Varsity Times Insider High school sports across the Southland

After impressive nonleague showing, Trinity League football teams ready for 'monster clashes'

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider

Five weeks of high school football madness begins on Friday.

It’s called the Trinity League competition, in which six schools with a combined record of 28-2 start testing themselves against each other.

It’s an all-out weekly grind in what might be the strongest football league in the U.S.

“It’s how healthy you can stay for five weeks, and you better have some depth because it’s going to get real physical,” Santa Ana Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said.

Added JSerra coach Pat Harlow: “It’s just an absolute beast. It’s weekly monster clashes.”

The league has always been good, but this season’s impressive nonleague record combined with the quality of talent from top to bottom indicates the matchups could produce a series of classic games.

“I would have to say without a doubt this is the best the league has been,” said St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro. “It’s incredible.”

All six Trinity League teams are ranked in The Times’ top 25, led by No. 1 Mater Dei and No. 2 St. John Bosco.

“Five weeks of fun,” Rollinson said. “Going in, if you’re not prepared mentally and physically, anyone can beat anybody on a given night.”

For Friday’s openers, St. John Bosco (4-1) is playing Orange Lutheran (5-0) at Orange Coast College; Santa Margarita (4-1) is taking on Mater Dei (5-0) at Laguna Hills; and Anaheim Servite (5-0) is playing JSerra (5-0) at Cerritos College.

One reason the games could be more fierce than usual is that virtually every team has been trading players in the off season. There are former players from Santa Margarita and JSerra at Mater Dei. Orange Lutheran got two receivers from Servite. Servite has players from Mater Dei. St. John Bosco has players from JSerra. JSerra has players from Santa Margarita, which got players from public schools Troy, El Toro and Tesoro.

These six private schools are not shy about accepting transfer students. Mater Dei had 53 transfers from a variety of sports listed on the Southern Section website as of last week. Orange Lutheran had 46, JSerra 35, St. John Bosco 29, Santa Margarita 19 and Servite 17.

Some of the transfers were football players, and the reason they are important is because they fill gaps created by graduating players. Orange Lutheran became a different team with the help of its transfers. Mater Dei picked up major help on defense when linebackers Mase Funa and Solomon Tuliaupupu arrived from Santa Margarita and Claremont, respectively.

Also strengthening the league is the exceptional play at quarterback. Mater Dei’s J.T. Daniels has committed to USC, while St. John Bosco’s Re-al Mitchell is headed to Iowa State and JSerra’s Matt Robinson to Montana.

Ryan Hilinski of Orange Lutheran is completing 75% of his passes. T.J. McMahon of Servite is probably the biggest surprise with 11 touchdown passes and just one interception. Josiah Norwood of Santa Margarita has become feared because of his scrambling skills.

As if there isn’t enough intrigue, the long snappers for all six schools got together on Sunday for a group training session under private coach Matt Wigley. At least the long snappers like each other.

As much excitement as this weekend’s games will generate, it’s Oct. 13 that everyone has circled on their calendar. That’s the night for Mater Dei playing St. John Bosco at El Camino College. It will be the hottest ticket in Southern California.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @latsondheimer

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