Dana Hills, off the high school golf charts the last several years, shot to No. 1 with a bullet at the Southern Section Southern Regional Tuesday.
"We didn't get a lot of attention this year," Dana Hills Coach Phil Wilburton said. "Maybe today will help us get some more respect."
The Dolphins, unranked in the midseason Orange County coaches' poll, finished with 392 on the Orange course at Green River Golf Club, three strokes ahead of Huntington Beach. Esperanza and Corona del Mar tied for third at 396, but Esperanza won the tiebreaker with a better score by its sixth player.
The top three advance to the Southern Section team championship Monday at Canyon Country Club in Palm Springs.
Last season with largely the same team, Dana Hills finished 18th at the Southern Regional, but this time the Dolphins had plenty of firepower.
Aaron Smith shot two-over-par 73 and Matt Johnson shot 76. Nick Clemente shot 80, Chris Cox 81 and Jeremy Niednagel 82.
"We have a bunch of really solid golfers who are peaking at the right time," Wilburton said. "I'm very pleasantly surprised."
Dana Hills' strong showing cost Corona del Mar. The Sea Kings, ranked ninth in the county, got a 74 from Kevin Walden and a 77 from Billy Sarracino. But Esperanza squeaked by because the Aztecs' sixth player, Scott Lucidi, shot 86 and beat the Sea Kings' Jimmy Keane by a stroke.
Esperanza, ranked second in the county, was paced by Chris Berry, who shot 72, the second-best round after Western's Tiger Woods (70).
Berry atoned for the 84 he shot last season in this tournament, a score that probably cost the Aztecs a spot in the section final.
Santa Margarita, the defending CIF-Southern California Golf Assn. team champion and top-ranked team in the county, finished sixth with 403. Kellee Booth shot 76.