Prep Rally: Trinity League football is in a league of its own

Easton Mascarenas
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones/Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. There are so many high school sports competitions going on at the same time in California that we should do a poll to see who’s getting less than five hours sleep: sportswriters or athletic directors? For me, it’s an exciting time of chaos trying to cover football, basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, golf, soccer, track, lacrosse, swimming all taking place. See what a once-every-100-years pandemic can do?

Trinity League madness

Perhaps it shouldn’t have just dawned on me that Trinity League football is different. It’s like the SEC in college. I’ve known that for several years but watching the St. John Bosco-Servite game on Friday night for the first time since 2019 made it crystal clear how much the top teams in the league have separated themselves.

The talent is extraordinary, combined with great coaching. Obviously Trinity League schools are attracting players from all over. And the big difference is that the backups are pretty good too, along with the size of the linemen.


Anyone who saw 6-foot-5 sophomore tight end Matayo Uiagalelei of St. John Bosco knew they were watching a future star. He had two memorable touchdown catches and deserves to be called Baby Gronk.

Then there’s junior receiver Tetairoa McMillan of Servite. He’s so good that St. John Bosco’s defensive focus was stopping him. He didn’t catch a pass until there was 4:38 left in the third quarter. Then he went off, grabbing eight receptions for 157 yards. Servite lost 38-28 but the Braves know the Friars are closing in.

Another impressive talent was junior running back Jabari Bates of St. John Bosco. Teammate Rayshon Luke is fast, but Bates sure showed off great speed on a 76-yard touchdown run and finished with 172 yards rushing.

Next up for Servite is a Saturday game against unbeaten Santa Ana Mater Dei at Santa Ana Stadium. Fox Sports West will be on the scene with a 7 p.m. It’s becoming the Trinity League football network.

The Times’ high school football rankings

Rank SCHOOL (W-L) Last Week | Next Game (last week’s rank)


1. MATER DEI (2-0) def. Orange Lutheran, 49-7 | at Servite (at Santa Ana Stadium), Saturday (1)

2. ST. JOHN BOSCO (3-0) def. Servite, 38-28 | vs. JSerra, Saturday (2)

3. SERVITE (2-1) lost to St. John Bosco, 38-28 | vs. Mater Dei (at Santa Ana Stadium), Saturday (3)

4. SIERRA CANYON (2-1) def. Oaks Christian, 42-0 | at Bakersfield Garces, Saturday (4)

5. CORONA CENTENNIAL (2-0) def. Corona Santiago, 63-6 | at Norco, Saturday (5)

6. LONG BEACH POLY (2-0) idle | vs. Compton, Thursday (7)

7. GARDENA SERRA (2-1) def. Cathedral, 15-14 | at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Thursday (8)

8. SAN CLEMENTE (2-0) def. Aliso Niguel, 41-7 | at San Juan Hills, Friday (9)

9. LOS ALAMITOS (3-0) def, Edison, 27-20 | at Huntington Beach, Friday (12)

10. LOYOLA (1-0) def. St. Bernard, 28-24 | vs. St. Francis (at St. Pius X-St. Matthias), Saturday (10)

For the rest of the top 25, click here.

Grace Brethren opts out

Grace Brethren, the Simi Valley private school that built a strong football program under coach Josh Henderson, announced Saturday it would not have a spring season with just 15 healthy players on the team.

It had previously announced that Henderson would not be returning in the fall, so the program is in deep trouble. Henderson was able to develop a program that hung tough with the likes of Oaks Christian and Sierra Canyon. The program will return in the fall with a new coach.


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Linebacker hits like a famous bat

Easton Mascarenas
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones/Los Angeles Times)

Easton Mascarenas was given his first name by his mother, Toni, because she’d use Easton bats to send softballs flying over fences in high school and college. She once hit 25 home runs in a season at Arizona, helping the Wildcats win the 2001 NCAA championship.

“It’s her love for softball, which is cool,” Easton said.

Easton long ago gave up hitting baseballs for hitting running backs. A 6-foot, 220-pound senior linebacker at Mission Viejo, Mascarenas is the prototype for the new version of linebacker required to play at the highest level.

“I’ve got one thing in mind, and that is going as far as I can in football,” he said.

Mascarenas’ versatility helps make him a valuable defensive player.

