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Prep Rally: A rare trip to see high school football in Texas

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. I’ve covered high school sports in Southern California since 1976. I’ve always wanted to visit Texas to see if all the hype about football there was true. I got my wish last week to watch Santa Ana Mater Dei against Duncanville. And I drove around to see the $62-million stadium in Allen, too.

The Texas experience

Brisket, ribs and mac and cheese at Pecan Lodge in Dallas.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

In more than 40 years as a sportswriter, I’ve covered the Super Bowl, the Rose Bowl, an NBA championship, the World Series, the Breeders’ Cup, the Little League World Series and countless high school championship games.

Still left on the bucket list was witnessing a Texas high school football game. It became an aspiration after reading “Friday Night Lights: A town, a team and a Dream,” the wonderful book written by H.G. Bissinger in 1990.

So my two-day, two-night trip to Dallas searching for the ultimate Texas high school football experience came with high expectations.

Sean Salisbury, a former USC quarterback who is now a talk-radio host in Houston, said, “I love California football. Texas is just different. In California, high school football is a way of life. In Texas, high school football is life.”

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Here’s the link to observations.

Here’s a look at whether the Texas-California relationship can expand.

Here’s the rundown on Mater Dei’s 45-3 smackdown of Duncanville.

Taft gets first win since 2017

Taft football players celebrate their first victory since 2017 after 43-6 win over Van Nuys.
(Taft High School)

Robert Padilla’s win-loss record playing for the Taft High football team since his freshman season was 0-24. So forgive him if he was a little excited counting down the final 10 seconds of Taft’s 43-6 win over Van Nuys on Friday night, the first Toreadors’ victory since the 2017 season.

“It feels like a dream,” he said. “It was an amazing rush of euphoria. We were predicted to go 0-10 like every other season. It was the best time of my life.”

First-year coach Jeff Kearin, who took over the position in late summer, once guided Los Angeles Loyola to a Southern Section Division 1 championship, but this moment was particularly satisfying.

Here’s the link to football notebook.

Crenshaw troubles

A cleat from Crenshaw's all-weather turf field.
(Robert Garrett)

The obstacles to having a football season at Crenshaw High continue. The Cougars have missed their first two games while trying to build up a team that had 14 players. And the Cougars also are no longer using their relatively new all-weather turf field because a gooey substance was showing up on players’ cleats, according to coach Robert Garrett. The team has switched to practicing on the dusty baseball field. No games will be played at Crenshaw as the school waits for a decision how to repair the field’s issues.

The good news is Garrett said his team is ready to play a game against host L.A. Roosevelt on Thursday. The team is up to 18 players cleared and expects more. “We will rise again,” he said.

Dorsey is back

Dorsey football coach Stafon Johnson was hired in 2019 but finally got to coach his first game last Friday.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

With two minutes left in Friday night’s game, Dorsey quarterback Josh Coleman reared back, firing a spiral that flew high under the lights at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

A transfer from St. Bernard in February 2020, Coleman had a vision of what his first game at Dorsey would look like. He’d return to Jackie Robinson, the field where he played his Pop Warner games as a kid, the field he called “a staple” of the community. He’d see Dons green and black checkering the metal bleachers, parents smiling, longtime friends waving.

For a year and a half, he never had the chance to see any of it. Dorsey didn’t play in the spring. Interest in the program was crippled by COVID-19.

On this night, though, as senior receiver Mychai Williams leapt in the end zone to snare Coleman’s pass for a touchdown, the scene the quarterback dreamt of was real. Players fell over themselves on the sidelines cheering, a crowd of perhaps 200 in the stands sounding like 2,000 as Dorsey sealed a 14-0 win in their first game since 2019.

On the field, after chest-bumping Williams, Coleman turned towards the stands. He threw his arms up, beckoning for more noise.

“It’s been a long, uphill climb,” assistant coach Stephen Williams said. “This ain’t the normal Dorsey. This the new Dorsey.”

A report on Dorsey’s return.

Top 25 football rankings

St. John Bosco (2-0) and Santa Ana Mater Dei (1-0) continue to rank atop The Times’ weekly top 25 football rankings.

Rk. SCHOOL (W-L); Last week; Next game; Last rank

1. ST. JOHN BOSCO (2-0); def. Alemany, 24-3; vs. Bishop Amat, Friday; 1

2. MATER DEI (1-0); def. Duncanville (Texas), 45-3; vs. Henderson (Nev.) Liberty (at Bishop Gorman), Sept. 10; 2

3. SERVITE (2-0); def. Mission Viejo, 44-7; at Bishop Amat, Sept. 9; 3

4. SIERRA CANYON (2-0); def. Oaks Christian, 21-9; vs. Corona Centennial (at San Diego Cathedral), Saturday; 4

5. CORONA CENTENNIAL (1-0); def. San Diego Cathedral, 57-14; vs. Sierra Canyon (at San Diego Cathedral); Sept. 4; 5

6. NORCO (2-0); def. Santa Margarita, 40-22 (Thursday); at Rancho Cucamonga, Friday; 6

For the remaining teams, go here.

