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Prep Rally: Time for a midseason high school football report

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. We’ve made it. Yes, the high school football season has completed half of its 10-week regular-season schedule. It’s time for a midseason report.

Midseason review

Defensive back Jaden Mickey of Corona Centennial.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It’s the midseason point of the high school football regular season. Somehow, someway, it has proceeded with minimal interruptions. Yes, there have been canceled and postponed games because of COVID-19 protocols, but adjustments and creativity have kept teams moving forward. Now it’s time to review who’s been performing at a high level.

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As far as teams, there’s the big four who are all unbeaten: Mater Dei, St. John Bosco, Servite and Corona Centennial. Another unbeaten team is Norco, which is headed on a collision course with Centennial on Oct. 15 at home and has picked up an important road game against Sierra Canyon on Friday at Calabasas.

Let’s start with a player who entered this season as a 16-year-old senior. Yes, take that you people who promote holdbacks and repeating eighth grade. Jaden Mickey, a cornerback at Corona Centennial who’s committed to Notre Dame, is outplaying 19-year-old seniors.

“He is playing at a tremendously high level and is developing into a good leader,” coach Matt Logan said.

Here’s the complete look.

There are also 68 unbeaten teams in the City Section and Southern Section ranging from 1-0 to 5-0.

Here’s the week five schedule.

Football rewind

Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson before Friday's game against Bishop Alemany.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Mission Viejo and Santa Margarita put themselves in contention for Southern Section Division 1 playoff berths with impressive nonleague victories.

Here’s a report on Mission Viejo’s 30-7 win over Alemany.

Here’s a report on Santa Margarita’s 42-21 win over previously unbeaten Los Alamitos.

Crenshaw had to cancel its first two games this season because it had only 14 players. The roster is nearing 30 players and growing. Here’s a report about the 1-1 Cougars.

Edison pulled off a 42-0 victory over San Clemente. Here’s a story from the Daily Pilot on the Chargers’ statement win.

Top 25 rankings

A look at The Times’ top 25 high school football teams in the Southland:

Rk. SCHOOL (W-L); Result; Next game (last rank)

1. MATER DEI (2-0); idle; vs. La Mirada (at Santa Ana Stadium), Friday (1)

2. ST. JOHN BOSCO (5-0); def. Chesapeake (Va.) Smith, 49-0; vs. Mater Dei, Oct. 1 (2)

3. SERVITE (4-0); def. Sierra Canyon, 44-22; vs. Helix (at Orange Coast College), Friday (3)

4. CORONA CENTENNIAL (4-0); def. Long Beach Poly, 52-7; vs. King, Oct. 1 (4)

5. NORCO (4-0); def. Murrieta Valley, 35-34; vs. Sierra Canyon at Calabasas, Friday (5)

6. SIERRA CANYON (2-2); lost to Servite, 44-22; vs. Norco at Calabasas, Friday (7)

Here’s the complete top 25.

Great comeback

There was a crazy high school football game in Arizona. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman held a 24-7 lead over Hamilton with 1:09 left.

In one of the great comebacks in high school football history, Hamilton won 25-24.

Here come the female kickers

Shaina Clorfeine, 17, is a senior, place kicker for the La Canada High School football team. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Shaina Clorfeine, 17, is a senior, place kicker for the La Canada High School football team. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

There’s not much different about Shaina Clorfeine, other than the bright green cleats.

Otherwise, the kicker blends in, standing on the sidelines next to her La Cañada High football teammates. She might be a little smaller. A spool of hair flows from the back of her helmet. But next to other players, whose feet are encased in muted greys and blacks, her neon kicks are what stand out.

Then she takes off her headgear, making it apparent that she is the only girl on this football team, and she suddenly stands out for a different reason.

“Last week against Franklin, I took off my helmet, and then a group of boys from the other team … came up to me and they were like, ‘Do you play football?’ Clorfeine said. “I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and they were like, ‘What do you do,’ and I was like, ‘I kick.’ They were like, ‘Yo, mad respect.’”

There’s a growing number of female high school kickers in Southern California, each with their own taking-off-their-helmet stories. Jordan Galvin and Aiyana DeGiacomo of Westminster can tell you about the looks of shock they’ve received from other teams during warm-ups. Leilani Armenta of Ventura St. Bonaventure can tell you about the comments she’s heard from the stands as she lines up for an extra-point try.

Here’s a report on the growing number of female football kickers.

