High School Sports
Column

Before high school football season starts, story lines shape up

Eric Sondheimer
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Can Long Beach Poly's new spread offense return Jackrabbits to top of Pac-5?

Get ready for four months of nonstop high school football culminating with the CIF state championship bowl games Dec. 19 and 20 at StubHub in Carson. Here are some potential story lines to follow:

Which first-year coach will come out looking like a savior? There are high-profile first-year coaches and some formerly-retired coaches are back. It's going to be fun seeing who is able to exceed expectations among Antonio Pierce at Long Beach Poly, Bill Redell at Westlake Village Oaks Christian, Rick Curtis at Santa Margarita, Steve Bogan at Pasadena Maranatha, Adam Guerra at Ventura St. Bonaventure, Raul Lara at Downey Warren and Elijah Asante at Compton.

Will Long Beach Poly's new spread offense return the Jackrabbits to the top in the Pac-5? To win the Pac-5, getting past Poly had been the yearly challenge. Now the Jackrabbits are switching to an up-tempo, spread offense trying to take advantage of their speed, large offensive line and talented skill-position players. "We want to get the ball in as many playmakers' hands as possible," first-year Coach Pierce said.

Can St. John Bosco's defense be good enough to win another Pac-5? There's no doubt the Braves, coming off a 16-0 season, will be exceptional on offense with quarterback Josh Rosen and running back Sean McGrew. But who's going to rise up on defense? Trinity League teams will try to run the ball right through the Braves' interior.

Who's the No. 1 quarterback in Southern California? It's going to be the year of the quarterback, and who emerges No. 1 will be much debated. The talent level is as good as any time in the last 20 years. It's going to be tough to separate Rosen, Blake Barnett of Corona Santiago, Travis Waller of Anaheim Servite, Ricky Town of Ventura St. Bonaventure and Malik Henry of Westlake, among others.

Watch out for the Holmes family. Brothers Darick and Darnay Holmes and cousin Desean Holmes are going to be exciting players at Newbury Park and Mission Hills Alemany, respectively. Desean is committed to USC, Darick is committed to Arizona and Darnay is just a sophomore.

There's a new team to fear in the Pac-5. Adding the Big VIII League to the Pac-5 playoff division means Corona Centennial and its big-time offense must be dealt with come November. It's going to be no fun trying to prepare for the Huskies on a week's notice.

The rise of Upland. With Centennial gone from its playoff division, Upland players should be giving high-fives. Centennial scored 86 points against the Highlanders last season to eliminate them from the Inland Division playoffs. Any kind of improved defense will make Upland very tough to beat in the new West Valley Division.

Mission League madness. At the last minute, the formation of new leagues saw seven elite programs get put together in the new Mission League. Several schools and their fans are going to be very unhappy when they fail to make the playoffs. Only three teams are guaranteed spots from among Alemany, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Encino Crespi, La Puente Bishop Amat, Gardena Serra, West Hills Chaminade and Los Angeles Loyola. The matchups are going to be intense and unpredictable week after week come October.

New fields, new ideas: Loyola is hosting its first game on campus in 65 years on Sept. 12. Valencia, Canyon, St. Francis and many others are unveiling new or refurbished all-weather turf fields. If only there was rain to test the fields.

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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