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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.

Three Harvard-Westlake players help USA Water Polo cadet team win gold at tournament in Serbia

George Avakian, Nolan Krutonog and Nico Tierney, expected to be top sophomore water polo players at Harvard-Westlake this fall, helped the U.S. men's cadet national team win the gold medal at the Darko Cukic Memorial tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, with a 9-6 win over Croatia.

It's an historic win for a U.S. team in an international tournament.

Avakian led all scorers with three goals. Krutonog, the goalie, turned away 17 shots.

Avakian played at La Cañada last season but is in the process of transferring to Harvard-Westlake.

The team is filled with Southern California products. Here's the link to the overall cadet roster.


Mission Viejo, St. Margaret's, Villa Park win football openers in Hawaii

It was an Orange County sweep in football openers in Hawaii this weekend.

Mission Viejo completed the sweep with a 39-14 win over Baldwin on Saturday night in Maui.

Joey Yellen, a junior quarterback who transferred from St. John Bosco, made an impressive debut, throwing touchdown passes to Austin Osborne, Olaijah Griffin and Elijah Collier.

Jamari Ferrell rushed for more than 100 yards for the Diablos, who opened a 39-0 lead.

Also on Saturday, St. Margaret's defeated Kealakehe, 34-14.

On Friday, Villa Park defeated Honolulu Damien, 14-6.


Get Eric Sondheimer's latest updates from the field


Sherman Oaks Notre Dame shows off running game

Despite two offensive line starters being held out because of injuries, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame showed off a promising rushing attack on Friday night in a scrimmage against St. Bonaventure.

Junior running back McKel Broussard ran hard and gave every indication he has the ability to be a productive back for the Knights. Quarterback Noah Taylor, a standout on the baseball team, also has running skills. Cameron Jones, a receiver, had a touchdown on a fly sweep.

St. Bonaventure was making its debut under first-year coach Tony Henney, who had success during his days at Nordhoff, Trabuco Hills and Westlake. The Seraphs are in a rebuilding mode after player defections following uncertainty about who their coach would be.

Under new Southern Section playoff divisions, it's important to win games in the nonleague season to be able to make it to the playoffs, so Notre Dame will be trying to go 4-0 before entering the Mission League. The Knights open against Santa Maria St. Joseph at home on Friday, followed by games against Birmingham, Leuzinger and San Fernando.

St. Bonaventure hosts El Camino Real at Ventura College on Friday, followed by games against Lawndale, St. Joseph, Argonaut, Hart and Paraclete.


Fairfax is thrilled with its new quarterback, junior Scott Harris

Fairfax unveiled its new quarterback on Thursday in a scrimmage against Birmingham. Junior Scott Harris is a transfer from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame who played junior varsity last season.

"He's good," Birmingham coach Jim Rose said.

Fairfax coach Shane Cox is even more impressed.

"He's a great passer, a great runner," Cox said. "We're extremely happy to have him."

Fairfax will be part of an extremely competitive Western League this season. From top to bottom, there won't be any easy games, and picking a league champion will be no easy task.

It must be tough to be a quarterback at Notre Dame because another former Knight passer, Erik Zimmerman, is in contention to start at Corona del Mar this season.


T.J. who? Chaminade is just fine with running back Andrew Van Buren

T.J. Pledger was supposed to be one of the top running backs in California at Chaminade this season. Then he moved to Florida to attend IMG Academy. Don't feel sorry for the Eagles, because his backup, Andrew Van Buren, is quite a player.

Van Buren, committed to Boise State, had three touchdown runs on Thursday night in a scrimmage against City Section power Narbonne in which the Eagles pretty much ran at-will when using their power pitch offense. The Eagles opened a 35-17 lead early in the third quarter.

Chaminade's offensive line is outstanding, led by Dylan Kellogg, and starting next week against Oaks Christian, opponents had better be ready for the Eagles' short-yardage offense.

Quarterbacks Ryan Stevens and Mac Griffin were also efficient and effective. Stevens had a TD pass to Nick Crespo.

Narbonne was successful when quarterback Jalen Chatman was able to get tempo going on offense. He had a 65-yard touchdown pass to Noah Jackson and another short TD pass. He was intercepted by Dallas Taylor-Cortez and Blake Antzoulatos.

Narbonne held out running back Jermar Jefferson, who was nursing a knee bruise. The Gauchos open next week at home against Gardena Serra.

Edgar Ramos made a 38-yard field goal for Narbonne. Jonah Lipel was booming kickoffs into the end zone for Chaminade.



Thousand Oaks, Westlake win Southern Section appeals on football placement

The Southern Section Executive Committee voted Thursday to uphold the appeals of Thousand Oaks and Westlake over their new football league placement for next season.

