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Prep Rally: Who is the best SoCal high school player at each position?

Servite receiver Tetairoa McMillan
Servite receiver Tetairoa McMillan
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It’s an exciting time. Everyone is 0-0 in football and players get to show off how much they’ve improved in the off season. The Times begins a nine-part daily series previewing Southern California’s top players. First up is wide receivers.

Servite WR is tops

Servite wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan.
Servite wide receiver Tetairoa “TMac” McMillan leaps in the air to catch a pass but can’t hold onto it while being pressured by St. John Bosco cornerback Jahlil McClain.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

To understand how influential and impactful senior receiver Tetairoa McMillan of Anaheim Servite has become, let’s have quarterback Noah Fifita set the stage from a game in 2019 against San Juan Capistrano JSerra.

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It was second and goal from the two-yard line. McMillan lined up on the left side. Fifita was in shotgun formation. As the ball was snapped, McMillan was one on one against his defender. He was running a fade.

“When the ball came out of my hand, I thought I missed it,” Fifita said.

The ball was thrown toward McMillan’s right shoulder. He turned and made a one-handed catch for a touchdown.

“Part of me was in shock,” Fifita said. “Part of me was, ‘I’m used to it.’ ”

Said McMillan: “I felt I wasn’t in reach for a two-handed catch. I practice it all the time. It wasn’t really that astonishing to me, but everyone else in the crowd was excited about it.”

For the rest of the profile and a look at top 10 receivers to watch, here’s the link.

Here’s the nine-part series previewing the top football players in Southern California that will appear daily in The Times and on line.

Monday: Receiver Tetairoa McMillan of Servite.

Tuesday: Quarterback Shea Kuykendall of Long Beach Poly.

Wednesday: Running back Jakob Galloway of Wilmington Banning.

Thursday: Offensive lineman Sam Yoon of Loyola.

Friday: Tight end Matayo Uiagalelei of St. John Bosco.

Saturday: Defensive lineman Arlis Boardingham of Birmingham.

Sunday: Linebacker Braydon Brus of Glendora.

Monday, Aug. 16: Defensive back Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra.

Tuesday, Aug. 17: Kicker Chase Meyer of Santa Ana Mater Dei.

Searching for NIL guidance

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson during practice this week. He's trying to find out about NIL rules for his top athletes.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

As if preparing his team for the 2021 football season isn’t enough of a challenge, Santa Ana Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson is also trying to do research on what his top players can and cannot do in regards to in the new era of name, image and likeness deals for college athletes.

“I have had some players that have been approached by organizations that want to represent them when they move on to college,” Rollinson said. “I’m assuming when they sign in December or early February, now they can foster opportunities for those kids, because their eligibility is done. But who knows? I don’t think anybody is going to get paid while they are in high school. Absolutely not. But I know they are being approached by representatives or businesses.”

Here’s the link to more information on NIL issues.

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Kickers are characters

Kicker Zachary May of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame has plans to be a journalist.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Kickers are frequently given the flake label because they say and do sometimes strange things. So what should we make of senior Zachary May from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. He says he wants to be a journalist. How crazy is that?

OK, it’s a pretty good job if you work at it and May is just starting out. He missed two days of football practice to complete a two-week online journalism course through Boston University. He has worked for Notre Dame’s school television network.

He said he likes investigating and talking, so journalism will hopefully be in his future. The first thing he did was go online and order reporter notebooks. Not just two or three but 50. That was a mistake, but he sees a positive.

“I guess I’ll have them through college,” he said.

Here’s the complete profile.

COVID-19 impact on games

Corona Centennial’s football program has become the latest to have its practices interrupted during a surge in COVID-19 cases in Southern California, and the school announced on Thursday that it will not be able to play its season-opening game against Santa Ana Mater Dei on Aug. 20 because of practice limitations.

In a statement released by the Corona-Norco Unified School District, Centennial canceled the game out of an abundance of caution after two players tested positive for COVID-19.

Here’s a look at other schools dealing with COVID-19 issues.

Texas QB takes money and runs

One of the top high school football prospects from the class of 2022, quarterback Quinn Ewers from Southlake, Texas, has given up his senior year to enroll early at Ohio State, enabling him to accept NIL offers.

Here’s the story from 247Sports.

Spring cleaning

During spring cleaning while going through my closet, I found an old external drive that had several videos I’ve been searching years to find.

There’s one from 2008 when Loyola High had a standout running back named Anthony Barr. He’d go on to attend UCLA, switch to linebacker and become four-time All-Pro with the Minnesota Vikings.

I also found a video from Jack Flaherty’s freshman season at Harvard-Westlake when no one knew if he’d be a pitcher or hitter. He’d go on to be the ace for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Then there was the video from Aaron Holiday’s freshman season at Campbell Hall. He’d go on the play for UCLA and in the NBA.

Hesiman Trophy odds

The early odds are out for the 2021 Heisman Trophy, and a group of former Southland quarterbacks are listed among the favorites.

The contender odds by betMGM list former St. John Bosco quarterback DJ Uiagalelei of Clemson at 11-1 behind favorite Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma at 8-1.