“The game is changing,” Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson said. “The game is fly sweep one way, zone the other way, then bubble screen. You have to be able to run sideline to sideline. There’s so much speed on the field now a lot of colleges are looking for linebackers who can really run. He’s super athletic, can cover, is physical and has a great motor.”

Read more about Easton by clicking here.

Linebackers to watch


Easton Macarenas, Mission Viejo, 6-0, 220, Sr. Mobility and toughness are his strengths

Jonathan Flowe, Upland, 6-1, 195, Sr. Oregon signee loves to sack quarterbacks

Raesjon Davis, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-1, 210, Sr. USC signee is best in Trinity League

Tyler DeLeon, Los Alamitos, 6-4, 235, Sr. Has had three big games in spring season

Andrew Simpson, St. John Bosco, 6-1, 215, Sr. Flies to the ball

Signs of life in LAUSD

There was real concern whether any Los Angeles Unified School District teams would have a sports season in 2020-21. Now there are signs of hope.

Football teams have begun practices trying to prepare for season openers on April 9. The season will last through April 30. Other sports are also practicing.

And, in what was the first official game involving two LAUSD teams, Banning and Hamilton played a baseball game on Wednesday. I went to watch Anthony Joya, a left-handed Cal State Fullerton signee from Banning who’s considered the best pitcher in the City Section. He struck out 10 in four innings with no walks and hit 93 mph on a radar gun.

He might be the best City Section pro prospect since Mike Moustakas of Chatsworth.

Also Canoga Park and Garfield held a football scrimmage. And schools in the Coliseum League, such as Crenshaw and Dorsey, have begun football practices. Narbonne won two baseball games.

Outdoor basketball

Damien, a private school in La Verne, decided to put in an outside surface basketball court on a tennis court just in case the delay playing indoor games continued. With questions about protocols and requirements still going unanswered, Damien decided to play Glendora in an outdoor basketball game Tuesday. Damien won 54-41.


“It was great we got to play,” Damien coach Mike LeDuc said. “It’s been a long time. We would prefer to play inside. It was the hand we were dealt with.”

Indoor basketball

After months of waiting, the indoor high school basketball season finally started Thursday in Los Angeles County. The protocols and precautions to actually play in a gym were plentiful.

At Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, 114 water bottles were distributed among the two teams. Studio City Harvard-Westlake players wore masks while playing. Basketballs were cleaned after each quarter.

All players underwent multiple COVID-19 testing just to enter the gym. Social distancing was in place as chairs were placed strategically where players sat and sanitizer was used on chairs after timeouts.

Whatever the obstacles, players and coaches welcomed the chance to finally play in a real game. Harvard-Westlake won the matchup of top girls’ programs 58-48, but there will be much to remember.


“Oh my gosh. We were so excited,” said Stanford-bound Kiki Iriafen, who scored 17 points for Harvard-Westlake. “It felt good after a year to finally play.”

Read more about this story by clicking here.

State rankings has come out with preseason top 25 boys’ basketball rankings even though some teams haven’t even decided if they are going to play, such as No. 16 Fairfax and No. 19 Westchester from the City Section. The Los Angeles Unified School District has made no decision on indoor basketball.

But Ronnie Flores, who ranks Sierra Canyon No. 1 and Mater Dei No. 2, said, “CalHiSports reached out to a handful of L.A. City Section coaches, and they have received very little instruction or input on the start of the season. We decided to place Fairfax and Westchester in the preseason state rankings based on their track record and returning players.

“The whole state is fragmented and some teams still don’t know when they will practice or start playing games because of little input from their school district. The first sanctioned game in the state occurred March 16, while most leagues in Northern California won’t begin games until April 19, with some as late as May 11. Already the Central Coast Section, North Coast Section and Sac Joaquin Section have canceled the post-season. We wanted to give people a snapshot of the top teams in the state but realize there are varying circumstances for each school district.”



One of the best pitchers in California is Thatcher Hurd from Mira Costa. In his debut last week, he struck out 14, walked two and hit a batter in five innings against Gardena Serra. His next start is set for Wednesday at home against West Torrance.

“It was pretty impressive,” coach Keith Ramsey said. “He was just pretty dominant. He has a curveball and slider in the major league category and throws 94 mph.”

He has signed with UCLA.

Going for state record

Senior Roc Riggio of Thousand Oaks.
Senior Roc Riggio of Thousand Oaks has hit a home run in each of his team’s first five games. The state record is six.
(Riggio family)

Roc Riggio, a senior infielder from Thousand Oaks who signed with Oklahoma State, has started the 2021 high school baseball season by hitting a home run in each of his team’s first five games.

