Prep Rally: The best story in high school sports is at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside


Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. The best in high school sports can be seen in how a group of deaf 8-man football players are trying to have a championship season at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside. We sent Luca Evans to tell the story.

Making a difference

CSDR football coach Keith Adams signs his message to the team after a first-round playoff victory on Nov. 6, 2021.
(Luca Evans / For The Times)

It’s a Friday night high school football playoff game, and the loudest noise around is the low hum of the generator powering the field lights at California School for the Deaf-Riverside.

The lack of auditory stimulation is replaced by visuals. An onlooker without knowledge of American Sign Language can still feel the atmosphere of a community excited by a team that is playing in the first round of the Southern Section Division 2 8-man playoffs and could end up being the best in school history.


Teammates slap each other on the helmets, running up and down the sidelines as the Cubs drop touchdown after touchdown on Santa Clarita Christian. Behind them, cheerleaders ruffle pom-poms in front of onlookers that whip towels like a windmill. Parents standing and watching on the dirt road outside the field give the occasional cheer. Smiles and laughs abound.

What’s there not to be happy about when you win 70-12 and have earned a record of 10-0?

“The players can now believe in themselves again,” coach Keith Adams said after the dominating win. “They’ve grown up in an area where there’s always been people taking advantage of them because they can’t hear. So it’s definitely brought morale up — their self-esteem is a lot higher.”

Here’s the inspiring story.

Historic change for LAUSD coaches

Roosevelt players look on from the sideline during the East L.A. Classic. Their coach will be getting a raise.
Roosevelt players look on from the sideline during the East L.A. Classic against rival Garfield. Their coach will be getting a raise.
(Luca Evans / For The Times)

Los Angeles Unified School District coaches will receive their first increase in coaching stipend salaries in more than 20 years beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

LAUSD will increase differentials that would lead to varsity football coaches going from a stipend of $2,811 to $5,622. Basketball and baseball coaches would go from $2,512 to $5,024. Athletic directors will also see their stipends double.


“Historic,” Garfield football coach Lorenzo Hernandez said. “If true, this will draw and retain quality coaches and assist with stability.”

Here’s the report on the ramifications for a first raise since 1999.

The ringer from Germany

Hero Kanu of Santa Margarita is a 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior defensive lineman from Santa Margarita via Germany.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Imagine trying to teach 6-foot-5, 290-pound Hero Kanu from Germany how to swim.

His football coach at Santa Margarita High, Anthony Rouzier, calls him “a behemoth; a dancing bear.” Kanu got a friend to teach him so quickly how to float and paddle in a pool that he tried something every teenager in California attempts at least once — surfing.

“I tried it but it didn’t go that well,” he said. “But it was fun. The beach is so beautiful.”

When Kanu arrived at Santa Margarita from Geltendorf on Oct. 9, 2020, he was a former soccer player trying football for the first time while learning English. He left his family behind to stay with a host family with the hopes of fulfilling his new dream — getting a college football scholarship.

After he recorded two tackles for losses in his second game last spring against Bellflower St. John Bosco, he said he received eight scholarship offers. He was up to 27 by the time he entertained reporters at the Trinity League media day on Aug. 6. Now he has 18 tackles for losses this season and is trying to make a college choice from among football royalty — Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia and Oklahoma.

Here’s the profile.

St. Genevieve success

Billy Parra has guided the St. Genevieve Valiants to a 9-0 record.
Billy Parra has guided the St. Genevieve Valiants to a 9-0 record and has 17 seniors, all of whom have attended the school for four years.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Peering inside the fence at Panorama City St. Genevieve High, it looks as if the entire student body of 523 is cheering, giggling and having fun as football players coach female students in a powder puff flag football game on the school’s 50-yard turf field that has no goal posts.

Its principal, Dan Horn, was one of the first to adopt character education as a teaching component 10 years ago. He once sent 13 buses of students to the Hollywood Bowl to watch the musical “Hairspray” to teach students about good manners.

So it comes as no surprise that one reason the school’s football team went 9-1 and won the Camino Real League title is loyalty. Each of the team’s 17 seniors has been at St. Genevieve since they were freshmen. That’s extraordinary in this era of transfers, COVID-19 and family reasons to switch schools. It’s a hint how rare this team might be under seventh-year coach Billy Parra.

Here’s a profile on how Parra has helped transformed the program.

Big dude at Dorsey

Elijah Henderson (left), a 6-6, 356-pound sophomore at Dorsey.
(Stafon Johnson)

Dorsey High football coach Stafon Johnson played running back at USC and knows a good defensive lineman when he sees one. He thinks 6-foot-6, 356-pound sophomore Elijah Henderson is going to be a player to watch the next two years.

“I’ve never seen anyone like him,” Johnson said.

Henderson played his first high school football game against San Pedro in September, then didn’t play again until last Friday against Crenshaw after experiencing headaches. Let’s just say the Cougars didn’t know who he was but learned he’s one big dude plugging the middle.

“He’s going to be special,” Johnson said.

Freshman standout

Weston Port, a freshman defensive end at San Juan Hills, didn’t have a pleasant weekend when the Southern Section football pairings were announced and San Juan Hills wasn’t included, ending his season. But what a season he had.

In 10 games, he had 91 tackles, including 12 sacks. He picked up several college scholarship offers just on his play alone. He chose to attend his hometown school, making him someone to admire that he wanted to play with his friends and succeed on his own terms.

It’s going to be fun to see him continue to grow and improve in the coming years.

Football rewind

The playoffs began last week with four No. 1 seeds going down in the opening round of the Southern Section playoffs.

