Prep Rally: Predicting the outcome of Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco receiver is upended by Mater Dei Kassius Ashtani, left, and Domani Jackson in a 2021 game.
St. John Bosco receiver is upended by Mater Dei Kassius Ashtani, left, and Domani Jackson in a 2021 game.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. The football game of the year is Friday night. No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei (6-0) plays No. 2 St. John Bosco (6-0) at Santa Ana Stadium. Let’s begin the debate by asking some coaches for a prediction.

Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco

Mater Dei quarterback Elijah Brown scampers for extra yardage against St. John Bosco in 2021.
Mater Dei quarterback Elijah Brown scampers for yards while St John Bosco defenders Benny Lockhart (14) and Kyngstonn Villiamu-Asa chase in 2021.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

It’s unusual when two teams have separated themselves so much as Mater Dei and St. John Bosco have done this football season. It sets up for a quite a showdown on Friday night. Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday at Capacity is 9,000.


Many coaches contacted were reluctant to predict a score, saying, “I haven’t seen them.” In other words, they didn’t want to make either one mad with a possible game in the future.

Gardena Serra coach Scott Altenberg said it would be a 51-51 tie in five overtimes. “I know both and I’m not picking one,” he said.

La Mirada coach Mike Moschetti, whose team lost to Mater Dei 35-0, said, “Mater Dei is a different team than they have been the last couple of years. I haven’t seen Bosco play, but Mater Dei does a great job pounding the ball. They’re more physical offensively than they have been. I believe they will run the ball, play great defense and eat up clock. Mater Dei 24, St. John Bosco 21.”

Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson predicted, “St. John Bosco 24, Mater Dei 21. Bosco, has in my opinion, the best talent anywhere.”

St. Francis coach Dean Herrington said, “St. John Bosco 28, Mater Dei 17. From what I hear, Bosco’s defense is insane.”

Corona Centennial coach Matt Logan, whose team lost to the Monarchs 43-20, said, “Oh my gosh. That’s a tough one.”

Mission Hills Bishop Alemany coach Casey Clausen said, “Whomever controls the line of scrimmage is going to win. Mater Dei has the best offensive line by far.”


Finally, former Mater Dei lineman Tommy Brown, who plays for Colorado, said he’ll be in town to watch the game. “I’ll let the guys wearing the 3 stripes do all the talking,” he said in a text.

Here’s my column matching up Mater Dei and St. John Bosco by positions.

Football rewind

Hector Ceballos of Franklin leaps over Anthony Leon-Vidales of Eagle Rock to make 42-yard catch.
(David Weston)

Franklin remained unbeaten at 6-0 with a 30-13 win over rival Eagle Rock. It was a great performance from receiver Hector Ceballos, who caught 27 passes last season in a single game. Here’s the report.

Gardena Serra has won four consecutive games going into a Mission League showdown against Bishop Amat on Friday. Cornerback Rodrick Pleasant is proving he’s just as effective a football player as he is running 100 meters. Here’s the report.

Orange Lutheran won the showdown over Santa Margarita and now looks like it has the inside track to finish third in the Trinity League. Here’s the report.

T.A. Cunningham of Los Alamitos finally made his debut after going to court, losing, then having the Southern Section give him a hardship waiver. Here’s the report.

Here’s the link to this week’s top 25 rankings by The Times.

Here’s week seven football schedule.

Here comes girls football

A few minutes before the CIF Southern Section council meeting in Long Beach, president-elect Paula Rodas crossed her fingers and smiled.

Since last November, Rodas, formerly the principal of Lawndale High, has been working with representatives from the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers on a proposal to establish girls’ flag football as a CIF Southern Section-approved sport. The night before the Southern Section would vote to pass the proposal, Rodas was so nervous she could hardly sleep, she said.

“I grew up in the wave of Title IX being a thing, but there was still lots of things — we were told, kids my age, ‘You can’t do that because you’re a girl,’” Rodas said. “Doors were closed for us.”

Southern Section representatives voted to pass the proposal, Rodas smiling at the council’s podium and claps erupting across the room. The section’s approval means the proposal will be put on the state agenda to be read at a meeting Oct. 7. By next fall, it should be a new state-wide girls’ sport.

Here’s the report.

Legendary halftime performer

The Black-Eyed Peas will perform at halftime of the Garfield-Roosevelt football game on Oct. 21 at the Coliseum.

The legendary East L.A. Classic football game between Roosevelt and Garfield is getting a Super Bowl-like halftime performer.

Following a triumphant post-pandemic-restrictions reintroduction in 2021, the schools are planning for a blowout event this season: an Oct. 21 return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and a halftime performance from the Black Eyed Peas.

The price will be $15 for general admission and $12 at presale for students. Parking at the Coliseum is $15. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster.

Here’s the report.

‘Dear Todd’

St. Francis basketball coach Todd Wolfson
St. Francis basketball coach Todd Wolfson has won a state title, but he’s leaving another legacy _ helping inspire and teach with his tweets.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

The most valuable item in Todd Wolfson’s basketball office at La Cañada Flintridge St. Francis High is his mini-refrigerator packed with Perrier and Pellegrino. He always allows guests to quench their thirst on a hot day. The man knows his stuff.

