Since the Southern Section began using a formula to decide playoff divisions three years ago and strength of schedule matters, there’s a clear trend of teams looking to schedule City Section opponents.
That’s because some programs want to avoid getting put into higher divisions, and playing a weaker nonleague schedule can’t hurt. There’s also a need to win nonleague games to be considered for an at-large berth.
Before, teams had an incentive to schedule top opponents. Strength of schedule advantage was an important tiebreaker in getting a playoff spot. Now it’s more important to get to .500 or having a winning overall record if you’re in a tough league.
If you’re looking for the best opening game of the high school football season that begins next week, here are some possibilities:
In the City Section, South Gate at Eagle Rock should be very competitive on Aug. 17. Both schools hope to win a league championship.
For intersectional games, Birmingham at Harvard-Westlake will be important for both schools. Birmingham has a veteran offensive unit. Harvard-Westlake will be making its debut under new coach Michael Burnett.
Nicholas Barr-Mira sometimes might have trouble being No. 1 in the family, because his older brother, Anthony, is the All-Pro linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings.
But when it comes to kicking and punting, Barr-Mira can’t be matched. He made eight of nine field goals last season for Loyola. He’s also the standout goalie for the soccer team. He’s a member of a strong class of kickers/punters in the Southland this football season.
Aaron Rodriguez of Hart won several camp punting competitions during the summer. He also has played volleyball and soccer at Hart.
Summer basketball is pretty much over, so it’s time to look at players who elevated their game and their teams’ chances for the upcoming season:
Devin Askew, Santa Ana Mater Dei, sophomore: It’s not supposed to be easy replacing a three-time Trinity League player of the year in Harvard-bound Spencer Freedman, but that’s how Askew made it look this summer in playing point guard for the Monarchs. Playing physical, confident and mistake free, Askew will make it possible for Mater Dei to compete against the best.
Evan Mobley, Rancho Christian, junior: At 6 feet 11, Mobley gained national admirers, helping the USA 17U team win a gold medal. Now he must translate that success to making Rancho Christian a CIF Open Division title contender.
Defensive backs who have speed, strength and tackling ability will be plentiful this season.
The school that is loaded with quality defensive backs is Santa Ana Mater Dei. The Monarchs’ secondary was so good in summer passing competitions that the team won the Edison and Mission Viejo tourneys.
Everything starts with safety Jeremiah Criddell, a transfer from Rancho Cucamonga who’s committed to Oregon. He patrols the middle waiting to make big plays. There’s also senior William Nimmo, a key player on last year’s 15-0 team.
Linebackers are much in demand for the upcoming football season. There were lots of top players who graduated, so a new group gets the chance to take center stage.
One of the top returning underclassmen is junior Justin Flowe of Upland. He’s going to set the standard for excellence.
Chaminade’s tackling machine, Blake Antzoulatos, a Cal commit, will get many chances to show his worth as the Eagles play one tough opponent after another, starting with Oaks Christian on Aug. 16. The Eagles also have another promising linebacker in Jonathan Thomas.