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Prep Rally: California football vs. Texas football with bragging rights at stake

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson during practice.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. Zero week has come and gone in high school football. The big game in week one involves Santa Ana Mater Dei heading to Duncanville to experience Friday Night Lights in Texas. California football vs. Texas football. Bragging rights are at stake.

For the record:

6:55 a.m. Aug. 23, 2021An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Texas high school football teams play 15-minute quarters.

Here come the Monarchs

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson would be happy playing football games in Orange County, but he couldn’t find an opponent, so the Monarchs are headed to Texas on Friday night to play Duncanville. It should be quite a scene.

The Monarchs were supposed to have opened their season on Aug. 20 against Corona Centennial, but the Huskies had to pause practices because of COVID-19, so they met in a scrimmage instead of an official game. Rollinson is hoping that prepares Mater Dei for a Texas trip that will offer lots of challenges.

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For one, blocking rules are different, with cut blocks allowed and wider hash marks. Coaches will be preparing the Mater Dei players for the changes, but it will be interesting to see what kind of stamina the Monarchs show by the fourth quarter.

Duncanville is known for its speed, and Mater Dei also has speed on both sides of the ball.

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Don’t mess with Texas

OK, I was trying to be cute and show off the palm trees with a tweet about St. John Bosco’s stadium with the title, “Can Texas top this?”

That produced passionate responses from enraged Texas fans. They truly love their stadiums.

“Is that a middle school stadium?”

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“I mean, all our Texas money goes into football stadiums vs actual education. So yea, Texas has better facilities.”

“That’s an impressive practice facility.”

“On a Wednesday afternoon…… at a middle school game……..with the B team!”

“Cute JV stadium.”

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“Looks like a junior high field in Galveston.”

“In Texas football is King next to God!”

Yes, Allen’s $60-million stadium is the best high school stadium anywhere. But thanks to my new Texas friends, I realize there are great high school stadiums everywhere.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Texas high school football is all about.

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Recap of opening week

Warren quarterback Nicholaus Iamaleava.
(Luca Evans / For The Times)

It really is the haves vs. the have-nots in high school football. Here’s my column.

Servite came out with an impressive win over Edison. Here’s a report.

Here’s a look at some top performances from the opening week.

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Top 25 rankings

This week’s top 25 football rankings after the opening week of games:

Ranking. Team (Record) this week’s opponent, previous rank

1. ST JOHN BOSCO (1-0) vs. Alemany, Friday; 1

2. MATER DEI (0-0) at Duncanville (Texas), Friday; 2

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3. SERVITE (1-0) vs. Mission Viejo (at Orange Coast College), Thursday; 3

4. SIERRA CANYON (1-0) at Oaks Christian, Friday; 4

5. CORONA CENTENNIAL (0-0) vs. San Diego Cathedral, Friday; 5

6. NORCO (1-0) vs. Santa Margarita, Thursday; 7

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7. SANTA MARGARITA (1-0) at Norco, Thursday; 8

8. LOS ALAMITOS (1-0) vs. San Diego Lincoln, Friday; 9

The remaining teams can be seen here.

This week’s high school football schedule can be found here.

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Keeping track of St. Bernard transfers

Former St. Bernard receiver Larry Turner (right) with new Bishop Alemany teammate Kevin Green.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

When Manuel Douglas resigned as football coach at St. Bernard last spring just before the team’s final game, the phones started ringing among those with connections to St. Bernard players. The writing was on the wall that players would scatter.

The main beneficiary of the transfers appears to be Bishop Alemany, Leuzinger and Inglewood, among others.

Here’s a look where many of St. Bernard’s top players ended up. Most entered last week still seeking Southern Section eligibility approval to play, according to the section’s website. But the Southern Section later agreed that they would gain immediate eligibility because St. Bernard currently doesn’t have a team.

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Story lines for 2021

The 2021 high school football season began this past weekend with a 10-week regular season schedule, four weeks of playoffs and a week of state bowl games. That’s the best-case scenario. Since the coronavirus is still around, everyone needs to prepare for interruptions, interventions and adjustments when positive test results are discovered.

Here’s some story lines to watch:

Predicting which teams might be succeed in Southern Section Division 1 has become too easy. St. John Bosco has reached the championship game eight consecutive seasons. Mater Dei has been to the final every season since 2016. There is no parity. These two programs have separated themselves in a big way.

That doesn’t mean opponents won’t try to shock the world. Anaheim Servite, Corona Centennial, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Norco can dream of being competitive in the Division 1 playoffs this season. But facts are facts and history would need to change in dramatic and surprising fashion.

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For more, click here.

Crisis in the City Section

Crenshaw football coach Robert Garrett.
(Robert S. Helfman)

There’s no other way to describe it other than a crisis in the City Section when two of its powerhouse programs, Crenshaw and Dorsey, had to cancel opening football games last week. For Crenshaw, it was because lack of players. The Cougars have 14. For Dorsey, it was lack of cleared players. Coach Stafon Johnson said a shortage of nurses left the Dons with an incomplete roster.

Crenshaw coach Robert Garrett didn’t hold back in describing what he believes problem is in trying to attract players at Crenshaw.

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Here’s what Garrett had to say.

Girls’ volleyball profile: Elia Rubin

Elia Rubin is a standout volleyball player at Marymount High School.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Every morning in April 2020, the warm island sun would glint off Elia Rubin’s hair as she went for jogs along the sand.