Wolfson is also a very good high school basketball coach, having won a state title with West Hills Chaminade in 2014 and a regional title with St. Francis in 2020.

At 37, he’s straddling Millennials and Generation Z, making him perfectly suited to be Southern California’s newest advice specialist.

Perhaps he needs to start a Twitter column called “Dear Todd.”

All it takes is a look at his Twitter feed (@SFHShoops) to understand the impact he‘s having offering life and basketball lessons to coaches, players and followers.

Here’s a column on a coach spreading wisdom.

Cross country

At the Bellarmine-Sacred Heart Invitational at Griffith Park, the top time of the day for girls was from Kayla Giddings of San Marino. She won in 19:46.7. Chaminade and Palisades won division titles.

Emmanuel Hernandez of Cathedral won his boys race in 15:27.9 to lead his team to a division title. Teammate Emmanuel Perez was second in 15:35.0.

Here’s the link for complete results.

Water polo

There’s no longer any doubts which team is No. 1 in Southern California water polo.

JSerra had a week to remember, knocking off Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake to reinforce its position as No. 1 in Southern California.

It has been a rapid rise for the Lions to take over the top spot from long-time powers. But a couple transfers and good coaching has made JSerra the team to beat.

Girls’ volleyball

The Mira Costa girls' volleyball team celebrates their five-set win over Redondo Union on Sept. 27, 2022.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

Mira Costa and Redondo Union had a five-set thriller. Here’s the report.

The Southern Section girls’ volleyball playoff-format change was met with questioning tones.

“A little bit shocking,” Mira Costa coach Cam Green called it.

“A really weird concept,” Marymount’s Cari Klein said.

For years, the established top-division playoff format has been a single-elimination bracket elimination. Lose a match, and that was it. Promising teams came and went.

But this year, the top eight teams at the end of the regular season will be divided into two groups for pool play. It’s a shift that’s been discussed amongst the Southern Section’s volleyball advisory committee for years, per according Southern Section assistant commissioner Mike Middlebrook.

“I think it’s going to be well-received and great,” Middlebrook said.

Not yet, though.

“I don’t understand it in girls’ volleyball,” Klein said.

The format will follow the pool-play structure already in place for the Open Division basketball playoffs. The baseline reason for the change, Middlebrook said, was to give teams who lost in the first round of the Southern Section bracket more action before moving to regional CIF play, rather than waiting weeks before another match.

“It was unfair to go into that idle mode for such a long period of time,” Middlebrook said.

Here’s the report.

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Notes . . .

Guard Madison Leiva of Santa Margarita has committed to Cal State San Marcos women’s basketball. . . .

Jaiden Anderson, a standout junior girls’ soccer player for Huntington Beach, has committed to USC. . . .

Julio Rubio is the new girls’ soccer coach at St. Bonaventure. . . .

Junior guard Amia Witt has transferred from Calabasas to Chaminade. . . .

San Clemente wrestling coach Mark Calentino has stepped down after 32 years. His teams won 18 league titles and six Southern Section titles. . . .

Banning was forced to forfeit a football win against Garden Grove Pacifica because it used an ineligible player. The player played one day before he was eligible under the sit-out period rule. Here’s the report. . . .

El Camino College and Valley College are the leading candidates to host the City Section football finals Thanksgiving week. Here’s the report. . . .

Alyssa Thompson of Harvard-Westlake, the best female soccer player in the nation, was promoted to the U.S. national team, replacing the injured Alex Morgan. She’s the youngest player added to the team since 2017. They begin a European tour Oct. 7. . . .

Long Beach Poly is No. 1 in producing the most NFL players from California, according to a survey from BeenVerified that analyzed the hometowns and high schools of 26,000 NFL players since 1920. Poly is No. 2 in the nation. Poly has produced 59 NFL players. Dorsey is second with 35 in California and Crenshaw has had 25. . . .

Crystal Wang of Sierra Canyon has committed to Northwestern for women’s basketball.

From the archives: Chris Valaika

Former Hart star Chris Valaika (center) is hitting coach for the Cleveland Guardians.
(Valaika family)

Chris Valaika, a Hart High grad, is the hitting coach for the Central Division champion Cleveland Guardians.

The Valaika family has been involved with baseball seemingly forever. Every season from 2000 to 2014, there was a Valaika brother playing shortstop at Hart

Chris was the first brother to reach Hart. He was a standout shortstop, went on to UC Santa Barbara and the majors. Next up was Matt, another standout at Santa Barbara. Then came Patrick, who went on to UCLA and the majors. Finally there was Nick, another shortstop who went to UCLA.

Here’s a 2010 story about the Valaika brothers.


From, a story on a high school football team in Northern California having its season suspended to conduct an investigation into inappropriate group chat.

From, a story on Long Beach Millikan’s forfeit situation and coach Romeo Pellum.

From, a story on the cutthroat way some get eligible to play high school football in Phoenix.

From the Signal, a story on Saugus’ football team not being allowed to use a flag supporting law enforcement.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on former Lawndale quarterback Jalon Daniels at unbeaten Kansas.

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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, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

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