One of the biggest upsets was No. 12-seeded Inglewood defeating No. 5 St. Bonaventure in Division 2 a week after the Sentinels became a national story for defeating Morningside 106-0. Here’s the report from Ventura College.

Warren lost its quarterback to injury and Corona del Mar came through with the upset. Here’s the report.

Canoga Park pulled out an overtime victory over Franklin. Here’s the report.

Edison was missing its starting quarterback but back up Tyler Gioia was more than ready, passing for 294 yards in a win over Murrieta Valley. Here’s the report.

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Girls’ volleyball

Marymount's Kerry Keefe tries to spike the ball past Mater Dei's Gabriela Gubbins, left, and Isabel Clark.
Marymount’s Kerry Keefe tries to spike the ball past Mater Dei’s Gabriela Gubbins, left, and Isabel Clark during the CIF Southern Section Division 1 girls volleyball championship on Nov. 6, 2021.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Marymount stayed unbeaten and won the Southern Section Division 1 girls’ volleyball championship with a 3-1 victory over Santa Ana Mater Dei. Here’s the report.

Venice won its first upper division championship, taking home the City Section Open Division title with a sweep of Granada Hills. Here’s a report on the victory.
Here’s the link to complete girls’ volleyball championship results.

Here’s the link the CIF state regional playoff pairings.

Notes . . .

Kevin Gillian has been named track coach at Orange Lutheran. He’s a former Mission Viejo assistant. . . .

Junior pitcher Braden Wauschek of Great Oak has committed to Cal State Northridge. . . .

JSerra was pulled from the Southern Section Division 3 championship girls’ volleyball final because of an ineligible player. El Toro was awarded the championship. . . .

Freshman infielder Linkin Garcia of Huntington Beach has committed to Arizona. . . .

After refusing to be vaccinated, Sylmar basketball coach Bort Escoto said he is now vaccinated and will resume coaching his team. . . .

Sophomore pitcher Kyle Volpe of Tesoro has committed to Long Beach State. . . .

Wednesday is early letter of intent signing day for all sports but football.

School of pitching

Bryce Rainer (left) and Duncan Marsten.
Bryce Rainer (left) and Duncan Marsten are two of three standout sophomore pitchers preparing to be unleashed by Harvard-Westlake.

Former Harvard-Westlake pitcher Max Fried came through with six shutout innings in game six of the World Series, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a World Series title. There’s more outstanding Harvard-Westlake pitchers headed to the upper levels in the years ahead.

The last time many people saw 15-year-old Bryce Rainer pitch for Harvard-Westlake High, he was standing on the mound in the Southern Section Division 1 semifinal in June and beating Orange Lutheran 3-2 after throwing 98 pitches. He finished the year 9-0 on the mound for the Division 1 champions. Then he seemingly disappeared, making the rare decision to rest his arm.

“It was very difficult,” Harvard-Westlake coach Jared Halpert said. “The baseball community wants to see him throw.”

Rainer is just now getting back into his throwing program and could make an appearance by January. It’s refreshing to see a young pitcher and his family prioritize health over hype. The fact that he’s already made a verbal commitment to UCLA helped.

“They trusted us and didn’t do a lot of throwing during the summer,” Halpert said.

Harvard-Westlake is slated to have a trio of standout sophomore pitchers few programs can duplicate. Besides Rainer, Thomas Bridges, who made major contributions as a freshman, is back and the real buzz centers on sophomore Duncan Marsten, who couldn’t pitch as a freshman because of a back injury. Committed to Stanford, Marsten was supposed to be the equal of Rainer.

Here’s more information on the pitching school known as Harvard-Westlake.

Girls’ golf

Chloe Rahn of Palisades won the City Section girls' golf championship on Wednesday with a two-under-par 71.
(City Section)

Chloe Rahn of Palisades shot a two-under-par 71 to win the City Section girls’ golf championship at Balboa Golf Course.

She held off Sarah Amaya of Birmingham and Anna Song of Palisades. Both shot 72.

Walnut won the Southern Section Division 1 championship, led by Ashley Yun, who shot 72 at Los Serranos Golf Course in Chino Hills.

Sunny Hills won the Division 3 title. Yurang Li shot a three-under-par 69 at Soule Park Golf Course.

The Southern California regional finals will be held Thursday at Brookside.


The boys and girls cross-country teams at Newbury Park dominated at the Marmonte League finals and set the stage for the Southern Section prelims and finals.

Colin Sahlman won the boys race in 15:06.75 to lead Newbury Park in taking the first five places. Samantha McDonnell took the girls race.

The prelims will be held this weekend at Mt. San Antonio College.

From the archives: Servite vs. Edison

In 2009, Servite played Edison for the Southern Section Division 1 football championship Angel Stadium. Someone should have brought along a boat, surf board or skateboard to play on a muddy field because of extensive rain.

Who knows who would have won on a dry field, but on the muddy field, Servite looked best and came away with a 16-6 victory.

“It was pretty cool to play in the rain,” Servite quarterback Cody Fajardo said at the time.

Here’s the link to the story from 2009.

Asked if his team would have won on a dry field, former Edison coach Dave White said last week, “That’s a tough question. I feel like we had a real chance to win. We had beaten them pretty good earlier. Definitely the conditions were in their favor that night. It’s really hard to beat a well-coached team a second time. We were undefeated and very confident.”


From the Los Angeles Times, a story on former Capistrano Valley pitcher and star reliever for the Braves, Tyler Matzek.

From the San Jose Mercury News, the story on the No. 31 jersey at St. Francis in Northern California.

From the Seattle Times, a story on a legally blind football player.

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Until next time...

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