Prep Rally: The football players having monster seasons so far

Roman Sanchez of San Pedro makes a one-handed catch.
(Craig Weston)
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Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. Four weeks into the high school football season, let’s examine some of the players who have sneaked up and become relevant.

Demanding relevancy

Roman Sanchez of San Pedro running against Venice.
(Craig Weston)

After all the time spent in the preseason ranking football players based on potential, it’s time to salute those who are actually producing and earning respect based on performance.


Junior receiver Marcus Brown of Mater Dei has gone from zero receptions last season to 13 receptions and six touchdowns.

Senior running back Delon Thompson of St. Bonaventure rushed for 262 yards against Inglewood, 369 yards vs. Oxnard Pacifica, 323 yards against San Diego Lincoln and 136 yards against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

Senior running back Roman Sanchez of San Pedro has often been unstoppable playing wildcat quarterback and he’s also not a bad as a ballcarrier for the 4-0 Pirates.

Eagle Rock running back/defensive back Anthony Leon has led his team to a 4-0 start.

Franklin sophomore quarterback Eduardo Cuevas has completed 79% of his passes for 646 yards and six touchdowns with one interception for 4-0 Panthers.

Rain comes to town

It was a rainy Friday night for Roosevelt and other teams.
(Luca Evans)

They weren’t quite expecting it. All week, the Roosevelt Rough Riders were stressing about how hot it was, running back Isiah Wright said — thick, muggy air, temperatures climbing into triple digits.

But when the clouds opened up in their 28-14 win over Dorsey on Friday night, turning the grass to a Slip-N-Slide, at least one sideline welcomed the rain.

“It was like pigs in mud,” Roosevelt coach Aldo Parral said. “We loved it. We’re gonna get dirty.”

Dorsey had a more difficult time than Roosevelt and their ground-heavy attack, fumbling a slippery football multiple times, players spilling out from the lack of traction. Coaches were told by referees to get off the field multiple times, only to complain they couldn’t see where said field was because chalk lines had been washed away.


“It’s playoff weather,” Dorsey coach Stafon Johnson said.

The last time Parral had coached a game in the rain was six or seven years ago, he said. But where the Dons tried to fight the rain, still launching passes as a part of their quick-hitting offense, Roosevelt embraced it — running the clock down on long drives as sidelines turned to mush.

There won’t be many football games like that in Southern California. But the next time a tropical storm drifts near Los Angeles, the Rough Riders will likely bask in the downpour.

— Luca Evans

Football rewind

Warren quarterback Nico Iamaleava (8) runs against Gardena Serra.
Warren quarterback Nico Iamaleava (8) runs against Gardena Serra on Friday.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Gardena Serra got back into the conversation of top teams by knocking off unbeaten Warren. Here’s the story. Rodrick Pleasant had two interceptions and a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

San Clemente stayed unbeaten by beating Corona del Mar. Here’s the story.

Roosevelt stayed unbeaten with a win over Dorsey, using its double-wing offense to perfection. Here’s the story.


A look at other top performances. Here’s the story.

Here’s this week’s top 25 rankings by The Times.

The big game this week has Santa Margarita playing Los Alamitos on Thursday night at Veterans Stadium. Here’s the complete week four schedule.

Player arrested

A player on the Montclair High football team was arrested by the Montclair Police Department on suspicion of submitting falsified documents to play, according to a statement emailed to The Times by the Chaffey Joint Union High School District.

According to a Sept. 9 letter obtained by The Times, sent by Montclair athletic director Bill Blades to the Southern Section, the football team will forfeit five wins from last season and one this season “due to having an ineligible player,” Blades wrote.

Here’s the report of the strange happenings.


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Newbury Park stays No. 1

Newbury Park distance standout Nico Young (center) with twin brothers Lex (left) and Leo.
Newbury Park distance standout Nico Young (center) with twin brothers Lex (left) and Leo. He was supposed to run in Arcadia Invitational on Saturday before it was canceled.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

How, exactly, is a boys’ high school cross-country team some called the greatest ever last season supposed to improve?

It will be the story of the season yet again, said one coach. Just how good will the Newbury Park boys’ team be? For a new version of that group that swept podiums and shattered records last season in an unprecedented run of dominance, it starts with a kid from Florida.

Brayden Seymour, once projected to be the Sunshine State’s top runner in its largest division, according to former Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty High coach Jay Getty, has transferred to Newbury Park for his senior season. Seymour is an uncannily cerebral runner, Getty said, who brings an elite level of dedication.

Newbury Park “has developed a self-sustaining model. … He’s going to slide right into that culture without a problem,” Getty said.

The Panthers’ traveling band of rock stars was well-known last season, a foursome that dazzled its way through meets. Lex Young. Leo Young. Colin Sahlman. Aaron Sahlman. Two sibling pairs, any of them capable of winning a race, all accounting for the top four three-mile times in the state in 2021. The Young brothers are committed to Stanford


“That top four — two sets of brothers, and in some ways, it’s four brothers,” Leo Young said last fall.

Here’s a cross-country preview.

There were races run on Saturday. Francisco Rodriguez of Franklin brought respect to the City Section, winning the senior class race at the Rosemead Invitational in 14:48.3. Kamrynn Grossman of Valencia recorded a winning girls time of 17:53.0.

At the Laguna Hills Invitational, Makenzie McRae of Huntington Beach had the fastest time of the day at 17:22.8 for girls.

Hall of Fame honorees

Twenty-three boys and girls from Los Angeles Unified School District schools who made an impact in high school sports have been selected to be part of the seventh induction class into the City Section Hall of Fame.

