Prep Rally: Final weekend for the summer football season

Mission Viejo's 6-7, 275-pound Mark Schroller is still growing and learning about football.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)
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Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. The summer football season is down to its final weekend of seven on seven competitions. Official workouts start July 25 for City Section teams and the next week for Southern Section teams. Linemen are getting excited because soon they’ll be talking about pancakes, and they’re not referring to the ones with maple syrup.

Linemen getting ready

Most of the summer, linemen have been quietly getting ready for the football season, spending hours on their own in the weight room waiting for the coach to say, “You can put on the pads.” Then the fun really begins. Those linemen who have taken a back seat to the skill-position players getting all the attention for scoring touchdowns become the true MVPs of a successful team with their blocking and tackling skills.

There have been some tug-of-war competitions this summer, showing off strength, but linemen know how much progress they’ve made in the off season.


One of those unsung linemen making progress is 6-foot-7, 275-pound junior Mark Schroller of Mission Viejo. He was a soccer goalie growing up. His father, Karl, a 6-7 former Fountain Valley and UCLA offensive lineman, decided he didn’t want his growing son to play football until high school. “I saw so much carnage,” Karl said. “I saw so many get hurt by the time they were in high school.”

Schroller, who’s now taller than his father and still growing, learned about blocking and weight lifting starting with his freshman year. He’s ready to start on varsity for Mission Viejo, so watch out.

“I had to learn football,” Mark said.

Another intriguing lineman is 6-4 defensive end Zane Poulter of Chino Hills. He plans to attend Army. His cousin, Hunter Roddy, played running back for Chaparral and is going through boot camp at Army right now. “It’s always been a dram of ours to play together,” Poulter said.


Poulter’s leadership and athleticism is much appreciated at Chino Hills and his attitude speaks for itself. “I’ve been a patriotic person,” he said.

Narbonne resurfaces

Narbonne quarterback Ryan Corley.
(Roque Casillas)

There are signs that former City Section power Narbonne is starting to rise again after hitting rock bottom.

In 2019, at the same time Narbonne players were leaving in mass exodus due to rules violations that prompted a two-year playoff ban, North Torrance freshman quarterback Ryan Corley was looking for a new school. He’d just come off his first year playing football. But he was big. Passionate. And he found his way to Narbonne.

Almost three years later, perched high on the 6-4 Corley’s broad shoulders, a Narbonne team that went 2-9 last season but advanced all the way to the Division III finals, made it to the championship game of the El Camino Real seven-on-seven passing tournament. It was no cakewalk – the Gauchos took down Open Division defending champion Birmingham before falling to Simi Valley.


“We just have a big chip on our shoulder,” Corley said.

That chip, the senior quarterback said, comes from a collective knowledge of what Narbonne was: a 10-time City champ, a perennial powerhouse. Head coach Malcolm Manuel, ushered in during the middle of the pandemic, has preached a saying all the way through a bumpy last season: “Brick by brick.”

The road ahead is being paved.

Here’s a report from Luca Evans.

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Summer football stars

Will Doherty, a 6-4 quarterback transfer from Mira Costa, led Leuzinger to the championship of the Salesian tournament, defeating Cathedral in the final.

Newbury Park went 5-0 in the Rio Mesa tournament.

Mission Viejo is ending the summer as the best seven on seven team in Southern California. The Diablos went unbeaten on July 9 in winning the Edison tournament and went unbeaten again on Saturday in winning their own tournament. Quarterback Kadin Semonza, a Ball State commit, has so much experience from being a three-year starter and combined with talented receivers Mikey Matthews, KJ Reed and Jackson Hohlman provides lots of optimism for the fall.

Field of dreams

Every baseball season since 1969, Dodger Stadium has hosted the City Section championship game. Only COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021 have been able to disrupt a streak that has allowed hundreds of Los Angeles Unified School District students the opportunity to experience an unforgettable moment: to play on the same field as their professional baseball heroes.

In celebration of the All-Star Game being played on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium in its 60th year, let’s celebrate the history of high school baseball being played there.

Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley made the commitment that Dodger Stadium should open its doors every season to the best teenage baseball players in Southern California from the LAUSD.

Bret Saberhagen pitched a no-hitter for Cleveland High School.
Bret Saberhagen pitched a no-hitter for Cleveland High School during a 13-0 win over Palisades for the City Section championship at Dodger Stadium in 1982.
(Courtesy of Linda Saberhagen)

He said in 2018 that this father, Walter, welcomed the game to try to heal wounds in the city. Residents were still reeling after the tragedies of 1968, including the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy in downtown L.A. and Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, and the city still was dealing with the ramifications of the 1965 Watts riots. So the Dodgers welcomed a high school championship game to their world-class stadium.


“That was one of the reasons and it meant a lot to my dad, and it would be the right thing,” O’Malley said. “Supporting and encouraging youth to participate in baseball. It was common sense. We had the facility and why not do it.”

