
Junior running back-linebacker Jerry Misaalefua of Carson scored five touchdowns against Cleveland. (Jevone Moore / Full Image 360)

Jerry Misaalefua of Carson scored five touchdowns to help the Colts hand Cleveland its first defeat 55-12. Here's the report.

Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park engaged in a double overtime thriller. Here's the report.

The double-wing offense has created success for a group of teams in Southern California, including North Hollywood. Here's the report.

West Ranch is 6-0 and now the favorite in the Foothill League after routing defending champion Saugus last week. Ryan Staub, a Colorado commit, has 26 touchdown passes and no interceptions this season. He was at Sierra Canyon for his freshman year before going back to his home school.

Here's this week's top 25 rankings.

Here's this week's schedule.

Free safety to watch

Chaminade junior free safety Marquis Gallegos has become a much-sought after college prospect.
Chaminade junior free safety Marquis Gallegos has become a much-sought after college prospect. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

In his football office last December, coach David Machuca of Chaminade Prep was sitting at his desk showing the newly named coach at USC, Lincoln Riley, video highlights of sophomore free safety Marquis Gallegos.

Riley kept nodding his head up and down.

"I got the body language that Lincoln Riley liked him," Machuca said.

A scholarship offer came three days later.

"His impact on the field and in the locker room have been huge," Machuca said.

A profile of one of the best junior free safeties in Southern California.

Disciplinary matters

It wasn't a good Friday night for sportsmanship.

A male parent from Sun Valley Poly put his hands on an official in the second quarter on the sideline during Poly's 54-7 loss to North Hollywood, causing the game to be halted for 15 minutes.

Bishop Amat and Damien had several issues during Bishop Amat's 35-7 victory, from late hits to having to be separated after the game. The La Verne Police Dept. reported that it was investigating a battery complaint filed by a Bishop Amat football player against two subjects, one of whom is a Damien coach. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles reported that the person named in the report has been put on leave pending outcome of an internal investigation and police investigation.

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Jesse Ramos, the father of Bishop Amat senior running back Aiden Ramos, filed an incident report with La Verne Police on Friday night, alleging two coaches on the Damien football staff assaulted him during a postgame fracas and left him with a bruise under his left eye.

Deaf players star

California School For The Deaf - Riverside running back Cody Metzner.
California School For The Deaf - Riverside running back Cody Metzner. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It's a silent war. A battle of deception. A game of long-awaited open communication — but some needed to be hidden.

Players for Riverside's California School for the Deaf sported black armbands during their game Saturday, a secret code of symbols that corresponded to coach Keith Adams' frantic signing from the sidelines.

CSDR's opponent, Florida St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, meanwhile, brought quarterback Phoenix Lambirth over to coach Eric LeFors before every snap, transmitting plays in a concealed one-on-one huddle.

The disguise was necessary because plays communicated via American Sign Language can be easily stolen when playing another deaf school.

Luca Evans went out to Riverside to watch on Saturday.

Here's is the report.

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UCLA baseball keeps strategy

Outfielder Roman Martin of Servite will be signing with UCLA in November.
Outfielder Roman Martin of Servite will be signing with UCLA in November. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

In an era where more and more college coaches are relying on the transfer portal for key recruits, UCLA baseball coach John Savage is sticking what works for him: recruiting top high school players from Southern California.

When the early signing period takes place beginning Nov. 9, UCLA will have its usual group of top players.

They include shortstop Cameron Kim of Norco, catcher Blake Balsz of Santa Margarita, outfielder Roman Martin of Servite, shortstop Boston Baro of Capistrano Valley, outfielder Phoenix Call of Calabasas, pitcher Justin Lee of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, pitcher Cole Miller of Newbury Park, outfielder Dean West of Notre Dame, pitcher Owen Egan of Yucaipa, infielder Brandon Winokur of Edison and pitcher Luke Rodriguez of Shafter in Bakersfield.

Jared McCain gets NIL deal

Corona Centennial High's Jared McCain posing at a Champs photoshoot.
Corona Centennial High's Jared McCain posing at a Champs photoshoot. (Courtesy of Champs Sports)

Jared McCain's name, image and likeness endorsement empire continues to grow.

The Corona Centennial High senior guard, the fourth-ranked player in California, 247Sports.com reports, inked a multiyear deal with Champs Sports, according to a source close to McCain not authorized to speak about the deal.

McCain, who is committed to Duke, will be featured in the Eastbay Performance "Field Day' Collection alongside Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

McCain will model and promote apparel and shoes, including Champs collections still in development.

McCain also has partnerships with Crocs and Lemon Perfect. McCain has become one of the most recognizable faces in prep basketball, amassing 1.7 million followers on TikTok and more than 500,000 on Instagram thanks to frequent dance videos and an unfiltered look into his basketball journey.

"Certain brands, for Crocs and Champs, it all falls into my personality," McCain said. "[Lemon] Perfect — bright, fun personality. Crocs same thing, Champs the basketball side of it."

