In this episode, Dan Albano and Trinity League insider Scott Barajas recap the offseason highlights in the Trinity League, discuss players on the rise and spotlight the top storylines for each team as they get ready to start the season.
Katie McLaughlin and her teammates did their job, setting up Katie Ledecky for her anchor leg in the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay at the Toyko Olympics on Thursday, July 29.
The U.S. star responded right on cue, racing with the determination to deliver a silver medal and American record for the Santa Margarita High product in an epic final.
McLaughlin teamed with veteran Allison Schmitt, fellow Olympic rookie Paige Madden and Ledecky to bring Team USA to the wall in 7 minutes, 40.73 seconds, four-tenths of a second behind China’s world-record 7:40.33.
Ledecky rallied past heavily favored Australia, which touched in 7:41.29 for the bronze.
The final was so fast, the United States and Australia also raced well under the world record, a 7:41.50 by Australia in 2019.
McLaughlin, 24, did her part, splitting a 1:55.38 in her third leg to keep the Stars and Stripes positioned third behind China and Australia.
Ledecky sizzled a 1:53.76 and nearly caught China.
Madden also delivered in the clutch, splitting a 1:55.25 that moved the U.S. team to third after it was fourth after a 1:56.34 leadoff leg by Schmitt.
Madden and McLaughlin also raced in the second and third spots for the United States in prelims, producing the two fastest times for the team.
For McLaughlin, the relay marked her Olympic debut and Tokyo finale. The former Mission Viejo Nadadores and Nellie Gail Gators club swimmer qualified for the Games in the 800 free relay, and delivered.
HUNTINGTON BEACH — Call El Modena High one of the best-coached football teams in Orange County, and the confirmation arrives pretty quickly. Call the Vanguards a “passing team”, and Coach Matt Mitchell will probably laugh.
They do like a physical ground game but the Vanguards’ passing attack was no joking matter at the Surf City passing tournament at Huntington Beach on Saturday, July 24.
El Modena reached its first passing tournament final under Mitchell, its sixth-year coach whose squad fell to Saugus 14-6 in championship game.
The Vanguards finished 2-1 in their pool and then knocked off Charter Oak and Chino Hills in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
Quarterback Jack Keays, one of only nine seniors on the El Modena squad, led the run by connecting well with junior running back Owen Smith and junior tight end Mayson Hitchens.
Smith produced a highlight, 18-yard touchdown grab against triple coverage on a wheel route. He also recorded a key interception.
Keays’ other top targets were junior wide receivers Sam Astor and Andres Gomez.
“I think that even though we’re a young team and we don’t have a lot of experience, we have some great athletes and we can only get better from here,” said Keays, a three-year starter.
El Modena also won the bench press event during the lineman competition. The Vanguards pumped out 119 reps, including a team-high 31 by junior defensive lineman Esteban Choucair with 185 pounds.
“It was a good day,” Mitchell said. “We beat some good teams at the last second (in the passing tournament).”
The Crsstview League team opens the season against Santa Ana.
OILERS IMPRESSES AGAIN
Huntington Beach followed up its championship at the Chargers’ 11on tournament by reaching the semifinals. The Oilers defeated Tesoro in the quarterfinals.
Senior quarterback AJ Perez showcased a strong and accurate arm while senior Tyler Moses and Hideo Ray were dependable receivers.
Moses also help lead the Oilers on defense. In a 20-12 victory against Foothill in pool play, he had a late pass breakup and interception.
FOOTHILL STACKED WITH TALL RECEIVERS
Foothill senior quarterback Brody Jones has some tall receivers to work with this fall.
Mikey Mazurie, a 6-foot-6 senior, caught two TDs against Huntington Beach. Another target is Aaron Dabalack, a 6-foot-4 senior wide out. And there’s tight end Patrick Hawkins, a 6-foot-5 senior who holds off from Penn, Yale and Columbia among others.
ORANGE FLASHES POTENTIAL
Orange lost to Charter Oak 18-14 in pool play but still showed the makings of a formidable team.
Sophomore Kobe Boykin displayed his athleticism at slot receiver/running back and cornerback. He nearly collected a late interception that would have helped the Panthers.