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The City Section’s most exciting player

Robert Sarmiento poses for a photo at San Pedro High.
(Luis Sinco)

At 5 feet 7 and 150 pounds, 17-year-old senior Robert Sarmiento of San Pedro is the feistiest, most exciting football player in the City Section.

Sometimes he gets thrown around like a rubber toy in the mouth of a Doberman. Then he picks himself off the ground and keeps on running.

“I’m a pest,” he said. “I’m that roach you can’t kill. I’m that fly that keeps buzzing. I don’t get tired.”

You shake your head in astonishment when you watch him return a punt, catch a pass or make a tackle.

Here’s a profile on a player who his coach says, “I don’t if I’ve coached a better player.”

Advice for interim coaches

Oregon State interim head coach Cory Hall in 2017.
Simi Valley assistant Cory Hall was interim coach at Oregon State in 2017.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

If anyone knows the rules about being an interim college football coach, it’s Simi Valley High defensive coordinator Cory Hall.

He was the interim head coach at Oregon State in 2017 for six weeks and was the interim head coach at Central Michigan in 2018 for two weeks after the season ended. He has some interesting lessons learned for USC interim coach Donte Williams.

“It’s so early that what they do first is damage control, assuring the current players that the program is stable,” Hall said Tuesday. “They’re going to say in the interim, play hard and finish strong.”

Here’s more advice.

Ivy League returns

Football returned to the Ivy League for the first time since 2019, and former high school standouts from Southern California were prominent.

Former Long Beach Poly running back Aaron Shampklin rushed for 183 yards in Harvard’s win over Georgetown.

Former Edison quarterback Griffin O’Connor passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns in Yale’s loss to Holy Cross.

Former St. John Bosco defensive end Cole Aubrey had two sacks in Pennsylvania’s win over Lehigh.

Cross-country records

Newbury Park's boys' cross country team at Woodbridge Invitational after record performance.
(Luca Evans)

A few seconds after crossing the finish line, Leo Young paused, staring at the electronic leaderboard in the free zone.

The Newbury Park runner’s mouth was agape, sucking in air to fill depleted lungs that had just fueled him to a first-place finish at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in Norco on Saturday night. The blue screen flashed his three-mile time: 13:38.1, a second less than the record for the fastest time ever by an American high schooler, held by his brother Nico.

Young’s mouth dropped even further.

“I finished and I thought, ‘Wow, that was a good race,’ but … I didn’t think a record was in our cards,” Young said, eyes wide. “I saw that, and I was honestly like, ‘What just happened?’”

There was plenty of family competition on Saturday night at Woodbridge. In the boys’ sweepstakes, Young jockeyed for position the entire three miles in a quadrant made up of twin Lex and brothers Aaron and Colin Sahlman. The four, along with a girls’ team that placed three top-30 runners, sealed a dominant all-around showing for Newbury Park.

“Our guys, they want to be the best team ever in history,” head coach Sean Brosnan said. “They’re not shy of it.”

Aaron finished second with a time of 13:42.3, Lex third a couple of seconds later and Colin fourth at 13:48. Young deferred credit after the race to his teammates, particularly the Sahlmans, for setting the pace.

“I didn’t have to do any work until that last quarter mile, when I decided to go,” he said.

In a fast, flat Woodbridge course, the Newbury Park boys shattered their previously-held national record for team average – 14:14 – by twenty seconds at 13:54.

Brosnan said before the race that the girls’ goal was to finish under 17 minutes, and they hit that mark exactly. Senior Sam McDonnell propelled the group thanks to a second-place individual finish, with a time of 15:54.6.

Eleven seconds ahead of McDonnell was Mira Costa’s Dalia Frias, who came around the final bend all alone in a wire-to-wire victory.

ECR rises in girls’ volleyball

El Camino Real girls' volleyball coach Alyssa Lee talks to team during timeout.
El Camino Real girls’ volleyball coach Alyssa Lee talks to team during timeout. Royals are 15-1 this season after sweep of Granada Hills.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

A three-set sweep of six-time City Section champion Granada Hills last week provided clear evidence that El Camino Real is rising in girls’ volleyball. It was the 15th consecutive match victory for the Royals since an opening loss to Palisades.

Coach Alyssa Lee was the captain on Granada Hills coach Tom Harp’s first team. Now she’s guiding ECR to wins over her alma mater.

Here’s a look at last week’s match.