A number of outstanding coaches were selected, including Darryl Stroh (Granada Hills) and Mike Maio (El Camino Real) for baseball, Nick Rodinoff (Birmingham) for swimming, Don Gambril (Wilson) for aquatics, Gordon Weisenburger (Belmont) and Bruce Thomson (San Pedro) for cross country, Dave Yanai (Fremont) and Judi Edwards (Fairfax) for basketball.

Here’s the report.

Baseball medal winners

Members of the gold-medal winning USA 15U baseball team have returned from Mexico with much to celebrate after winning the tournament championship over Cuba 4-3.


James Tronstein, a freshman at Harvard-Westlake, said of the 13-day journey, “That was an unbelievable experience and I’ll always be grateful. There’s nothing better than representing your country.”

Tronstein, an outfielder, is a Stanford commit. Also coming home with a gold medal were sophomore Brady Ebel from Etiwanda, sophomore Brady Murrietta from Orange Lutheran, sophomore John Short from Cypress and sophomore Joshua Woodworth from Ventura. Woodworth has no time to rest. He’s also a top football player for Ventura.

A sports prodigy

JJ Harel, a freshman high jumper at Chaminade, shows off his 27 medals earned this past year in track and field competitions.
(Oren Harel)

Wearing a blue polo shirt, tan shorts and black sneakers, JJ Harel easily fits in as just another freshman walking around the campus of Chaminade High in West Hills. He celebrated his 14th birthday on Tuesday, his teenage sister baking him a cookie cake before he left for school.

Except there’s nothing ordinary about Harel, who has passports from Australia, Israel and the United States. He has sprouted to 6-foot-2, with veins sticking out from his arms and muscles bulging from his biceps even though he weighs a lean 150 pounds and doesn’t lift weights.


Most of his classmates at the Catholic high school have no idea that the mostly quiet, unassuming Jewish kid with blond hair and size 13 feet could be a future Olympian. At a minimum, with his 40-inch vertical leap, he’s going to be supplying plenty of entertaining dunks during freshman basketball games in the winter. First, though, he has to make the team later this month during tryouts.

He won’t have any trouble making the track team, for that is where his future lies. During the summer, he set an AAU Junior Olympics record in North Carolina by clearing 6-foot-5 in the high jump. He also won gold in the triple jump and javelin.

Here’s a profile on an athlete to watch in the coming years.

Water polo

Newport Harbor's Finn Leisure (7) scores
Newport Harbor’s Finn Leisure scores against Harvard-Westlake on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

The big match between Harvard-Westlake and defending Open Division champion Newport Beach was as good as expected.


Newport Harbor won 12-11.

Here’s the story.

Girls’ volleyball

Huntington Beach's Danielle Sparks (left) and Haylee LaFontaine have chosen college beach volleyball over indoor.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

It’s soft, soothing sand versus stiff, unforgiving hardwood. It’s warm sunlight versus harsh LED lights. It’s the tide’s salty air versus the stink of sweat in dingy gyms.

For Cypress High’s Zoey Henson, the girls’ indoor Empire League MVP last season, life in club volleyball was a constant cycle of rehab. Her shoulder was messed up. Her back was in constant pain. She almost tore her meniscus in a tournament. So despite only playing beach volleyball for three years, with indoor Division I offers ahead, she dropped club and switched to the sand.

It’s easier on the joints. You can finish a hard-fought match and splash into the ocean afterward. What’s not to love?

“I can tell that the ratio of girls who are choosing indoor over beach is going to definitely be a lot higher,” Henson said.


Introducing the newest trend in Southern California sports — a wave of beach interest that could have major effects on the future of college volleyball. Across the beach tournament circuit this summer, players like Newport Harbor’s Quinn Perry, Mater Dei’s Grace Hong and Marymount’s Julia Capps all made the choice to step away from strong indoor programs to focus solely on beach.

Here’s the link to the girls’ volleyball notebook.

Notes . . .

AJ Beltre, the son of former major leaguer Adrian Beltre, has transferred from La Salle to Maranatha. . . .

Freshman pitcher Bryce Morrison of Gahr has committed to USC. . . .

Sierra Canyon senior guard Bronny James took his first recruiting visit to Ohio State. . . .

Sophomore pitcher Colt Peterson from Orange Lutheran has committed to Stanford. . . .

Los Alamitos defensive lineman TA Cunningham was denied a hardship waiver to play for the Griffins this season. He’s a transfer student. . . .

Hunter Backstrom from Gardena Serra has committed to Fresno State for baseball. . . .

Pitcher Sean Elsee of Hart has committed to Occidental College. . . .

Pitcher Mason Edwards of Palisades has committed to USC. He had a 1.20 ERA as a junior.

From the archives: Kami Miner

Redondo's Kami Miner (4) looks to set the volleyball while Mater Dei's Zaria Henderson (13) is ready for a block at the net.
(Nick Koza)

Kami Miner was Southern California’s best girls’ volleyball player at Redondo Union. Now she has moved on to be the setter for Stanford and continues to shine.

She’s the daughter of former USC basketball great Harold Miner.


Here’s a 2019 story on Miner rising in volleyball.


From the Los Angeles Times, a story on former Santa Margarita quarterback Josiah Norwood as the latest walk-on to earn a scholarship for UCLA.

From the Sacramento Bee, a story on top high school basketball players leaving for Los Angeles and elsewhere.

From, a story on former Etiwanda shortstop Tyler Freeman making an impact with the Cleveland Guardians.

From, a message on why steps must be taken to stop hazing in high school sports.

From, a story on a Del Oro football player collapsing from heat stroke during practice.


From, a story on a St. Margaret’s football player playing with two cochlear implants.

Tweets you might have missed


Until next time...

Have a question, comment or something you’d like to see in a future Prep Rally newsletter? Email me at, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

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