Girls' volleyball

Van Nuys High volleyball captain Alyssa Islas poses for a photo.
Van Nuys High volleyball captain Alyssa Islas poses for a photo. (Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

It all became too much for Alyssa Islas, crushed with a responsibility nobody else had to bear.

One bus ride home last fall, nursing the wound of another loss, the Van Nuys captain cracked. Her aunt, suffering from uterine cancer, was dying before her eyes. Schoolwork was overwhelming, with her grades collapsing, her Van Nuys team was winless and she couldn't get her teammates organized and it was all too much.

"I'm quitting," Islas remembered telling the team. "I'm not coming back."

Sure, it would've been loss enough had their starting setter left midseason. But the weight of a program rested largely on the braces-wearing 16-year-old's shoulders. She was more than a player. More than a captain.

Last season, Islas was essentially Van Nuys' coach.

"It was honestly killing her for a period of time," junior Adrienne Mita said. "It was really hard on her."

Two days into the 2021 fall semester, their head coach stepped down for personal reasons. Chaos ensued. The players were worried they'd miss out on a season again, after COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 season.

Eventually, a substitute teacher, Randy Olea, stepped in out of necessity. One problem — he had little idea how to coach indoor volleyball.

So Islas, named captain before the turmoil, decided to help take the reins.

A profile of the unofficial youngest coach in the City Section.

Decision time

The CIF sponsorship deals for MaxPreps and SB Live are ending in June of 2023. Negotiations will begin in the coming months.

The last time this happened was in 2019, when Scorebook Live offered more money and promised to provide real-time content to fans for scores and results. It became the exclusive digital provider for CIF. That resulted in almost open rebellion among schools not wanting to end their relationship with MaxPreps, whose platform began in 2002 and had become a reliable way for posting rosters, schedules, scores and stats.

MaxPreps returned as CIF sponsor in 2020. Since then, MaxPreps and newly named SB Live have shared all information on the CIF Home website, from scores to schedules to rosters.

MaxPreps is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The CIF learned last time that letting MaxPreps get away was a mistake. The only question now is whether both companies will be willing to continue sharing information.

Let the negotiations begin.

Girls' tennis

Westlake continues to be the team to beat in girls' tennis.

Ranked No. 1 in Southern California, the unbeaten Warriors won the Pt. Loma Invitational in San Diego this past weekend.

Sixteen of the top teams in Southern California, Northern California and Hawaii competed. Westlake defeated Peninsula in the final 5-1.

Notes . . .

Standout softball pitcher Brianne Weiss of Orange Lutheran has committed to Notre Dame. She was one of the best in Division 1 last season as a sophomore. . . .

In girls' golf, Santa Margarita won the Rainbow Sandals tournament, led by Ryan Bullock, who shot a 69. . . .

Peninsula is bringing in lights to turn its home field into a night stadium for its football game against Redondo Union on Oct. 30. . . .

Girls' basketball standout Karlee White, who starred at Viewpoint but has transferred to Oak Park, has committed to Harvard. . . .

Junior guard Jaden Hubbard has left Fairfax for Mission Viejo. . . .

The new softball coach at San Pedro is former Pirate Johnie Cortez, who last played for San Pedro in 2015. . . .

Huntington Beach senior baseball player Colby Turner has committed to San Diego State. . . .

Long Beach Millikan has forfeited four football victories because of an ineligible player. . . .

Harvard-Westlake standout basketball player Brady Dunlap has committed to Notre Dame. . . .

The Southern Section has a Tuesday deadline to announce the outcome of a 510 undue influence investigation into football player T.A. Cunningham of Los Alamitos. If he is declared ineligible, he can appeal. Once an appeal is held by a hearing officer, a decision is required no later than 15 days after the hearing. . . .

Outfielder Amari Yolas of Palisades has committed to Cal State Northridge. . . .

Former Chaminade punter Jack Stonehouse averaged 48.1 yards for Missouri on Saturday.

From the archives: River Cracraft

River Cracraft has always been fast and versatile since his days at Santa Margarita, where he helped the Eagles win the Southern Section Pac-5 Division championship in 2011.

He went on to become a star receiver at Washington State but has also dealt with injuries.

He wasn't taken in the 2017 NFL draft but ended up signing with a series of teams. He caught his first career NFL pass for the Denver Broncos in 2018.

On Sept. 18, he caught his first career NFL touchdown with the Miami Dolphins. Not bad for someone cut 14 times in six years. He caught his second NFL touchdown on Sunday in the Dolphins' win over the Buffalo Bills.

Here's a story about his perseverance.

Recommendations

From aspeninstitute.org, a story on how to develop basketball players for the NBA.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on USC freshman running back Raleek Brown.

From the Wall Street Journal, girls are leaving high school basketball for other sports.

Tweets you might have missed

Until next time...

Have a question, comment or something you'd like to see in a future Prep Rally newsletter? Email me at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

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