Orange Lutheran came up with the most shocking win of the week in girls’ volleyball, knocking off the No. 1 team in Southern Section Division 1, Mater Dei, in a Trinity League opener.

Etiwanda improved to 12-0 and 2-0 in the Baseline League with a four-set win over Los Osos.

Huntington Beach won the La Jolla tournament on Saturday. Orange Lutheran went 4-0 to win the Torrance tournament.

Unbeaten Marymount remains No. 1 in the statewide rankings.

Girls’ tennis

It’s the early season for Southern Section girls’ tennis, but all eyes should be on Westlake. The Warriors knocked off Harvard-Westlake 12-6 last week. Westlake is 4-0 and also has wins over tennis powers Peninsula and Mira Costa.

Sophomore Ariana Liu is at No. 1 singles with sophomore Megan Sun at No. 2 and senior Rachel Sherrill at No. 3.

Water polo

It’s time to welcome back Mater Dei as a water polo power. The Monarchs won the South Coast tournament championship, defeating Newport Harbor in the final 12-10.

Notes . . .

John Emme, a beloved former baseball coach at Corona del Mar, died last Monday. He was 57. He suffered head injuries in a bike accident and never recovered. . . .

Jada Wynn, a senior girls’ basketball player at Fullerton Troy, has committed to Colorado. . . .

Benny Gealer from Rolling Hills Prep has been selected as the only high school basketball player on the USA Maccabi team that will compete next summer in Jerusalem. . . .

Cerritos College has pulled out of hosting any CIF state championship football bowl games this year. The CIF is in discussion with Saddleback College to host the Open Division final. . . .

The West Valley League athletic directors voted to hold a boys’ basketball tournament at the end of the regular season to establish the league’s seedings for postseason play. The first and second place finishers in the regular season will draw a first-round bye in the tournament. . . .

Corona Centennial guard Donovan Dent has committed to New Mexico. . . .

Standout Servite two-way lineman Mason Graham has committed to Michigan. . . .

Bishop Alemany defensive back Ephesians Prysock has committed to USC. . . .

Junior pitcher Matthew Morrell of Cypress has committed to Oregon. . . .

Catcher Luca DiPaolo of Loyola has committed to USC. . . .

Bishop Gorman won the Ron Massey winter basketball championship with a 68-50 win over Mater Dei in the championship game.

From the archives: Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun (8) and Christian Yelich (22).
Ryan Braun (8) and Christian Yelich (22), who grew up in Southern California, stand in the dugout prior to a game against the Braves.
(Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)

Former Granada Hills High standout Ryan Braun announced his retirement from major league baseball on Tuesday after 14 years with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The 2011 MVP of the National League was a high school star, then continued to excel in college at Miami and became a fan favorite with the Brewers, earning rookie of the year honors in 2007. He was the first Jewish player since Dodgers great Sandy Koufax in 1963 to be a league MVP.

There was the difficult time of being suspended for 65 games in 2013 for using performance-enhancing drugs. Braun admitted his mistake and tried to move on, getting involved in supporting causes both in Southern California and Milwaukee.

Here’s a story from 2011 after winning his MVP award. And here’s a story from 2010.

Tanner McKee comes through

Tanner McKee during his senior year at Corona Centennial.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Corona Centennial football coach Matt Logan went to the Coliseum to watch his former quarterback, Tanner McKee, make his first career start for Stanford against USC. Not only did McKee lead Stanford to a 42-28 upset victory, but the freshman was outstanding, completing 16 of 23 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns.

“It didn’t look like he was absent from football,” Logan said, referring to McKee’s two-year Mormon mission to Brazil after high school.

“He was out there doing his thing. It was fun to watch him play.”

McKee’s performance might have earned him the permanent starting position. To those who saw him lead Centennial to prominence, McKee’s effort didn’t come as a surprise. He has Stanford at 2-0 going into a Saturday game against UCLA.

Here’s the rundown on a special night for Centennial fans.

Recommendations

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on former Oak Christian linebacker Bo Calvert, who has come back from two concussions at UCLA.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on USC’s new interim coach, Donte Williams, a Culver City grad who got his start coaching junior college football.

From Calbears.com, former Great Oak cross-country runner Gabriel Abbes shares his thoughts on “embracing the beauty of the Latinx community.”

From ScorebookLive, a story on history being made in Oregon with the first all-female officiating crew for a high school football game.

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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