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Eric Sondheimer has been covering high school sports for the Los Angeles Times since 1997 and in Southern California since 1976. Get his latest from the field and follow all our prep sports coverage and analysis here.


Culver City-Fairfax, Santa Margarita-Bishop Montgomery meet in basketball

The Southern California Black Coaches Assn. is sponsoring two days of basketball competitions this weekend to raise money for a Houston school in need of repairs following Hurricane Harvey.

Among the games are two top matchups scheduled for Sunday at Maranatha.

At 4 p.m., Culver City is playing Fairfax. At 5 p.m., Santa Margarita is taking on Bishop Montgomery. All four schools figure to be top 25 candidates.

Football: Thursday's scores

Thursday, Sept. 21st



Shadow Hills 49, Cathedral City 16


Anaheim 23, Loara 8

Coachella Valley 35, Rubidoux 34

La Puente 27, Gladstone 19

Garden Grove Santiago 24, Magnolia 14

Placentia Valencia 30, Troy 13

Santa Ana 59, Santa Ana Valley 21

Sonora 42, Bolsa Grande 0

Trinity Classical Academy 36, Southlands Christian 0

Workman 40, Bosco Tech 34 (OT)


Orange 23, Redwood City Sequoia 16




Upland Christian 63, Noli Indian 20

Get Eric Sondheimer's latest updates from the field


Riley Battin of Oak Park commits to Utah

Riley Battin, a 6-foot-10 senior at Oak Park, has committed to play basketball at Utah.

Battin is expected to be one of the top big men in Southern California this coming season.

He's known for his perimeter shooting and strong rebounding. He has worked on improving his strength and slimming down for the upcoming season.


Sierra Canyon receives lift from freshman QB Chayden Peery

Sierra Canyon has won three consecutive games since an upset loss to Westlake in its season opener, and the Trailblazers have done it behind freshman quarterback Chayden Peery.

"He's an extremely talented young man and I'm excited about his prospects now and going forward,"  coach Jon Ellinghouse said. "He's been the best freshman I've been around. What strikes me is his composure."

Peery, 6 feet 1, 200 pounds, has taken over for Mason Quandt, who suffered a knee injury in the season opener.

Sierra Canyon is also getting strong play from sophomore running back John Williams.

The Trailblazers should be able to tell just how much improvement they've made after Friday's road game against Redondo (2-2), which is led by quarterback Jack Alexander, who has 10 touchdown passes.


It took 22 years, but Jermaine Lewis finally avenged loss to Hart

It was 22 years ago in the 1995 Southern Section Division 2 championship football game that running back Jermaine Lewis of Antelope Valley saw his team lose to Hart 35-28.

Fast-forward to last Friday night. Lewis, the first-year head coach of Antelope Valley, celebrated his team's 44-38 overtime win over the Indians. He got his revenge.

Defensive end Bradley Brown had a big game with a relentless pass rush. And sophomore running back Jermaine Marshall rushed for 232 yards in 30 carries and scored five touchdowns.

Antelope Valley is 2-1 and favored to defend its Golden League championship. And coach Lewis is very happy.


Narbonne leaves for Hawaii on Thursday

Narbonne's football team is leaving for Hawaii on Thursday morning. The team is scheduled to play Honolulu St. Louis on Saturday night.

St. Louis is 4-0 and coming off a 49-13 win over Punahou, a team that defeated Garden Serra, 56-42. Narbonne defeated Serra, 17-14.

Beyond the game, the Narbonne team is scheduled to visit the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Friday and also have a luau.

Considering how big some of Narbonne's linemen are, viewing the feeding frenzy should be quite a sight.

Swimming will be saved until after the game on Saturday or Sunday morning. The team is set to return Sunday night.

Narbonne is 2-2 and gets a bye next week before opening Marine League play against Carson on Oct. 6.


City Section's Dymally cancels football season for second consecutive year

Dymally High School in Los Angeles has canceled its football season for the second consecutive year because of "insufficient" numbers, the City Section announced Wednesday.

"They were unable to get enough students," said Trent Cornelius, the director of athletics for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The team did not play any games this season and forfeited three games last year before canceling its season.

Dymally had teams in 2014 and 2015 after opening in 2012.


QB J.P. Andrade of Bonita is rolling up passing yards

Junior quarterback J.P. Andrade of Bonita is hitting the 400-yard passing mark pretty consistently -- at least the last two weeks.

On Sept. 8 against Riverside Poly, he was 30 of 39 passing for 485 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-12 win over Riverside Poly.

Last week, he was 37 of 56 for 418 yards and five touchdowns in a 39-35 loss to Buena.

He has passed for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns in four games.


They are Loyola's three amigos who kick, punt and long snap

Loyola's special teams has been pretty good with kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira (left), long snapper Jac Casasante and punter Collin Flintoft. (Eric Sondheimer)
Loyola's special teams has been pretty good with kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira (left), long snapper Jac Casasante and punter Collin Flintoft. (Eric Sondheimer)

Loyola has sent its share of kickers, punters and long snappers on to the college ranks through the years and the Cubs have another impressive trio this season.

