Prep Rally: Previewing the biggest Friday night of the high school football season

Mater Dei tight end Champion Johnson (47) reacts as his team beats St John Bosco 34-17 in April.
Mater Dei tight end Champion Johnson (47) reacts as his team beats St John Bosco 34-17 in April.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It’s the biggest Friday night of the high school football season. Not only is No. 1 Mater Dei playing at No. 2 St. John Bosco but there are many other outstanding matchups that could be hyped as championship games.

Showdown after showdown

Mater Dei's Champion Johnson (47) reacts as his team beats St John Bosco 34-17 in last spring's only meeting.
Mater Dei’s Champion Johnson (47) reacts as his team beats St John Bosco 34-17 in last spring’s only meeting.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The tailgating is going to be huge. The hype is going to be plentiful. The stadium is going to be packed. Welcome to round 1 of Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco. The battle of the unbeatens. The battle of two rosters filled with future college players. It’s never boring. It’s never not intense. It’s never without big ramifications.


“We’re totally pumped,” St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said. “Our entire community is excited.”

Friday’s game at St. John Bosco will likely decide the No. 1 seed for the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs (sorry Servite fans). But it’s one of many outstanding matchups set for an Oct. 1 that will be remembered as the biggest day of the 2021 regular season.

In the City Section, Banning is playing at San Pedro for the Marine League championship. Palisades is playing at Venice to decide the Western League. Hawkins is at Crenshaw in a big Coliseum League matchup.

In the Southern Section, you have a series of games that will probably decide league titles.

Here’s a look at the most important week of the season so far.

Here’s the link to the week six schedule.


L.A. Lincoln standout

Lincoln receiver Jaden Rattay has scored eight touchdowns in the last two games.
(Chris Rattay)

It’s a rite of passage involving fathers and sons who play games against each other, an understanding one day that Dad will no longer get to spike the football after victory.

Chris Rattay, the father of Los Angeles Lincoln receiver Jaden Rattay, admits, “There’s nothing I can beat him in anymore.”

There was chess. Dad won. There was Hearts. Dad won. There was H-O-R-S-E. Dad won. There was running. Dad won.

“The only thing I can still get him at is golf,” Chris said. “He went out for the first time last summer. He took three lessons and he starts driving the ball the same distance as me. Football saved me.”

Jaden, 5 feet 11 and 150 pounds, has scored eight touchdowns in the last two games for 5-0 Lincoln. He’s a 15-year-old junior who has never received a grade other than A on his report card since the sixth grade.

“He’s got a heck of a brain,” said Chris, who was Lincoln’s football coach in 2017 and 2018 before stepping down because of a health issue. “Every time he takes a standardized math test, he saves it.”


Here’s a profile on Rattay.

45 years and counting

For some reason, my co-worker, Ben Bolch, had to tweet that this is my 45th year of covering high school sports in Southern California. Thanks Ben. That caused my bosses to tell me to come up with lists of the greatest high school athletes I’ve seen since 1976 and my most memorable moments.


Football rewind

Norco running back Jaydn Ott (8) tries to leap over Sierra Canyon defenders Darryl West (11) and Micah Valenzuela (10).
Norco running back Jaydn Ott (8) tries to leap over Sierra Canyon defenders Darryl West (11) and Micah Valenzuela (10).
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Sierra Canyon took a big step toward gaining a Southern Section Division 1 playoff berth with a victory over previously unbeaten Norco on Friday. Here’s the rundown.

Beverly Hills got its first victory after four defeats and its new coach continued to teach life lessons. Here’s the rundown.

Michael Luckhurst of Santa Barbara Bishop Diego continues to impress. He passed for three touchdowns and kicked a 50-yard field goal for his unbeaten team. He really wants to focus on kicking in college and someone will get a good one and the kicker will be able to throw a pass if needed.

Gardena Serra had its football team shut down for 10 days by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health because of COVID-19 protocols. The team had to cancel a Mission League game against Bishop Alemany that was scheduled for Friday.

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 (3-0); def. La Mirada, 58-7; at St. John Bosco, Friday; 1

2. ST. JOHN BOSCO (5-0); idle; vs. Mater Dei, Friday; 2

3. SERVITE (5-0); def. La Mesa Helix, 42-7; vs. Orange Lutheran (at Orange Coast College), Thursday; 3


4. CORONA CENTENNIAL (5-0); def. Citrus Valley, 63-20; vs. King, Thursday; 4

5. SIERRA CANYON (3-2); def. Norco, 35-21; at Mission Viejo, Friday; 6

6. SANTA MARGARITA (4-1); idle; at JSerra, Friday; 7

Here’s the complete rankings.

Basketball notes

Fairfax coach Reggie Morris Jr. talks to Tyler Bey (No. 2) and guard David Mack.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

The City Section got a lot stronger in basketball with the arrival of 6-foot-8 junior wing Tyler Bey, who enrolled at Fairfax after being in New Jersey. This past weekend in the Ryse Up tournament, Bey was showing off a terrific three-point shooting touch, making six threes. Coach Reggie Morris Jr. will have to look for ways to take advantage of Bey’s size and versatility.