The first City final featured Birmingham and Monroe, two San Fernando Valley schools. Birmingham won 1-0. Robert LoPresti was the first high school player to throw a pitch at Dodger Stadium. In 2018, on the 50th anniversary, he visited the ballpark.

He said, “I went through my scrapbook and newspaper clippings. It was kind of nostalgic.”

Playing at a major-league stadium has always been challenging for high school athletes. Catchers know they have to protect balls from going to backstop and first baseman have to prevent balls thrown in the dirt going into the dugout. Pop flies and fly outs can produce interesting moments depending the time of day or night. Games were held at night early on but most have been day games in recent years.

Monroe came back to win in 1971 1-0 over Fremont to finish a 19-0 season. No school until Chatsworth went 35-0 in 2004 had a perfect season.

Chatsworth players celebrate 2-0 win over Birmingham in City Section Open Division championship game at Dodger Stadium.
(Craig Weston)

Dodger Stadium has been the site for memorable teenage moments for star athletes that became household names. John Elway of Granada Hills struck out Darryl Strawberry of Crenshaw in 1978. Steve Kerr was a pitcher for Palisades when Bret Saberhagen of Cleveland threw the only no-hitter in City championship history in 1982. Randy Wolf of El Camino Real and Garret Anderson of Granada Hills Kennedy won City titles before moving on to the major leagues.

There have been home runs. Matt Dominguez of Chatsworth hit home runs in different years at Dodger Stadium. Ryan Braun hit a home run for Granada Hills in an invitational final. The most dramatic home run came in 1985 when Kevin Farlow of Kennedy hit a walk-off home run for a 10-9 win over Banning. The Southern Section also has held championship games at Dodger Stadium. In 2011, Rio Ruiz of Bishop Amat hit one out in the Division 4 final.

“You’re standing on the field, looking up at the loge level, looking up at the club level, looking up at the reserve level, and it’s like a guest standing in the Grand Canyon,” Farlow said in 1998.


MLB Draft

The first round of baseball’s amateur draft took place in Kevin Parada’s hometown, Los Angeles, on Sunday night, and what a moment it was for the former Loyola High catcher. He was taken No. 11 overall by the New York Mets.

Parada has been a star for Georgia Tech the last three seasons. He hit 26 home runs this spring.

Orange Lutheran shortstop Mikey Romero, an LSU commit, went No. 24 to the Boston Red Sox. He’s known for his hitting and power potential.


Former Simi Valley pitcher Justin Campbell was taken No. 37 by the Cleveland Guardians. He’s 6 feet 7 and pitched the last three seasons at Oklahoma State.

Jewelry coming in 2023

Mookie Betts wears a gold chain and now high school players can start wearing chains in 2023.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Jewelry is coming to high school baseball and high school softball in 2023, which means players will be copying their professional counterparts after the baseball and softball rules committees for the National Federation of State High School Assns. removed the prohibition of jewelry starting next year.

So it may be commonplace for pitchers to wear gold chains to clutch after strikeouts, or hitters to enter the batter’s box with earrings and necklaces.

“They’ll try to mimic the pros,” La Mirada sophomore baseball player Aiden Aguayo said.

Most jewelry will be permitted, but the rules committee noted that any jewelry worn that poses harm or injury to another player should be removed.

Here’s the report.


Garfield: ‘No excuses’

Garfield football coach Lorenzo Hernandez.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

There’s no fooling around in 2022 for the Garfield football team. As coach Lorenzo Hernandez puts it, “No excuses” is what he’s going by after his team lost to rival Roosevelt last season and lost in the first round of the City Section Open Division playoffs in an 8-3 season.

The Bulldogs played lots of young players in 2021 and return 15 starters. Hernandez is counting on that experience and the memory of losing to Roosevelt in the East L.A. Classic for motivation. This year’s East L.A. Classic will be played at the Coliseum on Oct. 21.

But Garfield is far more ambitious than focusing its season on the Roosevelt game.

Quarterback Damian Cabrera will have a veteran offensive line, plus talented receiver Jayden Barnes, a basketball player who also was offensive MVP last season. Damian Cornejo came close to rushing for 1,000 yards as a sophomore, and Robert Sanchez also made an impact as a freshman running back. Julian Zamudio led the team in tackles and also returns for his junior season.

Joshua Estrada and James Estrada (not related) both play defensive tackle and will be expected to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Aaron Donald arrives

The Rams' Aaron Donald stopped by Simi Valley High on Wednesday.
The Rams’ Aaron Donald stopped by Simi Valley High on Wednesday to answer questions from coach Jim Benkert, then took a team photo with players.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

At first, Simi Valley football players were skeptical that the Rams’ Aaron Donald would be dropping by their school on Wednesday afternoon. Coach Jim Benkert had given them the news the night before.

“They didn’t believe me,” Benkert said.


