Hamburgers, holding and touchdowns: Welcome to summer football

Mikey Matthews leaps to try to make a catch during the Battle at the Beach seven-on-seven passing tournament on July 9.
(Nick Koza)

Saturday morning in Huntington Beach started with an overcast sky. By the time dozens of hamburger patties were put on the grill and sweet barbecue aroma began to spread around Edison High, the sun had come out and the Battle at the Beach seven-on-seven football tournament was picking up steam.

By early afternoon, Bellflower St. John Bosco (4-0), Santa Ana Mater Dei (4-0) and Mission Viejo (4-0) led the 20-team field, followed by Corona del Mar (3-1), San Juan Capistrano JSerra (3-1), Edison (3-1), Los Alamitos (2-2) and Long Beach Poly (2-2). Quarterbacks were slinging, receivers were catching and defensive backs were going so far as pulling jerseys with their not-so-hidden holding technique.

When the smoke cleared after lunch and a little fatigue set in with the heat, it was survival of the fittest, and Mission Viejo emerged as the champion by defeating St. John Bosco 21-0 in the final. The final four in the top division were St. John Bosco, Mater Dei, JSerra and Mission Viejo. St. John Bosco defeated JSerra and Mission Viejo defeated Mater Dei in the semifinals.

Among the lessons learned at Edison:

• Mission Viejo has experience and talent with its returning group of offensive players led by quarterback Kadin Semonza and receivers Mikey Matthews, Jackson Holman and KJ Reed. Matthews is so good making catches that you just point a camera at him and wait until you can say, “Wow.” It doesn’t take long. Matthews caught the winning touchdown on the final play to eliminate Mater Dei in the semifinals. The Diablos have a number of players who’ve been together for four years and will try to duplicate the success Anaheim Servite had last season with four-year players.

• Poly’s quarterback was Darius Curry, who suffered a knee injury last season and decided not to transfer in the spring when a big deal was made out of Nico Iamaleava transferring from Warren. Iamaleava has been missing in action this summer while traveling the country promoting his future school, Tennessee. Curry stuck it out, is fully recovered and running the offense.


• St. John Bosco’s secondary is loaded with talent and no one is better than Ty Lee, a safety and the cousin of former Mater Dei standout Bru McCoy. Lee, a UCLA commit, is physical and has terrific closing speed. He possesses good timing and great instincts knowing when to enter a play to break up a pass.

• Corona del Mar’s Cooper Hoch and Norco’s Grant Gray displayed standout receiving skills, making them marked players for this fall.

• Los Alamitos will rise or fall behind four-year starting quarterback Malachi Nelson. The Griffins have picked up lots of transfers and it will be interesting to see if there are enough quality linemen up front to put them in the Division 1 mix.

• Linebacker Leviticus Su’a of Mater Dei is a man among boys. He’s a physical specimen and even though tackling isn’t allowed in seven-on-seven competitions, his mere presence in the middle makes him one intimidating player. He had an interception against Norco. He’s an A student with the option of attending Stanford, among many schools.

• The defensive backs continue to repeatedly hold in these tournaments. The officials were calling penalties early in the day, trying to send a message to the cornerbacks and safeties.

• Quarterback CJ Tiller of Rancho Cucamonga moved to the area from Arizona, is committed to Boise State and should be very good this fall for a program that sent CJ Stroud to Ohio State.

• Chaparral has ball-of-fire, 5-foot-6 junior receiver named Stacy Dobbins, who has the quickness and fearlessness to create mismatches.

At the Simi Valley tournament, Santa Maria St. Joseph defeated Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in the championship game.

At Newport Harbor, the host school won its own tournament, defeating San Clemente in the championship .

San Juan Capistrano San Juan Hills went 5-0 in the Semper Fi tournament at Carlsbad La Costa Canyon behind sophomore quarterback Michael Tollefson.

Pasadena won its tournament championship, defeating Downey in the final.

Oxnard won the Culver City tournament, defeating Loyola in the championship.

Laguna Beach went unbeaten to win its seven on seven tournament championship.

Corona Centennial won the Temecula Valley tournament, defeating Great Oak in the final.