There were a number of talented freshmen making an impact. Windward has a good one in Gavin Hightower, who’s 6-1, drives aggressively to the basket and should be a scorer on fast breaks.

Loyola senior point guard Jalen Cox, a returning all-league player, had a big game against St. Bernard. His new coach, Damaine Powell, a former USC player, said he thinks Cox can play in the Pac-12 Conference.

The Nike Extravaganza at Santa Ana Mater Dei will take place Jan. 28 and 29. Here’s the link to the schedule.

Harvey Kitani of Rolling Hills Prep held his annual dinner for teams participating in his State Preview Classic on Jan. 22 at Colony. UCLA coach Mick Cronin was the guest speaker.


Hannah Stines from Troy has committed to Washington in girls’ basketball. Lani White from Mater Dei has committed to Utah.

RJ Smith from Damien has committed to Colorado.

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Dalia Frias of Mira Costa shows true grit

Dalia Frias of Mira Costa won the Woodbridge Invitational sweepstakes race.
(Dylan Stewart / PrepCalTrack)

She stepped up to the line at the 2019 Foot Locker National Cross-Country Championships and, suddenly, Dalia Frias was hit by a pressure she’d never felt before.

She knew it was a high-level meet, one of the premier races in the country. She knew about the competition. It was hard for her to focus on anything else.

As the Mira Costa High runner improved in her sophomore and junior seasons, she drew more attention. As she drew more attention, that brought stress. She’d waste precious energy by running races inside her own head.

But after the latest in a long line of accomplishments dating to her spring track and field season, smashing the course record at the Woodbridge Cross-Country Invitational last weekend in Norco, the only stress to Frias came from a smile so big it seemed to stretch her facial muscles.

“Now I’ve learned, just let it go and run for fun,” Frias said. “That’s how we do it now.”

Here’s the profile on Frias.

Vanessa Nygaard is back

Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard (left) visiting with Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Vanessa Nygaard decided to take a year’s sabbatical as coach of Windward’s girls’ basketball team while serving as an assistant coach for the Las Vegas Aces WNBA team. She will be returning to Windward this year having a learned a lot.

“I’m excited to get back,” said Nygaard, who is still coaching in the WNBA this week because the Aces are in the WNBA playoffs.

Nygaard said she has learned plenty spending months observing and participating in women’s pro basketball. She was excited when a high school basketball coach like herself, Noelle Quinn, was named head coach of the Seattle Storm.

One player who has switched teams is Juju Watkins, who left Windward for Sierra Canyon. Now Nygaard will have to coach against her former star player.

“I wish her the best,” she said.

Intuit Dome will feature jerseys

An artist’s rendering shows an aerial view of the Clippers’ news arena, The Intuit Dome, at night.
(Amy Millstone / L.A. Clippers)

When Clippers owner Steve Ballmer introduced his new Intuit Dome with a groundbreaking ceremony, it was also revealed that in the concourse area of the arena there will be hundreds of high school basketball jerseys on display from teams around California.

That’s going to be a major task getting schools to send in a jersey. The good news is there’s plenty of time since the arena won’t open until the fall of 2024.


In California for the 2019-20 season, there were 1,519 boys’ teams and 1,469 girls’ teams. So the Clippers will need space for more than 1,500 jerseys. That will be quite a sight once completed.

Someone will deserve a prize if they can identify the mascots of each school.

Notes . . .

Sophomore pitcher Ethan Schiefelbein of Corona has committed to UCLA. He was selected for the USA 15U national team . . .

Junior outfielder Will Gasparino of Harvard-Westlake has committed to Texas. . . .

Sophomore catcher Nolan Johnson from Westlake has committed to Miami. . . .

Mandee Farish is the new softball coach at Edison. . . .

Annie Buffolino, a golfer at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, has committed to Boise State. . . .

Chris Murray, a former San Clemente assistant, has been hired as San Clemente’s new soccer coach. . . .

La Salle won the Crescenta Valley girls’ volleyball tournament championship behind tourney MVP Dani Thomas-Nathan. Chaminade was the runner-up. . . .

Loyola won the boys’ varsity division at the Bell-Jeff/Sacred Heart Cross-Country Invitational. Brianne Smith of Quartz Hill won the girls’ invitational title and led her team to the title title.

From the archives: Johnny Stanton

Johnny Stanton helped change the fortunes of Santa Margarita football, becoming the star quarterback during the Harry Welch reign.

In 2011, I wrote this column on Stanton training under Welch as a junior.

“I think Johnny Stanton has a wonderful future,” Welch said. “He’s intelligent, he’s creative, he’s focused. He’s a caring person with lots of gifts. I have to help him develop his potential, which is immense.”

He led Santa Margarita to the Pac-5 championship in 2011 and a state bowl victory. He went to Nebraska to play quarterback, transferred to Saddleback College, then UNLV. He transitioned to playing fullback for the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent in 2018.

He has been with the Cleveland Browns on the practice squad in 2020 and 2021.


From the Washington Post, a story on a football player committing to Clemson and his family joining him on the move.


From the Washington Post, a story on two former NFL players coaching high school football.

From the San Diego Union Tribune, a story on two former La Jolla Country Day girls’ basketball greats.

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, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

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