Junior kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira, senior punter Collin Flintoft and senior long snapper Jac Casasante have been important contributors in a 3-1 start.

Barr-Mira is the younger brother of former Cubs standout Anthony Barr. Flintoft is the cousin of UCLA punter Stefan Flintoft. Also helping out has been holder Michael Bearden.

Barr-Mira is the goalie for Loyola's soccer team. He has a tremendous leg. Flintoft used to kick with his cousin during family Thanksgiving in Lake Arrowhead. They haven't broken any windows -- yet.

"The closest was hitting a ball into a parking lot," Flintoft said.

Casasante has the toughest task, having to lay low.

"The life of a long snapper is not to have your name mentioned unless it's for a tackle," he said.

Loyola opens Mission League play on Friday at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.


Crespi's Brandon Williams is nearing a return to basketball court

Crespi guards Brandon Williams, left, and Taj Regans. (Eric Sondheimer)
Crespi guards Brandon Williams, left, and Taj Regans. (Eric Sondheimer)

If all goes as expected, standout senior guard Brandon Williams of Crespi said Tuesday he should receive doctor's clearance by Saturday to return to the basketball court.

"I feel I'm 100% right now, honestly," he said.

Williams missed all of his junior season after a misdiagnosed knee injury. He had surgery and has spent months preparing for his return.

Williams and his fellow guard, Taj Regans, have helped Crespi win two state titles in the last three years. Both were injured last year, so if they are healthy, beware of the Celts.

"I like our team," Coach Russell White said.

Junior forward Kyle Owens has grown to 6 feet 6. Russell Stong is poised for an outstanding season. And there's three 6-5 sophomore football players who will join the team to provide rebounding help.

One of Williams' first games back should be a fall league game against Oak Park on Oct. 1 at 12:30 p.m. at Calabasas as part of the Joseph Frazier showcase.

Williams, an Arizona commit, is considered one of the top guards in California when healthy. And he says he's healthy.

Lacrosse is still short of teams in Southern Section

The 2018 lacrosse season in the Southern Section is approaching, but the number of teams for boys and girls remains short of the required 116 to have a championship run by the Southern Section office.

There are 97 boys teams scheduled to compete in the Southern Section. There are 83 girls teams.

Until the 116 figure is reached for boys or girls, lacrosse will remain a non-championship sport in the Southern Section.


Freshman Griffin Cleveland of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame can act and catch passes

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame coach Kevin Rooney had no idea that freshman receiver Griffin Cleveland is an actor.

"He's doing well in football," Rooney said.

Cleveland has appeared in more than a dozen TV shows.

Cleveland is on the freshman team, which is 3-1.

His father, Chris, helps coach JV football at Notre Dame and he's also an actor.

So if TMZ starts showing up to Notre Dame games, you'll know why.


Chaminade earns the favorite's role as Mission League begins

Usually it's Gardena Serra or Bishop Amat in the favorite's role for the start of the Mission League in football. But this season, it's Chaminade earning the spot.

The Eagles are 3-1 and put up a solid game against No. 2-ranked St. John Bosco. Their offensive line is outstanding and the defense is much improved. They have Stanford-bound Michael Wilson at receiver and a solid quarterback in Ryan Stevens.

After the Eagles, everything is wide open. The opening games should be competitive except for Chaminade taking on 1-3 Crespi. The other two games have Sherman Oaks Notre Dame hosting Loyola and Alemany playing at Serra.

It's imperative for teams in Division 1 to earn one of the three automatic playoff berths from the Mission League. That's because the Trinity League is so strong this season all six teams should make Division 1 if spots are available.

Loyola and Alemany are the two Division 1 teams most in trouble without an automatic berth. Loyola upset Cathedral last week and starts league play with winnable games against Notre Dame, Bishop Amat and Crespi.

Alemany is 1-3 after a tough nonleague schedule. Serra is 1-2, with both losses coming because the Cavaliers couldn't come through late in games.

Bishop Amat is the unknown factor. The Lancers are 0-4 after losing to three top 25 teams -- Mater Dei, JSerra and Rancho Cucamonga. They're also suffering from injury issues. But if they can get healthy, there's still time for a comeback.

The game that could decide the league title is next Thursday when Chaminade hosts Serra.


L.A. Roosevelt is showing signs of life with a 4-0 record

A year ago, L.A. Roosevelt went 1-9 and ended its season with a 49-3 loss to rival Garfield, the seventh consecutive time the Rough Riders had lost to the Bulldogs.

Coach Ricardo Zepeda pleaded for his returning players to get into the weight room to become stronger.

It appears they listened. Roosevelt is off to a 4-0 start and showing signs of life.

"We've had a lot of kids step up," he said. "They hit the weight room."