Boykin holds offers from San Jose State, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Pittsburgh.
Left-handed quarterback Zachary Siskowic, a senior transfer from Crespi, offered a smooth release and plenty of strength with his throws.
And freshman corner Arron White has excellent size at 6-foot-1, 148 pounds. He will only get better from playing tight man coverage at the varsity level.
The Tillers and new QB Tobey Schmidt lost to Downey 27-18 in the quarterfinals of the SGV Shootout.
Tustin High’s football team not only lost its top returning defensive player when Gage Grant transferred to Santa Margarita, the Tillers also lost their quarterback. He played safety, and quarterback toward the end of the spring season.
The transfer winds, however, blow in many directions.
The Tillers will enter the season next month with a new quarterback in senior Tobey Schmidt, a recent arrival from Maranatha of Pasadena who should be a familiar name to Orange County football fans.
Schmidt (6-1, 185) attended Mater Dei before transferring to Maranatha. He notably helped the Monarchs capture the Battle at the Beach passing tournament in 2019 as a backup for Bryce Young, who was at the Elite 11.
“He’s really good,” Tustin coach Anthony Lopez said of Schmidt. “Very bright kid.”
Schmidt passed for 927 yards in just three games during the coronavirus-shortened spring season at Maranatha. He highlighted the campaign by completing 27 of 39 passes for 407 yards and four TDs against Whittier Christian.
In Tustin’s pro-style offense, Schmidt’s top-two targets will be seniors Dominick Flores, a slot receiver, and Armon Fuller, a speedy deep threat. He also could utilize tight end Jonathan Agwanda.
The Tillers open the season Aug. 20 at Capistrano Valley in a clash of potential Top 25 teams in Orange County.
Please send football news to Dan Albano at email@example.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter
Malachi Nelson honored his parents and finished his college recruiting process early with one anticipated announcement on Sunday, July 18.
Versatility and efficiency, after all, are among the many strengths for the Los Alamitos High junior quarterback.
Nelson committed to Oklahoma during a special announcement streamed by CBS Sports HQ and 247Sports. He shared the decision on the wedding anniversary of his parents Eric and Naomi.
“Just worked out perfect,” he said earlier of honoring his parents. “This is the big one.”
Nelson thanked his parents, coaches, teachers and teammates before committing to the Sooners and Coach Lincoln Riley. He displayed an Oklahoma hat and t-shirt.
“I very excited to announce my commitment to one school that I felt comfortable with the staff,” he said during the broadcast. “With that being said, I would like to announce my commitment to the University of Oklahoma.”
Nelson (6-3, 180) narrowed his choices to Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, USC, Notre Dame and Florida State but the Sooners were considered the favorite.
His last unofficial trip was to Norman.
“It was cool,” Nelson of the visit. “Loved everything about it.”
Nelson said he committed before his junior season so he could help recruit other players to join him at Oklahoma. His junior wide receiver, Makai Nelson, will certainly be one of his targets.
Highly-recruited athlete Treyaun Webb of Florida committed on Saturday. Mater Dei senior running back Raleek Brown and Luther Burden of Missouri, the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation, are part of the Sooners’ class of 2022.
“I want to be early,” Nelson said of committing as a junior. “I’m excited to go.”
Nelson delivered a breakout sophomore season. He completed 74 percent of his passes for 1,513 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading the Griffins to a 6-0 record and the Sunset League title during the spring campaign shortened by the pandemic.
He was named California Gatorade Player of the Year and has continued to impress over the summer. He led the Griffins to the title at the South County passing tournament on July 10 at Mission Viejo.
Nelson has strong ties to Orange County sports. His cousin, Endigo Parker, played basketball at Troy and is headed to the University of Pacific. His cousin Orande Crenshaw is a former football standout at Costa Mesa.
Nelson ranks as the No. 2 quarterback nationally behind Arch Manning from Louisiana, according to 247Sports. Arch is the son of Cooper Manning, the brother of former NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli.
The arrival of two transfer quarterbacks at Tesoro High has set up an intriguing competition between reunited teammates.
Juniors Gavin Shaigineik (6-0, 160) and Evan Pierce (6-1, 180) have both recently transferred to the South Coast League school from Santa Margarita.
