Bellflower St. John Bosco finished the 2018 season ranked No. 2 in the nation and No. 2 in California. But the Braves were also No. 2 in the Southern Section and No. 2 in Division I.
Trinity League rival Mater Dei finished in front of them in each of those categories as the nation’s top team in the MaxPreps rankings. St. John Bosco waxed the Monarchs 41-18 during the regular season but lost the rivalry rematch 17-13 in the Southern Section Division I championship game, ending what had been a perfect season with a sour note.
It stuck with the Braves throughout the offseason. There was a smoldering intensity when they opened football camp last week. The team was anxious to get back on the field to try to prove themselves.
That was two-fold for senior safety Jonathan Vaughns. In the afternoon, he set the tone with big hits from the back end of the defense as the fervor ratcheted up this week when St. John Bosco had its first week of full-pad practices. Vaughns spent the mornings across town at Blair Field in Long Beach participating in the Area Code Games — a five-day high school baseball showcase that features the top players in the nation — performing in front of hundreds of college baseball coaches and Major League Baseball scouting personnel.
“It’s been great going back and forth for football and baseball. It’s just been a grind,” Vaughns said Thursday after his fourth day of dual-sport action. “I’m feeling all right. Just got to keep picking it up, keep grinding.”
The schedule has been favorable for Vaughns. The Southern California-based Area Code team played each of its games at 11:30 a.m. or earlier Monday through Thursday. St. John Bosco’s practices have begun at 2 p.m., so Vaughns went straight from baseball to football each day.
“It’s just like a switch off and on. Just go and get ready,” he said. “When I put the [football] helmet on, usually I just switch it and it turns on.”
Vaughns said his mentality stays the same. He can’t be tentative in either situation. He’s got to be full throttle whether it is coming downhill to hit a receiver, in the batter’s box facing some of the nation’s top high school pitchers or on the mound where the baseball two-way star was throwing as hard as 93 mph at a recent summer event. That mind-set has attracted recruiters in both sports. He has scholarship offers to play both sports, including football offers from Arizona, Louisiana State, Louisville, Penn State, Oregon State and UCLA.
The football scholarships pay for everything, while baseball programs typically offer partial scholarships since they are only allowed 11.7 scholarships to divvy up for a 35-man roster. Football would seem like the obvious choice at the college level, but Vaughns isn’t being given an ultimatum by programs. The schools that have been recruiting him hardest want him to be a rare dual-sport athlete, and the coaching staffs have been pursuing him jointly.
“They’re just saying I could do both,” Vaughns said. “I’ll talk to a baseball coach. The baseball coach will talk to a football coach, and the football coach will talk to me, or vice versa. Each team has a schedule for me that I could do baseball at this time and football at this time and have it all planned out.”
Vaughns is taking the process slowly. He doesn’t want to rush into a decision because he’s focusing on two athletic programs at each school. He probably will take his official visits during the football season to see the game-day experience. He plans to sit down with his family after his visits and discuss his options, including the future possibility of being selected in next June’s MLB draft.
The youngest of four brothers, Jonathan also will be able to lean on his older brothers, who have been through the recruiting process. That includes Tyler, who was a five-star prospect at La Puente Bishop Amat High before attending USC, where he has become a starting wide receiver.
“They said just take your time and just do my job and do me and I’ll get there,” Jonathan said.