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Prep Rally: Doesn’t get much bigger than Santa Ana Mater Dei vs. Corona Centennial

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Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It doesn’t get much bigger this week than No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei taking on No. 3 Corona Centennial at Centennial in the latest big-boy football game. You know where I’ll be on Friday night.

Battle for neighborhood kids

Corona Centennial coach Matt Logan.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Coaches in the Inland Empire have become used to seeing vans picking up high school students and whisking them off on the 91 freeway toward Santa Ana, home of Mater Dei.

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“I haven’t seen them,” Corona Centennial football coach Matt Logan says, “but I’ve heard about them.”

If you want to know one reason for Mater Dei’s current 19-game win streak in football, it’s the ability to attract players from outside Orange County. Logan estimates that there’s at least a half dozen on this year’s Monarch roster who could be attending Centennial.

“Their reach has expanded,” Logan said.

That means Friday’s game between the Monarchs (2-0) and host Centennial (2-0) is more than a battle between No. 1 and No. 3 in Southern California. It’s also about a public school trying to convince top athletes in the neighborhood to stay.

Here’s more about the game of the week.

Here’s the link to this week’s top 25 prep football rankings.

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Here’s the link to the complete Week 2 schedule.

Football rewind

Matayo Uiagalelei of St. John Bosco was causing trouble on offense and defense in Texas.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

St. John Bosco, like Mater Dei last season, came to Texas and dominated in its football opener, a 52-14 thrashing of Allen High in its $60-million, 18,000-seat stadium that was filled to near capacity. Here’s the report from Texas.

Long Beach Poly improved to 2-0 with a 17-3 victory over Gardena Serra behind running back Devin Samples. Here’s the report.

Mater Dei rallied for a 24-21 victory over Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. Quarterback Elijah Brown improved to 19-0 as a starter. Here’s the report from Las Vegas.

St. Bonaventure and Oxnard Pacifica engaged in a wild game that saw the Seraphs pull out a 46-41 victory. Running back Delon Thompson scored six touchdowns and set a school record with 369 yards rushing. for St. Bonaventure.

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Donovan Powell rushed for 355 yards in Reseda Cleveland’s 40-27 win over Grant.

Another City Section star

Reseda Cleveland receiver-defensive Kory Hall ranks as one of the best in the City Section, coach Peter Gunny said.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Kory Hall, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior with strong hands, quick feet and the physicality of a boxer, might be the best high school football player few have heard about. He plays for Reseda Cleveland, not exactly a powerhouse in the City Section.

Coach Peter Gunny was so concerned another school might try to poach Hall during the offseason that he asked the kid if he was going to stay because, if he wasn’t, he needed to make new plans for Cleveland’s offense and defense.

Hall answered he’s staying, and told Gunny, “If I’m good enough, they’ll find me.”

There isn’t a position Hall can’t play. He’s primarily a receiver and safety but also punts, returns punts and kickoffs, can play defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, tight end, quarterback and running back.

“If my team needs me, I’ll play center,” he said.

Here’s a profile of one of the top players in the City Section.

Roosevelt dedicates season

A framed photo of late Roosevelt running back Santos Rivera, who died tragically in early June, in aunt Andrea Rivera's home.
A framed photo of late Roosevelt running back Santos Rivera, who died tragically in early June, in aunt Andrea Rivera’s home.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)
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The emblems arrived in a package at the athletic office a week after their first game, a reminder another season would be filled with moments of silence for the ones they’d lost.

It had been 18 months since Roosevelt High football’s beloved assistant coach Richard “Dicky” Guillen died at 70 from COVID-19. Nine months since they last wore “All Work, No Glory” emblems on their helmets — one of Guillen’s favorite sayings. Three and a half months since graduation, the day that should’ve marked a close to an emotional year.

Yet tragedy found them again. While on a drive to the field for a late July practice, head coach Aldo Parral was unable to shake the past.

“I just kept on saying, ‘Why? Why?’” Parral said.

There were new helmet emblems in that package. Not just “All Work, No Glory,” but a No. 44 decal. It was the number of a Rough Rider role model with a scruffy beard, a lion’s strength and a sweet smile that masked a childhood he fought to escape.

“None of us thought we were going to have to play another season for someone again,” senior Jared Andrade said.

The story on Roosevelt dedicating its season to a fallen Rough Rider.

NIL comes to St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco’s football players are going where no high school team has gone — a team-wide name, image and likeness deal that will pay compensation to anyone who wants to participate, according to an announcement by KONGiQ Sports Performance on Monday. It is believed to be the first for a high school.

Here’s the report.

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Later, the CIF warned that schools are not to be involved in NIL deals. They’re supposed to be done by individuals.