That means he’s one home run away from tying the state record for home runs in consecutive games, according to the record book. Chase Utley of Long Beach Poly (1997), Ryan West of Quartz Hill (1998) and Mike Stodolka of Corona Centennial (2000) each hit six.

Riggio’s five home runs ties him with John Hanley of Norte Vista (2000) and Jon Eubanks (Chula Vista Eastlake (2005).

Riggio has homered against Rio Mesa, Grace Brethren, Agoura, Pacifica and Oaks Christian. His next game is Monday against Westlake.


“No one really goes out there trying to hit home runs every game,” Riggio said. “We try to put the ball in play. I feel confident. I feel I have the best chance of winning when I get up there.”

Big week for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame

Tom Dill, the baseball coach at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, was hardly touting his young team before the baseball season began. How can you predict greatness with no returning starters?

And yet, Notre Dame has risen to No. 1 in Southern California after a 5-0 start that has included victories over top 25 teams JSerra, Orange Lutheran and Yucaipa, plus a win over Santa Ana Mater Dei.

“The guys are buying in,” Dill said. “We’re having fun. They have a great attitude.”

Senior Nico Rynn has provided some big hits, along with juniors Jack Gurevitch and Jackson Frankovich. Dean West, a sophomore committed to UCLA, is hitting well and senior pitching ace Jack Snyder is providing leadership and consistency.

The Times’ high school baseball rankings

Rank, TEAM (record), Comment, Previous ranking
1. SHERMAN OAKS NOTRE DAME (5-0); Wins over JSerra, Orange Lutheran, Mater Dei, Yucaipa; 22
2. HARVARD-WESTLAKE (5-0); Sophomore Kai Caranto is 8 for 14; 4
3. AYALA (2-0); Ty Borgogno is four for nine; 5
4. THOUSAND OAKS (5-0); Roc Riggio has five home runs; 7
5. ORANGE LUTHERAN (3-1); Louis Rodriguez is pitcher to watch; 3
6. WEST RANCH (5-0); Logan Mandel has 10 hits in five games; 10
7. DANA HILLS (5-0); Ian May’s pitching, hitting leads Dolphins; 23
8. SERVITE (2-0); Friars’ pitching staff is very good; 12
9. ETIWANDA (4-0); Abraham Zapata is 11 for 15 hitting; 21
10. CHAMINADE (3-1). Freshman Miles Ghossein is off to strong start; 17

Read the rest of the top 25 by clicking here.

Special Opening Day

Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jack Flaherty, teammates on the 2012 Harvard-Westlake baseball team, will be opening day pitching starters in the major leagues this week.


Let’s check the Guinness World Records for that one.

Giolito (Chicago White Sox), Fried (Atlanta Braves) and Flaherty (St. Louis Cardinals) didn’t win a championship as expected in 2012. Their coach, Matt LaCour, always gets teased by those who don’t know that Giolito suffered an early-season arm injury. Flaherty was only a sophomore, and Giolito and Fried were seniors. All would be first-round draft picks.

“All three of these guys have had their own unique journey to get to this point in their career, and I’m proud of the resilience each has shown,” LaCour said. “Opening day will definitely be a lot more special this year.”

Giolito gets to pitch on opening day at Angel Stadium. His parents used to live in Santa Monica before moving to New York. They’re unlikely to make the trip back home because of COVID-19 traveling concerns.


How does a team hit three consecutive home runs in a game and lose? It shows you how good softball is in Southern California. Norco had players hit home runs in three consecutive at-bats but couldn’t hang on to a 4-0 lead and lost to Los Alamitos 8-4.

Norco head coach Rick Robinson and Los Alamitos head coach Rob Weil both have won more than 600 games. Their players responded like it was the game of the year.


Later in the week, Robinson became the winningest coach in Inland Empire history with 604 victories when Norco picked up a 5-4 win over Chino Hills on a walk-off two-run home run by Myla Perez.

Offering a helping hand

Loyola lacrosse players Henry Kupiece (left) and Hudson O'Hanlon
Loyola lacrosse players Henry Kupiece (left) and Hudson O’Hanlon
(Henry Kupiec)

There’s many acts of kindness happening in this world. You just have to open your eyes or wait for a neighbor to help you.

