Prep Rally: The buildup to high school football season begins soon


Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. July is the biggest month for seven on seven summer football. Almost every weekend there’s a tournament to watch as teams prepare for the fall season. Even the linemen get to show off their strength in competitions.

July fireworks

St. John Bosco quarterback Pierce Clarkson begins a busy summer seven on seven season on Saturday.
(Luis Sinco)

Get ready to begin the buildup to football pads coming in August.


July is the busiest month for summer football. Many teams are playing every Saturday in seven on seven competitions. Individual games are also set up on Wednesdays.

First up is Saturday’s seven on seven tournament at St. John Bosco, where the host Braves have loaded up on senior transfer students. Enrolled are cornerback Aaron Williams from Corona Centennial, receiver Israel Polk from Pittsburg, receiver Deandre Moore from Los Alamitos, offensive lineman Raymond Pulido from Apple Valley, lineman Sean Na’a from Westlake and receiver Eric Denham from Centennial. Also coming in is junior tight end Camden Jones from Maranatha. Junior defensive back Khristian Dunbar-Hawkins arrived in the winter from Bishop Alemany.

It remains to be seen how many will be eligible immediately. They would have to move or end up sitting out a month to start the season. Williams and Moore are committed to Louisville, along with St. John Bosco quarterback Pierce Clarkson and receiver Jahlil McClain.

There will be so many future college players at defensive back Saturday that taking a photo from this competition could end up being very valuable. Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra is done with track for this year and back focusing on football.

On July 9 is the Edison tournament. On July 16 is the Mission Viejo tournament. On July 23 is the Huntington Beach tournament.


In tournaments played last week, Corona del Mar won its own tourney championship, beating Cypress in the championship game. Quarterback David Rasor led the way.

At USC, Los Alamitos defeated Mater Dei in the Nike tournament final behind USC-bound quarterback Malachi Nelson.

At Glendale, Golden Valley won the championship, going 7-0 with wins over Wilson, Valley Christian, San Marino, Glendale, Los Altos, Hart and Leuzinger. Receiver Ajani Smith was MVP.

At Saugus, Highland defeated Westlake in the championship game. Hart won the lineman competition.

Football recruiting glossary

It has been three years since ESPN published a football recruiting glossary. The terms haven’t changed much.

For parents new to the game, it’s pretty simple, especially when you learn what blessed means.

There’s Extremely Blessed and Beyond Blessed that recruits like to tweet after receiving a scholarship offer.

Also remember the term blowing up. The internet gurus like that term for suddenly gaining lots of attention from recruiters.

Also learn about decommit. It happens when a player commits to a school, then changes his mind. This can happen multiple times and the player ends the announcement with, “Please respect my decision.”

You also might see the word “special” used frequently to describe a player. It’s used so many times you begin to wonder if someone should add “very special” to distinguish.

Other words frequently linked to recruits: impact, top, Alpha Dog.

Welcome to recruiting 101.

NIL deal for Los Al QB

Quarterback Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos
Quarterback Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

When Malachi Nelson committed last November, the five-star 2023 quarterback from Los Alamitos says he hadn’t had a single conversation with USC about its approach to name, image and likeness.

“I know there are a lot of schools out there where that’s the first thing they’ll talk about,” Nelson told The Times recently. “‘We’ll give you this much, we’ll do this, whatever, just to get you here.’”

But that wasn’t part of Lincoln Riley’s pitch to convince the nation’s No. 2 recruit to follow him from Oklahoma, where Nelson had been committed since last summer. Like USC, Nelson preferred a careful approach when it came to cashing in on NIL.

“They’re taking it slow,” Nelson said. “They’re doing it the right way, so they protect themselves and us. I can’t agree with that approach more.”

Now, as USC takes its next step with NIL, so too is its top 2023 recruit.

Nelson recently struck his first announced NIL deal with The h.wood Group, a major hospitality and restaurant company with 13 restaurants and nightlife venues in the Los Angeles area, including SLAB, a popular barbecue and smoked meats spot that Nelson said ranks among his family’s favorites.

Here’s the report.

Title IX makes difference

La Jolla Country Day School point guard and Spaulding brand ambassador Jada Williams
(Courtesy of Spaulding)

An 8-year-old girl grasps the chain on a playground swing.

“If you let me play,” she begins.

During the rest of Nike’s ad that first aired in 1995, young girls play on a merry-go-round, sit on a swing and throw a softball while a list of statistics show the physical and emotional advantages of playing sports.

“If you let me play … I will have more self-confidence. …. I will be 60% less likely to get breast cancer. … I will suffer less depression.

“I will learn what it means to be strong if you let me play,” the girls say.

Now, “if you let me play” has turned into “if you let me get paid.”

Fifty years after Title IX required schools receiving federal funding to grant girls and women equal access to play sports, the opportunity for female athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness at the high school and college level is sparking another potentially revolutionary leap forward.

Beyond physical and societal benefits of simply playing sports, female athletes are wading through the uncharted NIL waters. They’re building social media empires. They’re gaining financial stability that could set them up into their professional athletic careers and beyond.