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Power ratings

The Southern Section and the City Section are relying on CalPreps.com power ratings. The Southern Section will be putting its many teams in playoff divisions at the end of the football season based on the power ratings.

You can keep track of your favorite team’s position weekly with this link in the Southern Section.

This is the link for the City Section power ratings.

Not until the fourth week of the season will the ratings reflect mostly this season’s accomplishments.

This week’s schedule

Virtually all City Section football games will be played on Thursday this week along with a number of Southern Section games. It’s also the week of the Honor Bowl at San Diego Cathedral Catholic, with the feature game matching Corona Centennial and Sierra Canyon on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Here’s the link to this week’s football schedule.

The Force is with him

Los Angeles High's Sebastian Romero has been recruiting classmates to join football team.
(Glenda Mena)

Sebastian Romero, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound offensive tackle and linebacker at Los Angeles High, is so committed to playing his senior season after the school opted out of playing last spring that he has spent weeks trying to recruit one of his friends to join the team. The friend is 6-foot-3 and a “Star Wars” fan.

“I have this old lightsaber,” Romero said. “I think it’s worth $1,000. I told him, ‘Hey, you play football with us, I’ll give you the lightsaber after the season.’”

Romero, a 4.0 student who’s also captain of the tennis team, learned via video call in March 2020 with coach Anthony Jackson that his junior season wouldn’t take place because of COVID-19 while dozens of other Los Angeles Unified School District teams played an abbreviated spring season.

“It was very devastating,” Romero said. “I envied them because they had a season and we didn’t. It was very sad. We had up to 20 players willing to play, but parents were concerned. Our coach apologized to the seniors. He said if it was up to him, we’d have played.”

For a profile on Romero and his determination to play this season, click here.

Girls’ volleyball update

El Camino Real girls' volleyball team won a tournament this past weekend.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Top teams keep emerging in girls’ volleyball.

Village Christian has faced one of the toughest schedules and is 8-3 with victories over Mira Costa, Harvard-Westlake and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. The Crusaders have feared no one and lost to No. 1 Marymount in three sets.

El Camino Real went 7-0 to win the Burbank tournament championship.

Chaminade won the Santa Barbara tournament, defeating Oaks Christian in the final.

Mater Dei joined the football team on a trip to Texas and won a division of the Volleypalooza tournament. Jordyn Schilling was MVP.

Notes . . .

Junior guard Mike Price is headed to Sierra Canyon. He played last season for Ribet, which has disbanded its basketball program, and before that, he was a freshman standout at Crespi. . . .

Aaron Powell, a sophomore basketball player at Campbell Hall, has picked up a scholarship offer from George Washington University. . . .

Mike Pronier has resigned after 33 years as boys’ soccer coach at San Clemente. The Tritons won three Southern Section Division 1 championships. . . .

Shortstop Cade O’Hara of Mater Dei has committed to Texas Tech. . . .

Former Damien and Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto has been named the new baseball coach at Pasadena La Salle. . . .

Newbury Park softball coach Mike Dagan died of COVID-19 complications, his family announced. He was 50. . . .

Receiver Cooper Barkate of Mater Dei announced that Harvard is his college choice. . . .

From the archives: Tyler Matzek

Former Capistrano Valley pitcher Tyler Matzek was drafted No. 11 overall in 2009 by the Colorado Rockies, but success in pro baseball took years.

He didn’t make his MLB debut in 2014 and it wasn’t until he joined the Atlanta Braves that he became a valuable relief pitcher. This season, at age 30, he has 64 strikeouts in in 49 innings and a 2.20 ERA.

During his days at Capistrano Valley, the left-hander was a one-man show on the mound and at the plate,

Here’s a 2009 story on how well he dealt with pressure.

He led Capistrano Valley to the Southern Section Division 1 championship at Angel Stadium in 2009 with a 1-0 victory. During the playoffs, he didn’t give up any runs in 18 1/3 innings while winning four of the five victories. He went 13-1 on the season.

Recommendations

From the San Jose Mercury News, a look at possible storylines in Northern California football with COVID-19 issues.

From the Sacramento Bee, a story on Capital Christian Center suing the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section after Capital Christian’s football team was barred from the playoffs for its participation in with unsanctioned club team.

From Georgia High School Football Daily, a report on a proposal to separate nine private schools from the state football playoffs.

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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