Ron Nocetti, executive director of CIF, makes it clear, “Our schools cannot participate in NIL deals on behalf of their student athletes. We may consider schools trying to do NIL deals with students undue influence. Schools cannot be affiliated or anyone associated with school.”

Since everything is so new, schools will need to consult with the CIF on future ideas involving NIL.

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Notes . . .

Former Chino Hills star LaMelo Ball turned 21 on Aug. 22. Let’s remember back to when LaMelo turned 16. He’s always been flashy and good. . . .

Former major leaguer Tony Tarasco is the new baseball coach at Great Oak. . . .

The high school career has ended for one of San Diego’s best quarterback. Scripps Ranch’s Jax Leatherwood suffered a collarbone injury. He’s graduating in December to attend Nevada, so the injury will leave him sidelined until he joins Nevada. . . .

All-City baseball player Gavin Taylor of Birmingham has committed to Brigham Young. He was previously committed to Nevada. . . .

Corona Centennial standout basketball player Devin Williams has committed to UCLA. . . .

Brayden Seymour, a top cross country and distance runner from Florida, has transferred to Newbury Park, home of the Young brothers, Lex and Leo. . . .

Carter Stone, a freshman football player at Agoura, died Thursday. He underwent surgery on his shoulder and doctors later discovered a tumor on his heart. Here’s a report. . . .

Standout Agoura quarterback Ty Dieffenbach, a UNLV commit,, suffered a knee injury Friday against Ventura and is awaiting MRI results to learn its seriousness. . . .

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Former Orange Lutheran and UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers. . . .

Freshman defensive lineman Mason Graham, The Times’ player of the year last season at Servite, has been announced as a starter at Michigan. . . .

Chaminade linebacker Isaiah Chisom has committed to Oregon State. . . .

Girls’ volleyball

Chatsworth senior Geraldine Martinez, the City Section Player of the Year in her freshman season.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

Her rebirth began in Mexico City, one of the best girls’ volleyball players in the City Section slapping a ball against her grandparents’ house for months as life back home threatened to move on without her.

It was a long, slow fall from the mountaintop for Geraldine Martinez. The Chatsworth senior was selected the City player of the year her freshman season, but lost motivation after COVID-19 hit. Her grades plummeted. She came to school late, listless.

The Mexico trip, in a sense, saved Martinez because it helped save someone else.

“It was me just starting all over, basically,” Martinez said of her return.

One Monday in the spring, Martinez and her family heard her grandfather in Mexico was dealing with heart issues. She told Sina Aghassy, coach of her Chatsworth and club volleyball teams, that she’d be leaving indefinitely.

“Kiddo, do the math,” Aghassy told Martinez. “Your grades aren’t great … it’s not really going to help you, only hurt you.’”

But family was family. So Martinez bought a plane ticket and flew out the same week.

She was, in most cases, the only one there. Martinez made her grandparents breakfast and lunch every day, gave them their medicine, helped her grandpa walk for some exercise.

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The days passed, and in between rushing her grandpa to the emergency room and back, one week became two. Two became three. She stayed for two months, fighting a losing battle with trying to complete school online as her GPA dropped.

“I didn’t have much time to be doing my work,” Martinez said. “I tried my best.”

Here’s the weekly notebook on her comeback.

Water polo

Harvard-Westlake first-year water polo coach Jack Grover.
(Craig Weston)

Harvard-Westlake first-year coach Jack Grover has his talented team off to a 2-0 start. He has a tough act to follow, taking over Brian Flacks, who became head coach at Stanford. Grover was the top recruiter as an assistant coach at UCLA.

The Wolverines have a huge match against defending Open Division champion Newport Harbor on Sept. 10 at Newport Harbor.

Camarillo won the Conejo tournament this past weekend to improve to 4-0.

Here’s the link to preseason boys’ water polo rankings in the Southern Section.

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From the archives: Stephen Thompson Jr.

In 2015, the Thompson brothers, Ethan (5) and Stephen Jr. (left) helped Bishop Montgomery win a state title.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Stephen Thompson Jr. was a star guard at Bishop Montgomery and Oregon State. He has gone on to play pro basketball in Italy and Puerto Rico.

His father, Stevie, was a legendary player at Crenshaw High and went on to SMU and into coaching. His brother, Ethan, followed Stephen Jr. to Bishop Montgomery and Oregon State.

Here’s a story from 2014 on the Thompson brothers leading Bishop Montgomery to a state championship.

Recommendations

From the Union-Tribune, a story on a rising San Diego girls’ tennis prodigy.

From the Detroit Free Press, a column on transfer issues in Michigan.

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From McCall.com, a story on a school district canceling the football season for a Pennsylvania team because of hazing allegations.

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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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