The biggest surprise has been sophomore running back Frankie Cruz. Moved up from the JV team, he had 247 yards rushing against Franklin and has been over 100 yards in each game.

"He came out of nowhere," Zepeda said.

James Gomez has led an effective offensive line.

Next up is a tough road game against Westchester before starting the Eastern League against South East on Oct. 6.

And everyone has Oct. 27 on the calendar. That's the East L.A. Classic against Garfield. The Rough Riders are hoping to make up for last year.


Justin Hazell of El Camino Real wins Woodbridge Invitational and stamps himself as runner to watch

Justin Hazell of El Camino Real had the fastest time at the Woodbridge Invitational on Saturday. (Jun Reichl)
Justin Hazell of El Camino Real had the fastest time at the Woodbridge Invitational on Saturday. (Jun Reichl)

Justin Hazell of El Camino Real stamped himself as a contender to win a state championship in Division I cross country after recording the fastest time at the Woodbridge Invitational on Saturday.

He ran 13:59.5 for the three-mile course, defeating some of the best runners in California.

Hazell, a senior, won the City Section individual title last season and won the 1,600 and 3,200 at the City track finals. But his performance on Saturday shows much improvement.

El Camino Real Coach Jun Reichl credits Hazell’s work ethic for his steady growth.

“Honestly, I can’t think of a day he’s missed practice in the last four years,” he said. “He’s so consistent. I’ve relied on him building up his mileage gradually. We’ve focused more on doing faster workouts and running faster when it counts rather than running more.

“His mentality is phenomenal. He doesn’t set limits on himself. He’s the kind of kid if he believes he’s going to do something, he’s going to achieve it because he spends time visualizing.”

Hazell pulled away in the final 100 meters after running a 4:36 first mile, Reichl said.

“I knew he could do it, but it was a big statement,” Reichl said.

Hazell has been running for 10 years.

“When I was little, I was trying different sports, and I tried running and stuck with it,” Hazell said.


Mater Dei, Santa Margarita top girls' volleyball poll

Santa Ana Mater Dei is ranked No. 1 and Santa Margarita No. 2 in this week's Southern Section Division 1 girls' volleyball poll.

Westlake is No. 1 in Division 2, and Laguna Beach tops Division 3.

Here's the link to complete rankings.


Six Trinity League teams are ranked in Southern Section Division 1 coaches' poll

The strength of the Trinity League can be seen in this week's Southern Section Division 1 coaches' poll. All six schools are in the top 10.

Mater Dei is No. 1, St. John Bosco No. 2, Orange Lutheran No. 4, JSerra No. 7, Santa Margarita No. 8 and Servite No. 10.

Here's the link to the complete rankings.


In appreciation of Kevin Rooney, the coach who keeps coaching

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame football Coach Kevin Rooney is in his 38th season and has 299 career victories. (Eric Sondheimer)
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame football Coach Kevin Rooney is in his 38th season and has 299 career victories. (Eric Sondheimer)

Kevin Rooney arrived at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in the fall of 1980. He had been an assistant coach at Mountain View St. Francis in Northern California. He was hired to be the Knights' football coach and athletic director.

During the early years, I used to receive phone calls and real hand-written letters from people wondering why Rooney was ever hired. His first two teams went 3-7 and 4-5-1.

It's 38 seasons later. Notre Dame has won 18 league titles and four Southern Section titles. The team is 4-0 going into its Mission League opener on Friday at home against Loyola. And Rooney is still coaching.

"He's been at Notre Dame longer than most of the buildings and he's going to be there a lot longer," former assistant Jeff Kraemer said.

The biggest change is Rooney has a goatee. Assistant Joe McNab has been with him for 37 years. That's one of the secrets to his success. He has loyal assistants.

He's coached some terrific players through the years, from Justin Fargas to Giancarlo Stanton. He's gone from a run-oriented coach who relied on the option attack to a coach who wants to pass. He has always believed in special teams, which is why Notre Dame has two NFL kickers and also produced Chris Sailer, the kicking guru.

He's extremely competitive but always follows the rules. He's worked for five principals, all of whom placed the importance of developing and preparing his players for future success over wins and losses.

"In the beginning it was tough," Kraemer said. "He survived because he believed in himself."

His teams have won 299 games. No. 300 will get him lots of attention, especially if it happens on Friday, but the many wins off the field are far more important to him. Some of his former players have gone on to become lawyers, doctors, policemen, soldiers and businessmen. They return almost every year to say hello. Lots say, "Thank you."

As a sportswriter, I've covered him almost all of his 38 years, and he has stayed relatively calm though he used to get annoyed when I wrote about him driving around in his tiny white Toyota Tercel.

His longevity, perseverance and commitment to improvise with the changing times is admirable. Clearly his players have learned valuable lessons under his leadership. And to see him keep coaching in an era when parents and players don't necessarily believe in loyalty is a testament to Notre Dame's belief in what's important for its students.


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