Take the case of the two lacrosse players from Loyola, Henry Kupiec and Hudson O’Hanlon, who co-founded a grocery delivery service, “Groceries for Good” last April to help neighbors in Manhattan Beach who did not want to leave their homes when the coronavirus pandemic first struck Southern California. They volunteered to pick up groceries for neighbors.

“I would say we recognized we have this privilege of being young and less at risk,” Henry said. “We saw the community struggling and wanted to do our step in making the community better.”

They started shopping for senior citizens and mothers with young children around Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. They’ve made more than 100 visits to Trader’s Joe to fulfill orders, shop for specific items, then and make deliveries for free. They have nearly 10 other students from Loyola helping them. They’re all volunteers and receive no money other than tips. They’re not even receiving credit from the school for a service project.


“Loyola taught us to be charitable and look out for other people,” Hudson said. “I’ve had that instilled in my mind the last four years.”

From the archives

Giancarlo Stanton was All-CIF in three sports at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame
(Beatrice De Gea / Los Angeles Times)

On May 29, 2011, Mike Stanton, now known as Giancarlo Stanton, the pride of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and one of baseball’s best power hitters, came to Dodger Stadium as a member of the Miami Marlins just four years from graduating high school.

I went to Dodger Stadium to interview him. I was just starting to learn about Twitter, and Stanton was putting forth a lot of inspirational tweets at the time, so it was fun to use his tweets to give people a look at what type of person he was.

Stanton is one of the all-time best athletes to ever play sports in California. He was All-CIF in football, basketball and baseball. The only weakness he had was free-throw shooting. His basketball coach, Bill Bedgood, now at Valencia, could never explain why Stanton struggled at the line.

“I think he was padding his rebounding stats,” Bedgood said earlier this week. “He was a heck of a player. What an athlete. The thing that was awesome is that he was so old school. He didn’t play on any club team or anything. When it was football season, he played. When it was basketball season, he played. When it was baseball season, he played. He said his favorite sport was basketball. It must be the coaching.”

Stanton has become one of baseball’s best power hitters for the New York Yankees.

The column ended with what Stanton tweeted the night before opening day of the 2011 season.


“Going to sleep to dream. Then waking up to Dream.”


Birmingham and El Camino Real have been waiting for their fellow City Section schools to start playing games. But the two independent charter schools have been showing how good their boys’ soccer teams are with wins over Southern Section schools.

Birmingham senior David Diaz plays for his club soccer team, his school soccer team and kicks for the football team.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Birmingham’s David Diaz, a junior, is one of the best players in the Southland. El Camino Real has been led by senior Dominic Salazar. They will play twice in West Valley League play.

“We both know we have some talented kids,” El Camino Real coach Ian Kogan said. “We’re on a collision course.”

All soccer coaches are dealing with sharing their players with club programs. If you know about load management in the NBA, it’s happening in high school soccer.

“That’s exactly what it is,” Kogan said. “They’re playing three and four games a week.”

But you can count on Birmingham and El Camino Real players to be ready when they face off in league play.

A big soccer match this week has L.A. Cathedral hosting rival Salesian on Wednesday night.


Colin Sahlman of Newbury Park, the top distance runner in the state, ran the mile in a scorching 4:04.86 on Saturday night at the Sundown Track Series in Arizona. His brother, freshman Aaron Sahlman, won his mile heat in 4:15.44. And Lex Young, a Newbury Park sophomore and the brother of Nico Young, won the 3,200 in 8:57.27.

Mia Barnett of Crescenta Valley came away victorious in a time of 4:43.11 for her mile race.


Arcadia Invitational still on

The Arcadia Invitational is on track to take place May 7-8 at Arcadia High School. A change in Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines now permits competitions to take place beyond two opponents with waiver approval.

The only major question is how many fans, if any, will be permitted. At a minimum, the event could serve as an unofficial state championship or Southern California championship.


There’s lots of stories to recommend from around the country.

Here’s a story from the Sacramento Bee profiling a Sacramento Kennedy High football player who collapsed and later died.

Here’s a story from the San Jose Mercury News about the obstacles to starting indoor sports with enhanced testing requirements.

Here’s a story from the Washington Post how the pandemic affected a group of girls’ basketball players.

Friday Night Live

San Pedro coach Corey Miller was the guest on Friday Night Live.

Miller lauded City Section coaches for the sacrifices they’re making to get their teams ready to play on April 9.


Tweets you may have missed


Until next time...

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