Tesoro football coach Matt Poston said on Wednesday, July 14 that the two are the Titans’ main contenders at the position.
Shaigineik recently made the switch after playing for Santa Margarita at the South County passing tournament at Mission Viejo on Saturday, July 10. He split time with Jaxon Potter, a transfer from JSerra, in a loss against eventual champion Los Alamitos in the quarterfinals.
Shaigineik also helped Santa Margarita win Edison’s Battle at the Beach 7-on-7 tournament for the first time on July 3. He recently landed offers from Florida State and Charlotte.
Pierce transferred to Tesoro last month after two years at Santa Margarita. He started on the freshman team in 2019.
Shaigineik and Pierce not only attended Santa Margarita this past year, they were once teammates on the Colts 4 Vert, youth passing team associated with San Juan Hills.
Tesoro finished 3-2 overall, 1-2 in the South Coast in the spring season.
LOS ALAMITOS HIRES QUARTERBACK GURU
Los Alamitos has hired quarterback guru Danny Hernandez as an assistant coach, Griffins coach Ray Fenton confirmed. Hernandez, not surprisingly, will coach the Griffins’ quarterbacks, a group led by highly-recruiting junior Malachi Nelson.
Fenton’s son, TJ, also a former quarterback, serves as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Hernandez has worked with several top high school quarterbacks in recent years, including former Mater Dei standout Bryce Young, now at Alabama.
MARINA TOURNAMENT SATURDAY
San Clemente, San Juan Hills, Capistrano Valley, Corona del Mar, Cypress and Pacifica are among the teams headed to Marina’s Surf City Challenge passing tournament on Saturday. Long Beach Poly and Centennial Corona are among the top non-county teams.
Centennial Corona finished second to Mater Dei last week at the Brave 8 Invitational at St. John Bosco.
MISSION VIEJO — Capistrano Valley High’s football team showed Saturday, July 10 that offensive highlights are still possible after graduating a 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior quarterback with a live arm.
If there’s a dynamic duo ready.
New starting quarterback Trey Kukuk and emerging wide receiver Dane Benedix — both juniors — proved well-equipped, helping the Cougars turn in a strong performance at the South County passing tournament at Mission Viejo.
The reigning Sea View League champion beat Long Beach Poly, Pacifica and St. Bonaventure to take second in Group B to Servite and reach the Gold playoff bracket. Capistrano Valley fell again to the Friars in the quarterfinals before falling 22-16 to Norco in a spirited consolation semifinal.
“Pretty good day,” Cougars coach Sean Curtis said. “We’ve really only been in practice for 3 1/2 weeks now so we’re hoping to stay on this trajectory.”
Kukuk, who is replacing Saddleback College commit Dartanyon Moussiaux, threw a short touchdown to Benedix against Norco and a deep, scoring strike to senior wide receiver Owen Taylor.
The effort continued Kukuk’s impressive transformation during this short offseason caused by the pandemic. As a sophomore in the spring, he earned all-league honors at linebacker while the strong-armed Moussiaux passed for nearly 1,800 yards and 20 TDs in just five games.
In preparation for the South County tournament, Kukuk led the Cougars to a sweep of Mission Viejo, Santa Margarita and JSerra in a four-way passing event at Capistrano Valley. Curtis said Kukuk will be a dual threat quarterback once the pads come on in the fall.
“We’re building really strong chemistry,” Benedix said of Kukuk. “He’s dropping some dimes left and right.”
Benedix (6-1, 185) was the No. 1 option against Norco, showcasing strong hands, route running and athleticism. He was the sixth man on the Cougars’ basketball team that reached the CIF-SS Division 1 finals in early June.
“(Kukuk) is really managing the offense well but we put it on our receivers now,” Curtis said. “Dart really elevated our receiver group last year and we think our receivers are going to elevate the quarterback play this year.”
Last season, Benedix teamed with Justin Richardson and Taylor to led the Cougars’ receiving group with 40 catches for 499 yards and seven TDs.
Capistrano Valley’s cast this fall also should include senior slot receiver Mark Hopkins.
“I think we have the three best receivers in the county,” Curtis said.