“It gives us a backbone,” said 17-year-old UCLA commit Jada Williams.

Here’s their story.

NBA draft

There’s a Mobley brother reunion coming in Cleveland after Isaiah Mobley from Rancho Christian and USC was taken No. 49 in the NBA draft by the Cavaliers to join his brother, Evan.

Peyton Watson from UCLA and Long Beach Poly was a first-round pick of Oklahoma City at No. 30, then traded to the Denver Nuggets.

Christian Koloko from Sierra Canyon, Birmingham and Arizona via Cameroon was taken in the second round by the Toronto Raptors. He’s the sixth player from Sierra Canyon to be drafted.

Former Campbell Hall and Colorado standout Jabari Walker went to Portland at No. 57.

Dead period

It really is important to take a break to regroup and revitalize. Lots of schools took a dead period this month. Even sportswriters take a summer break.

My break was spent in Vietnam at the beach, reading, writing and eating pho. Now it’s back to work.

New CIF rule to aid officials

The CIF Executive Council has passed a new rule that would impose a lifetime ban from attending any high school sporting event when a spectator assaults an official.

Here’s the amended bylaw 210:

“Any spectator who physically assaults the person of a game or event official immediately prior to, during, or immediately following an interscholastic athletic contest shall be permanently banned from attending interscholastic athletic contests. A game or event official is defined as a referee, umpire or any other official assigned to interpret or enforce rules of competition at an event or contest. School administration and/or athletic staff shall immediately notify their local CIF Section Office and CIF State Office whenever the school has knowledge of an assault on a game official associated with an interscholastic event in which their school participated or of an assault occurring on their school’s grounds associated with an interscholastic athletic contest.”

Notes . . .

Reseda’s new football coach is Austyn J. Ward, a Reseda grad who was an assistant coach at Dakota Wesleyan University. . . .

Steve Moore has resigned as basketball coach at Paramount to become head coach at Mayfair. . . .

Richard Harris has resigned as basketball coach at Malibu High. . . .

Trent MacLean, a 6-foot-8 sophomore basketball player, is leaving Westlake for Thousand Oaks. His father is Don MacLean, the former UCLA standout. . . .

Linebacker Owen Chambliss of Corona Centennial has committed to Utah. . . .

Simi Valley receiver Sean Brown has committed to Arizona. . . .

Rick Prieto has stepped down as baseball coach at Culver City after more than 25 years as coach. JV coach Devaughn Wallace will take over. . . .

There’s another Maker in Orange County. Sophomore Maper Maker from Fairmont Prep is the younger brother of Makur Maker. He’s 6 feet 11. . . .

Dennis Evans, a 7-footer from Hillcrest, has made the USA U17 World Cup team. . . .

Offensive lineman Luke Baklenko from Oaks Christian has committed to Stanford. . . .

Defensive lineman Ashton Sanders of Cathedral has committed to Cal. . . .

Sophomore outfielder Trevor Goldenetz of Huntington Beach has committed to Texas Christian. . . .

Quarterback Kadin Semonza from Mission Viejo has committed to Ball State. . . .

The nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect, Arch Manning, committed to Texas. . . .

Brandon Thomas is the new track coach at Servite. . . .

Incoming freshman baseball player Blake Bowen from King has committed to Oregon State. . . .

Junior volleyball standout Jake Pazanti of Huntington Beach has committed to Long Beach State. . . .

Sage Hill has hired Fountain Valley coach D’Cean Bryant as its new boys’ basketball coach. He spent five years at Fountain Valley and means his standout junior son, Carter, will be joining him at Sage Hill. . . .

Linebacker Jordan Whitney from Oxnard Pacifica has committed to Washington. . . .

Etiwanda, led by Curtis Williams, won the Maranatha summer basketball tournament. . . .

El Modena lineman Elishah Jackett has committed to Washington. . . .

Former Glendora High shortstop Jacob Gonzalez had three hits, including a home run, to help Mississippi win the College World Series against Arkansas.

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From the archives: Landry Fields

It’s been a meteoric rise for former Los Alamitos basketball standout Landry Fields, who will be promoted to general manager of the Atlanta Hawks effective July 1.

Nothing comes as a surprise with Fields, who was underrated in high school until accepting a scholarship to Stanford. Then he played five years in the NBA. He joined the Hawks as an assistant general manager in 2020.

Here’s a 2005 story on Fields and how his coach, Russ May, would arrive at 7 a.m. and give the gym key to Fields so he could go and practice.

“My time will come,” he said as a 16-year-old. “I just want to play every day and let God do the rest. You can’t get impatient.”


From the Los Angeles Times, a story on Michael Norman‘s determination to get what he wants in track and field.

From, a review of the top teams and players from the Section 7 tournament in Arizona.

From, a story on “how to raise a champion” _ chill out.

From the Los Angeles Times, a first-person account from Ann Meyers Drysdale on how Title IX changed her life.

From the Washington Post, a story on the passing of former Fullerton High and Fullerton College football player Brig Owens.

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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