The successful appeals means the Northern Area must go back to the drawing board and try to figure out an acceptable plan for new leagues.

"There was no definable criteria used in establishing those leagues," Thousand Oaks Coach Mike Leibin said.

Agoura also appealed but was rejected.

An appeal by Laguna Beach was rejected. Laguna Hills won its appeal for all sports and its area must meet again to decide league placement.


Matt Sorensen is new baseball coach at Golden Valley

Golden Valley announced the hiring of Matt Sorensen as its new baseball coach.

Sorensen starred at Cal State Fullerton, where he pitched in the 1999 College World Series.

He's a former Brea Olinda head coach.


Giancarlo Stanton's high school coach, Tom Dill, is pretty excited

Giancarlo Stanton (right) and Hunter Greene in a 2016 photo at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. (Eric Sondheimer)
Giancarlo Stanton (right) and Hunter Greene in a 2016 photo at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. (Eric Sondheimer)

With every home run Giancarlo Stanton hits for the Miami Marlins (he's up to 44), Sherman Oaks Notre Dame Coach Tom Dill gets more excited.

"Unbelievable," he said.

Dill was Stanton's baseball coach at Notre Dame. Kevin Rooney coached him in football and Bill Bedgood coached him in basketball. Stanton, 27, was All-CIF in each sport.

The moon shots coming from his bat have a whole nation of baseball fans offering admiration.

Dill, though, is the one who still talks with Stanton frequently by phone. There's a life-size poster of Stanton in the Notre Dame baseball clubhouse.

"It's pretty cool," Dill said of seeing Stanton hit home runs in six consecutive games.

Fans in the San Fernando Valley and the 818 area code have long known that Stanton is one of the greatest athletes to come out of the area. Now many others are getting to understand his immense power and skills.


19 Banning players are suspended for opener because of 2016 altercation

The punishment for players who left the bench during an altercation involving Banning and El Camino Real in the playoffs at the end of last football season will hit the Pilots hard.

Banning will be without 19 returning players for its season opener on Aug. 25 against North Torrance. They must serve one-game suspensions, City Section Commissioner John Aguirre said Tuesday. Aguirre said Banning has enough players to field a team for the game, despite the suspensions.

Three other former Banning players who transferred to Carson are also facing one-game suspensions. A fourth former Banning player now at Carson has a 30-day suspension for participating in the altercation. It began on Aug. 7, the first day of practice in full pads. He'll end up missing two games.

Aguirre said he reviewed film of the incident last week. El Camino Real previously punished its players last season, holding them out of a playoff game.


JSerra looks to thrive under Coach Pat Harlow

For years, Pat Harlow was one of the most respected assistant coaches. The former USC and NFL offensive lineman was considered a great line coach.

Now he's the head coach at JSerra in his first season. Get ready for the Lions to thrive.

These are exciting times for Harlow, whose son, Sean, is trying to earn a starting spot with the Atlanta Falcons on their line. His youngest son, Jack, is a 6-foot-2, 280-pound junior at JSerra.

There's lots of talent at JSerra, which returns 13 starters.

Quarterback Matt Robinson already has demonstrated his ability. He's twice been selected first-team all-Trinity League. He can run, pass and lead.

Shawn Nielsen, whose father, Ron, played at UCLA, is an improving lineman and will team with returnee Jack Bolduc, another lineman.

The addition of the McClain brothers — Abdul-Malik and Munir — from Santa Margarita, adds to the talent.

JSerra has a challenging schedule with nonleague games against Corona del Mar, Alemany, Bishop Amat, Vista Murrieta and Los Alamitos before entering the powerful Trinity League schedule.

JSerra is also going to play home games for the first time on campus.

In Harlow, JSerra thinks it has a leader around whom it can rally.




With Makani Whiteside now at Taft, City Section is loaded with top guards

With junior guard Makani Whiteside transferring from St. John Bosco to Taft, the City Section is suddenly loaded with top guards for the 2017-18 basketball season.

Taft now has Kihei Clark, a senior who's committed to UC Davis, and sophomore Demetrius Calip. The 6-foot-3 Whiteside, an outstanding student, averaged 14.3 points as a sophomore.

Fairfax is the City title favorite with the return of guards Jamal Hartwell and Ethan Anderson. Westchester also has a pair of outstanding guards in Jordan Brinson and Jeremiah Turley.

Birmingham returns All-City guard Devonaire Doutrive.


Marvin Bagley III says he will reclassify and attend Duke

Marvin Bagley III is already used to cameras and attention after playing in Drew League this summer (Eric Sondheimer)
Marvin Bagley III is already used to cameras and attention after playing in Drew League this summer (Eric Sondheimer)

Marvin Bagley III, considered the No. 1 high school basketball player in America for the class of 2018, announced Monday night that he is done with prep basketball. He will reclassify and attend Duke.