On defense, senior linebacker Damien Berg notched two of the Cougars’ three interceptions against Norco.
Capistrano Valley returns to tournament competition this Saturday at Marina.
COSTA MESA — The Orange County North-South All-Star Classic football game is targeting a return on Saturday, Feb. 5, game organizer Ron Amburgey of non-profit Costa Mesa United said on Thursday, July 1.
Game organizers also are working on securing a venue and selecting coaches for the game, which would feature players from the class of 2022.
Costa Mesa United and the Los Angeles Chargers remain the main sponsors of the event. The game wasn’t played for the class of 2021 because of the pandemic.
Veteran Los Alamitos High girls water polo coach Dave Carlson, a three-time Orange County coach of the year, has been placed on administrative leave from coaching the Griffins but remains a teacher at the school, he said on Wednesday, June 23.
“I’m in good spirits and confident that this will be resolved soon,” Carlson said.
Los Alamitos interim principal Gregg Stone told the school’s water polo families on June 13 that Carlson “is currently not a part of the Los Alamitos High School Water Polo coaching staff” as he shared information about summer camps. The e-mail didn’t not explain Carlson’s absence.
Los Alamitos Unified School District superintendent Andrew Pulver on Wednesday declined to address Carlson’s standing at Los Alamitos.
“We do not comment on personnel matters,” Pulver said in an e-mail. “If and when complaints are made regarding an employee, our (human resources) department handles the matter under our normal procedures.”
Regraded as one of the top water polo coaches in Orange County, Carlson guided Los Alamitos girls to a 3-6 overall record in the coronavirus-shortened season in March, including a 2-4 mark in the challenge Surf League. The squad didn’t feature a senior.
In 2019-20, Los Alamitos finished 14-13 overall and lost in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs to juggernaut Laguna Beach. The Griffins last won a league title in 2018 when they claimed a third consecutive Sunset crown.
Carlson’s girls teams have been regular members of the Orange County top-10 rankings during his tenure and traditionally played a demanding nonleague and tournament schedule against other Division 1 teams.
His notable alumni include two-time county player of the year Rachel Fattal, who on Wednesday was named to her second U.S. Olympic team, USC’s Bayley Weber, a former county player and athlete of the year, and Olympian Tim Hutten.
Carlson guided the Los Alamitos boys to a CIF-SS Division 2 title in 2004, a Masters crown in 2007 and the Marina girls to a Division 1 championship in 1998.
The uncertainty around the Los Alamitos girls program arrives as boys water polo coach Brent Danna has resigned after seven seasons to spend more time with his family. Stone announced the change in an e-mail June 16.
Danna said he will remain the boys swim coach, teach at the school and help with girls golf.
The Los Alamitos boys went 8-2 overall in March and won a third straight Wave League. The Griffins reached the second round of the Division 2 playoffs in 2019.
Please send water polo news to Dan Albano at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter
Two players from Trinity League powerhouse St. John Bosco and another from a strong program in Arizona have transferred to Los Alamitos High, Griffins football coach Ray Fenton said on Monday, June 21.
Running back/athlete Nygel Osborne and Braves defensive back Kevin Longstreet — both of whom will be juniors in the fall — have joined the reigning Sunset League champion Griffins, who opened summer practice on Monday.
Osborne (5-10, 190) holds offers from San Diego State, Arizona State and Colorado.
On the Braves’ depth chart at running back, he ranked behind returning seniors Jabari Bates, Rayshon Luke and Michael Hayes this past spring but showed promise by averaging 7.0 yards per carry for 16 attempts.
Longstreet is a 5-foot-9, 165-pound cornerback.
Defensive back/athlete Jordan Ginnis of Arizona’s Saguaro also has enrolled at Los Alamitos, Fenton said. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior finished as Saguaro’s fifth-leading tackler in the spring with 25 total tackles in five games. The all-region selection also returned an interception for a score.
Ginnis’ brother, EJ, was a standout football player at Edison a few years ago.
The arrival of the trio could help the Griffins cope with the loss late last season of defensive back/running back Lane Broderick to a knee injury,
Please send football news to Dan Albano at email@example.com or @ocvarsityguy Twitter