Former Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young of Alabama is also at 11-1. Former Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels of Georgia is at 12-1. We’ll have to ask Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson who has the edge among his former quarterbacks.

Former Rancho Cucamonga quarterback CJ Stroud of Ohio State is at 16-1.

Trinity League media day

Servite players surrounding coach Troy Thomas as Trinity League media day.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

If you arrived from another planet and showed up Friday for the Trinity League football media day in Long Beach and just listened to the presentation of the six coaches, you’d think, “These people know what they are doing.”

Yes, talent matters, but Jason Negro (St. John Bosco), Bruce Rollinson (Mater Dei), Troy Thomas (Servite), Scott McKnight (JSerra), Anthony Rouzier (Santa Margarita) and Rod Sherman (Orange Lutheran) are exceptional at what they do. Their schools are paying them big bucks to produce big results while developing young men on and off the field, and they all seem to have embraced the pressure, expectations and competition to be the best.

Rollinson, in his 33rd season, is having so much fun that he insisted he has no intention of retiring as long as he stays healthy. Negro is 121-21 in his 12th year at St. John Bosco with the toughest schedule in America. Thomas was so emotional talking about his son, Houston, receiver Mikey Welsh and an injured player, Maxx Silao, that you wonder why a “Hard Knocks” for high school football doesn’t feature the Friars.

Here’s a look at Trinity League media day.

UCLA recruiting class intact

Shortstop Cody Schrier and pitcher Gage Jump.
Shortstop Cody Schrier and pitcher Gage Jump, both UCLA signees from JSerra, decided to attend college rather than sign pro contracts.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

When the deadline passed for players taken in the amateur baseball draft to decide whether to sign or not, UCLA coach John Savage was busy with a camp. He also was feeling good.

Among the 13 players who signed letters of intent last fall, 12 will attend UCLA. That’s unheard of for the Bruins to keep a class ranked No. 4 by Baseball America mostly intact.

“This year we had 10 going out and we have 14 coming in. It all hit right,” Savage said. “It may be literally a first. It just doesn’t happen. We feel very fortunate. We love our class.”

The only player UCLA lost was pitcher Eric Silva from JSerra High. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants and signed for nearly $1.5 million.

Here’s the link to players UCLA gets to keep.

Notes . . .

Nate Berger is the new basketball coach at Los Alamitos. He used to be an assistant with Los Alamitos and was former head coach at Long Beach Millikan. . . .

Former Oxnard Pacifica DE Devin Aupiu has transferred from Notre Dame to UCLA . . . .

Former NFL defensive back Orlando Scandrick has joined Los Alamitos as an assistant football coach. . . .

John Fitzpatrick resigned as softball coach at Santa Margarita. . . .

Any football games canceled because of COVID-19 issues will be considered a no contest and not a forfeit in the Southern Section and City Section. . . .

The St. John Bosco-Miami Central football game on Aug. 20 will be televised on Bally Sports. . . .

Standout junior basketball guard Kylan Boswell has left Corona Centennial to enroll at Compass Prep School in Chandler, Ariz. He joins former Windward guard Dylan Andrews and former Sierra Canyon center Max Allen. . . .

Cody Hoffman, who was a standout tight end last spring with Channel Islands, has transferred to St. Bonaventure. He’s 6 feet 5, 240 pounds. . . .

Linebacker Eoghan Kerry of Mater Dei has committed to Texas. . . .

Jason Olguin is the new baseball coach at San Pedro, which won this year’s City Section Open Division championship. . . .

The transfers keep coming to Sierra Canyon basketball. The latest is sophomore guard Isaiah Elohim leaving from Heritage Christian to join the Trailblazers. He’ll be teaming with Bronny James when Sierra Canyon moves to the Mission League in 2022-23. . . .

Junior receiver Makai Leonard of Los Alamitos announced he has committed to Oklahoma, where he’ll join his Los Alamitos teammate, quarterback Malachi Nelson. . . .

Senior cornerback Josh Hunter of Mater Dei has committed to San Diego State. He was the defensive player of the year in the Trinity League last spring. . . .

From the archives: Marcedes Lewis

In 2001, Marcedes Lewis tries to get past De La Salle defenders.
(David Kawashima)

Marcedes Lewis is 37 years old and has been playing tight end in the NFL since he was a first-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars taken No. 28 overall in 2006 out of UCLA and Long Beach Poly. He has been with the Green Bay Packers since 2018 and shows no signs of slowing down.

He’s a legendary player and beloved by the community in Long Beach.

During his Poly days, the Jackrabbits were the best in Southern California. He played in the 2001 game against De La Salle that was nationally televised and matched No. 1 vs. No. 2 before a crowd of 17,321 at Veterans Stadium.

Here’s the link to a look back at that historic game.

He was a high school All-American at Poly, a college All-American at UCLA and All-Pro in 2010. He enters this NFL season with 37 touchdown receptions.

How he’s been able to stay healthy and keep producing is impressive, considering he’s 6 feet 6, 267 pounds.

Recommendations

From the Fort Myers News-Press, a story on sanctions leveled against a high school basketball coach and three players for alleged recruiting violations.

From the San Jose Mercury News, a look at what’s awaiting Northern California prep sports.

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 eric.sondheimer@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

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