Bagley, a 6-foot-11 forward who's 18 years old, played for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon last season as a junior, averaging 24.6 points and 10.1 rebounds. There was speculation all summer that he would not return to Sierra Canyon and would seek to take his talent to the college or professional level. He finally made his announcement live on ESPN's SportsCenter and was down to Duke, UCLA and USC.

He said since Duke offered him a scholarship as a ninth grader, he had been interested in the school.

"I really trust the coaching staff over there," Bagley said. "They told me if i went there, it would go smooth and get me better. I'm very happy with my decision."

By completing his high school credits and joining a college team now, it means Bagley will be eligible for the 2018 NBA draft and put him into position to be a candidate for the No. 1 spot.

Bagley has spent the summer playing in the Drew League in Los Angeles against pros and ex-pros. Drew League chief financial officer Mike McCaa said, "In 44 years, he's had the most impact of any high school player I've witnessed."

Here's the news release on Tuesday from Duke basketball confirming Bagley had signed a financial aid agreement.


Granada Hills names baseball, girls' golf coaches

Granada Hills has named new coaches for baseball and girls' golf.

Matt Matuszak, who coached football and baseball at James Logan in Northern California, is the new baseball coach. Jordan Berger, a former Taft standout, will be an assistant coach.

Dan and Brady Ma will take over the girls' golf program. Dan has been an assistant with the boys' program. His son, Brady, is a former Granada Hills golfer.


Corona attracts sophomore QB Shane Illingworth from Centennial

First-year Corona coach Ron Gueringer has picked up at least five football players from rival Corona Centennial. Now it's up to the school and the Southern Section office to decide their eligibility.

The No. 1 transfer might be 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback Shane Illingworth, who would have been the backup to Tanner McKee at Centennial.

Also at Corona is receiver Manny Allen.

Complicating the situation is that five former Centennial assistant coaches went to Corona but have since left. CIF rules bar players from following a coach to a new school, and if any player moved before the coaches left, they could be ineligible under CIF rules.


Kickers/punters are ready to make impact

Harvard-bound kicker Jonah Lipel of Chaminade (Eric Sondheimer)
Harvard-bound kicker Jonah Lipel of Chaminade (Eric Sondheimer)

Jonah Lipel of Chaminade can punt, kick, gets all As on his report card and wants to be either a doctor or attorney. He turned down a scholarship offer from UCLA to attend Harvard.

He knows how to produce under pressure, which helps make him a good kicker.

There are others just like him who know how to handle pressure.

Junior Nicholas Barr-Mira of Loyola had a 50-yard field goal on junior varsity and is ready to be an impact player for the Cubs.

Henry Caceres of Fremont is a soccer player who booted a 53-yard field goal last season. Campbell Geddes of Palisades has been receiving rave reviews at summer kicking competitions.

Antonio Loera of Rancho Cucamonga is coming off a season in which he made 13 field goals. Aaron Rodriguez of Hart is a junior punter-kicker who was 10 of 11 on field goals.

Jack Luckhurst, a junior at Bishop Diego, averaged 48.3 yards on punts. Dylan Brady of Santa Margarita is known for his booming kickoffs. Tristan Trager of San Clemente was nine of 11 on field goals.

Note: The Times begins its nine-part series previewing Southern California's top players on Wednesday.


Looking back at the 2010 Servite-Gardena Serra scrimmage, a high-intensity classic

Lots of schools will be holding football scrimmages on Thursday and Friday, including Gardena Serra at Servite on Thursday at 5 p.m.

It brings back memories to the best scrimmage I've ever seen. It happened in 2010 matching Servite and Serra. Servite would go on to win the Division I title. Serra would go 14-1 and win its divisional championship.

The intensity level was amazing.

Among the Serra players were Marqise Lee, George Farmer, Conner Preston and Woodson Greer. Among the Servite players were Cody Pittman, Butch Pauu and Karlton Dennis. Troy Niklas was on the team but didn't play.

Serra coach Scott Altenberg still remembers the opening kickoff.

 "Greer knocked off a kid’s helmet and Marqise scooped it up and ran it in, and I don't think the kickoff was supposed to be live," he said.

Said Troy Thomas, the Servite coach: "All of us were like, 'Who was that wide receiver?' It was Marqise Lee."

"They wanted to get after it and we did, too," Altenberg said.

Here's the link to what I wrote back in 2010.

Now coaches have kind of low-keyed scrimmages. They don't want to get anyone hurt.

Chaminade is hosting Narbonne on Thursday in another scrimmage to watch.