Close to 100 players sat in the bleachers in the gym as Donald walked through the entrance dressed in a white T-shirt, gray gym shorts and gray workout shoes. Benkert introduced him with a microphone but soon he was answering questions without the microphone, talking about his early life in Pittsburgh when few schools recruited him out of high school; about winning the Super Bowl with the Rams; about what it takes to succeed.

“I don’t mind talking to kids,” Donald said. “I could do that all day.”

Here’s a report from Simi Valley.

Beach players serve notice

Action from the AVP Junior nationals at Hermosa Beach.
(Luca Evans)

They came from Texas. They came from Florida. They came from North Carolina and Arizona, even Montana.

The AVP Junior Nationals returned to Hermosa Beach last week, and on paper, it seemed a chance for top local girls’ talent to strut their stuff on familiar Southern California sands.

The entry list, though, was teeming with out-of-state talent. Out of 124 entrants in the girls’ 18U field, fewer than 15 were pairs from the Los Angeles area. Beach volleyball is widespread in Southern California, said Cypress High indoor star and entrant Zoey Henson, but training is stricter in other areas.

“Those out-of-state girls, they’re grinders,” Henson said.

Nonetheless, a few local pairs did their best to steal the show over the weekend.

Here’s the report.


The AAU beach volleyball national championships for girls will be played Thursday through Sunday at Hermosa Beach.

Girls’ soccer honoree

Kate Jacobsen of Temecula Valley was named state player of the year in girls' soccer by United Soccer.
(Scott Padgett / Time Stood Still Photography)

Kate Jacobsen from Temecula Valley has been selected the California girls’ soccer player of the year by United Soccer.

Headed to Brigham Young on an academic scholarship, Jacobsen also ran track, played golf and was senior class president for Temecula Valley.

She plans on taking a Mormon Mission after her first year at Brigham Young.

Notes . . .

Jackson Hall is the new boys’ basketball coach at Carpinteria. . . .

After 11 years as baseball coach at Ayala, Chris Vogt has resigned to become a teacher at Sunny Hills, which is much closer to his home. . . .

Casey Borba from Orange Lutheran, Gavin Grahovac from Villa Park, Eric Bitonti from Aquinas and Blake Balsz from Santa Margarita were selected for the USA Baseball 18U team training camp in Florida. . . .

Raymond Pulido, 6 feet 6, 350 pounds, was expected to be a starting offensive guard for St. John Bosco this fall after transferring from Apple Valley in the spring. But he returned to Apple Valley last week after family issues required him to keep living in the Apple Valley area. . . .


Standout guard Kollen Murphy has transferred from Colony to Rancho Cucamonga. . . .

Defensive lineman Tiumalu Afalava of Bishop Amat has committed to Cal. . . .

Garfield football coach Lorenzo Hernandez will also be the school’s athletic director this year. . . .

Water polo coach Ikaika Aki of San Clemente has resigned to become the women’s water polo coach at Loyola Marymount. . . .

St. Francis pulled off one of the best coaching hires of the summer in luring Calabasas’ Shaun Kort to become its baseball coach. Kort spent two years at Calabasas as head coach after being an assistant at Harvard-Westlake. It means the Mission League will have three high-profiled first-year coaches next season Kort, Loyola’s Keith Ramsey and Sierra Canyon’s Tom Meusborn. . . .

Senior infielder Lucas Scott from Long Beach Poly has committed to UC Irvine. . . .

Former Huntington Beach first baseman Nick Pratto made his major league debut for the Kansas City Royals. He got his first hit on Friday. . . .

Corona del Mar quarterback David Rasor has committed to UC Davis. . . .

Transfers keep coming and going and Santa Margarita got another with the arrival of sophomore quarterback Bekkem Kritza from Boulder, Colo. . . .

Riley Saxon has returned as football coach at Temple City after resigning in 2021. . . .

Drew Kamienski from Long Beach St. Anthony has committed to UC Santa Barbara for soccer. . . .

Former Crespi guard Brandon Williams scored 22 points to help the Portland Trail Blazers win the NBA Summer League title. . . .

Chaminade senior baseball player Cristian Brewster has committed to Cal State Fullerton.

From the archives: Cole Roederer

The No. 77 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs was outfielder Cole Roederer from Hart High, a UCLA signee who decided to begin his pro career immediately.

Roederer had an injury setback, requiring Tommy John surgery, but he has come back this season in double-A in Tennessee and entered the week batting .295. In 2019, he hit for the cycle in a minor league game in South Bend.

As a senior in high school, he hit .392 with seven home runs.


From Yahoo Sports, a story on the NFL supporting flag football for the 2028 Olympic Games.

From the San Jose Mercury News, a story on a Northern California school district becoming the first in California to screen athletes for heart conditions.


From, a look at Sierra Canyon teammates Juju Watkins and MacKenly Randolph going for a gold medal in basketball.

From the New York Times, a story how to love being a slow runner.

From ESPN, a story on the retirement of former Palisades High offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz, a four-time All-Pro selection.

From the Wall Street Journal, a story on how orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Ferkel helped Klay Thompson come back from injury.

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Until next time...

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