At the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rubin was cut off from the world, living with a few family members in a house in along Kauai’s Hanalei Bay. A planned four-day vacation turned into a 50-day stay as the island restricted travel. She took classes over Zoom with the fronds of palm trees swaying outside, went on hikes, spent as much time at the beach as possible. To many, it would’ve been a dream.

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To Rubin, a senior on Marymount High’s girls’ women’s volleyball, which is ranked No. 2 in California, it was a nightmare.

“People at home were so jealous — they were like, ‘You’re stuck in Hawaii?’” Rubin said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, but I want to be at home playing volleyball. You don’t understand.’”

She never stopped working during a time it would’ve been easy to relax. She dragged her younger cousins to the beach with a couple of volleyballs, telling asking them to serve to her. She’d play “pepper” against the wall of her house. When she finally returned home to Santa Monica, her brothers watched in awe as she trained two to three times a day.

The Stanford-bound Rubin has a unique competitive fire, one that’s been lit since her earliest years. Opponents get burnt if they try to play with it, and teammates singed if they don’t share it. It may might have never burned brighter than during her time away — and now with her return to the gym, she’s looking to drive Marymount to a state championship.

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For the full profile, go here.

Redondo Union wins

The first big girls’ volleyball tournament of the season is complete, and Redondo Union emerged as championship, defeating Harvard-Westlake 3-0.

Taft also won the Providence tournament behind MVP Julie Cespedes.

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Water polo returns

Junior water polo goalie Baxter Chelsom of Harvard-Westlake.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

At 6 feet 5, with long arms and big feet, junior Baxter Chelsom of Studio City Harvard-Westlake has found the perfect position to play in water polo: goalie.

“It definitely helps because you can cover a lot more of the cage,” he said. “Thankfully, the pool is the great equalizer. I’m not very coordinated on land.”

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There’s no need for him to be able to dunk a ball unless it’s celebrating a pool victory. He and senior center Ilias Stothart, who’s from Spain but speaks with an Australian accent because that’s where his parents are from, will lead a young but talented Harvard-Westlake team into what they hope will be a return to normalcy in high school boys’ water polo.

Last year, the season was minimal (nine games) because of COVID-19 restrictions. There were no playoffs. The few number of games played was devoted to giving seniors the chance to excel. Now it’s back to fierce competitions and big-time tournaments. Harvard-Westlake plans to face all the top Division 1 teams in Southern California during the regular season. Huntington Beach, Santa Ana Mater Dei and Newport Harbor figure to offer top competition, along with Mission League power Loyola.

For more on water polo, click here.

P.E. classes to the rescue

P.E. classes are back.
(Nick Agro / For The Times/CNG)
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When campuses closed in March 2020 and classes went online for more than a year at many schools because of COVID-19, it was a huge blow for coaches who use physical education classes to help recruit athletes for their teams. You can’t see how big or fast someone is through a computer screen.

When high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District began classes this week, it was the first time P.E. has been offered in 17 months, giving coaches hope that they will be able to recruit students for football, cross-country and other teams.

At Birmingham Charter, which began classes two weeks ago, football coach Jim Rose said he has already added 25 new players aided by identifying and contacting students in P.E. classes.

It will take time to get students cleared with physicals and to teach them fundamentals of particular sports, but P.E. teachers are critical to helping sports teams grow and prosper by identifying incoming freshmen and encouraging them to try a team sport.

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Notes . . .

Servite WR Tetairoa McMillan has committed to Oregon. . . .

After Santa Monica and Venice lost opening football games because of COVID-19 protocols, the two schools have agreed to meet in week three at Venice, renewing a rivalry of beach cities. . . .

Ken Goldstone, the boys’ volleyball coach at San Clemente for 22 years, has retired. His teams won 13 South Coast League championship. He has been involved in public education for 42 years. . . .

Pitcher JD Goodcase of St. Bonaventure has committed to the University of San Diego. . . .

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From the archives: Matt Cassel

Matt Cassel visiting Chatsworth High in 2011 and having jersey number retired.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

With Torrance Little League the first team from Los Angeles County to make it to the Little League World Series since Northridge in 1994, it’s a good time to remember the great Matt Cassel from Northridge Little League, Chatsworth High, USC and the NFL.

Here’s a story from 2011 telling the Matt Cassel story before his uniform number was retired at Chatsworth High.

As I wrote: “He was the backup to Carson Palmer, a Heisman Trophy winner. Then he became the backup to Matt Leinart, another Heisman Trophy winner. His coach, Pete Carroll, tried to move him to tight end, but Cassel declined.

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In five years at USC, he never started a football game. But in an era when quarterbacks transfer when they’re told they’re second string, Cassel stayed, got his degree and became a Trojans legend for loyalty.”

One of the nicest, funniest kids I’ve ever talked to. Became a quarterback, broadcaster and beloved sports hero to so many. I still remember him at Williamsport smiling, having fun and enjoying the lights, cameras and pressure.

Here’s a YouTube feature on Matt Cassel discussing the Little League World Series.

Here’s video of Cassel’s return to Chatsworth in 2011.

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Recommendations

From GQ, a profile on former Chino Hills guard LaMelo Ball.

From a former coach, a 2019 story on teaching and coaching in a multigenerational setting.

From the San Jose Mercury News, a story on athletes and vaccinations.

Tweets you might have missed

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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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