A look at the top 10 teams in City Section football

Sophomore Mason White of Birmingham was only 13 last season, so he couldn't play varsity football. (Jim Rose)
Sophomore Mason White of Birmingham was only 13 last season, so he couldn't play varsity football. (Jim Rose)

It's time to offer an early evaluation of the top teams in City Section football. Scrimmages are set for this week, with zero week games on Aug. 25.

1. Narbonne. The Gauchos ended summer play with a dud. The passing game was inconsistent, and players hardly looked motivated. Things better change with pads on because nonleague games against Gardena Serra, Long Beach Poly and Corona Centennial will require an improved performance. Running back Jermar Jefferson is a highly regarded transfer from Redondo who should take heat off quarterback Jalen Chatman. The offensive line should be outstanding. The defense has the best City Section linebacking trio in Raymond Scott, Darien Butler and Julian Lewis.

2. Dorsey. The Dons gave Narbonne a scare in last year’s final and will embark on a challenging nonleague schedule that starts with Calabasas on Aug. 24. Their focus is on getting back to the final. There’s top individual players in running back Charles Mincy Jr., defensive end Tim Mosley and tight end Isaiah Smalls.

3. Crenshaw. It’s tough to get a preseason rundown on the Cougars because their veteran coach, Robert Garrett, isn't enthusiastic about welcoming people to practice. In spring passing competitions, the Cougars showed good potential with Los Angeles transfer Isaiah Johnson at quarterback. Rayshawn Williams, a standout as a freshman, is expected back at receiver after missing 2016 because of a knee injury. Jared Greenfield was a star at defensive back as a freshman. Patrick Willis should be a star at linebacker, and lineman Ahmir Crowder has several scholarship offers. Crenshaw also has a much easier nonleague schedule than recent years.

4. San Fernando. Experience on the offensive and defensive lines, experience at quarterback and five solid running backs make the Tigers the best team from the San Fernando Valley and capable of being a City Section disruptor. The Gill brothers, Trevor and Trenton, transfers from Crespi, should add speed to the team.

5. San Pedro. Coach Corey Miller was a longtime assistant to Mike Walsh, and Walsh is still around to offer words of wisdom when needed. That kind of stability always makes the Pirates tough. Corey Fausto will be a three-way starter at receiver and safety. Junior Gafa is a hard-nosed middle linebacker. Sean Davenport is a top running back and tackler on defense. The Pirates get Narbonne at home on Oct. 20, and winning at San Pedro is no easy task.

6. Carson. First-year coach Arnold Ale returns to his alma mater, but you’ll have to wait until Oct. 2 to see how good the Colts might be. They have 17 transfers, according to the City Section, and many have to sit out the first five games. Jaja Bellinger has been starting at quarterback since his freshman season, so the Colts have a veteran to build around.

7. Birmingham. The Patriots are capable of being a surprise team if their young players develop quickly. Sophomore safety-receiver Mason White would have been good enough to start on varsity as a freshman, but he was 13 and didn’t turn 14 until the playoffs. Receiver-defensive back Marcos Moran was an All-City selection.

8. Venice. With the availability of quarterback Luca Diamont uncertain after he suffered a head injury falling off a golf cart, the Gondoliers are expected to turn to receiver Dion Moore, who could add a running dimension to the offense at quarterback. They still have talented running back in Justin Cauley.

9. Westchester. The Comets return quarterback Jonathan Murphy, who passed for 2,705 yards and 25 touchdowns. Also returning is running back Estabon Bozeman, who gained 1,370 yards.

10. Palisades. Several transfers should provide a lift for the Dolphins, who need to get solid play at quarterback to thrive in Division I. Windward transfers Campbell Geddes (kicker) and Baraka Beckett (line) should be All-City players. The best player is 325-pound lineman Syr Riley.

Garfield and South Gate should battle it out in the Eastern League, with the winner having a chance to do something in the playoffs.

This will be the first season the City Section has an eight-team Open Division for the playoffs.

All 24 teams in Division I will qualify for the post-season. Eight go in the Open Division and 16 in Division I.

Huntington Park, Reseda and South East would be considered the favorites in Division II.

Granada Hills Kennedy and Torres are the teams to beat in Division III.


League champion 100 meters runner moves from Chatsworth to Birmingham

For the second consecutive year, Chatsworth has seen the fastest athlete at its school move away.

Last year, it was City 100-meter champion Daniel Kamulali leaving for Sierra Canyon. Now, Daivion Barton, the West Valley League 100 champion, has enrolled at Birmingham, where he'll also play defensive back for the football team.

He placed seventh at the City finals.

Birmingham also picked up linebacker DJ Banks from Alemany, a junior.


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