Prep Rally: Public schools finally get the football spotlight


Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. This is the week public schools get the spotlight in football after the Mater Dei-St. John Bosco game last week provided plenty of excitement for private schools.

Edison vs. Los Alamitos

Los Alamitos quarterback Malachi Nelson rolls away from Santa Margarita defender.
(Craig Weston)

Unbeaten Edison takes on surging Los Alamitos on Thursday night at Huntington Beach in a game that can help clarify possible Division 1 playoff participants.


Edison is 7-0 with good wins over Orange Lutheran and San Clemente. Los Alamitos is 6-2 and has the great passing duo of Malachi Nelson and Malaki Lemon. The game will decide the Sunset League championship.

It’s a good week for public schools to show their stuff.

In the North Hills League, El Dorado (6-1) is at El Modena (6-0). In the Ocean League, Leuzinger tries to offer competition to unbeaten Inglewood at El Camino College. In the South Coast League, Mission Viejo resumes its rivalry with San Clemente at San Clemente. In a battle of teams that run the double wing, unbeaten Norwalk hosts Bellflower. Downey (6-1) plays at Warren (6-1) in a battle of top quarterbacks. In the Marine League, San Pedro plays at Carson on Thursday night.

Here’s the complete Week 8 schedule.

Overcoming obstacles

Junior receiver Xavier Jordan of L.A. Cathedral.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Lying in bed at night, Xavier Jordan hears gunshots, sirens and helicopters so often that it’s no longer an obstacle to falling asleep.

“I got used to them,” he said.

Jordan lives in a housing project at Holmes and 51st streets in South Los Angeles with his mother and five younger siblings.

“I can’t even come outside most times because my mom is paranoid,” he said.

L.A. Cathedral High has become his sanctuary and the football field his playground.

“I can be 16,” he said.

At 6 feet 1 and 170 pounds, with speed, athleticism and strong hands, Jordan is a junior wide receiver with dreams and aspirations to build a future of unlimited possibilities.

Here’s his story.

Football rewind

No. 1 vs. No. 2 turned out to be a true defensive struggle. Mater Dei defeated St. John Bosco 17-7.


Quarterback Elijah Brown improved to 24-0 as a starting quarterback. Here’s the report from a sold-out Santa Ana Stadium.

Earlier in the week, Gardena Serra learned it had to forfeit a win over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame for making a mistaking in playing a player who had not been completely cleared. The Cavaliers then came out and knocked off Bishop Amat to stay in the Mission League title race. Here’s the report.

Venice keeps winning in the City Section and is No. 2 behind San Pedro in the rankings. Here’s a report on the Gondoliers using defense to succeed.

Here’s a report on Edison improving to 7-0 with a win over Newport Harbor.

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

MaxPreps changed landscape launched its website 20 years ago.

All together, let’s sing the birthday song:

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear MaxPreps…”

Yes, this is MaxPreps’ 20th year of existence, and few organizations have been more important in helping bring high school sports into the digital era.

You’ll have to remember what it was like before MaxPreps was created by California-based Andy Beal in 2002 in the Sacramento area.

Rosters, schedules and scores were distributed or confirmed sometimes by Pony Express. Seriously, the information was collected by phone calls or by begging coaches and freelancers to report scores to newspapers. Going to a City Section football game, reporters would ask players one by one on the sideline to state their name because rosters or programs were rarely supplied.

MaxPreps’ idea of a one-stop place to report scores, display rosters, statistics and schedules took years to accomplish because it relied on schools volunteering their time and effort to input the information. Some sections asked and prodded coaches to help. It was slow but steady improvement, and even today there are holdouts for statistics and rosters in certain sports.

A look at how MaxPreps changed the high school sports landscape.

‘Gentle Giant’

Peninsula High lineman Andrew Russell has been competing in dirt bike racing since he was young
Peninsula High lineman Andrew Russell has been competing in Speedway dirt bike racing since he was young.
(Courtesy of Dave Russell)

He’d see the massive kid with the long, flowing hair popping a wheelie on his way to school, doing donuts on his 29-inch Big Ripper BMX around the parking lot, and Peninsula football coach David Young was baffled.

What are you doing? Young would think, watching Andrew Russell. You’re going to hurt yourself.

That was before he really knew Russell. Knew he wasn’t reckless. Wasn’t a hothead. Just a sweet-natured enigma.

After he joined the Peninsula football team, some of Russell’s teammates ventured to the Industry Hills Speedway. They were there to see him on his off day — a now-17-year-old racing dirt bikes professionally, beating adults along the way.

“Coach, you gotta see him, he’s like a celebrity,” Young remembered players telling him. “Like, dude, he’s the dude out there.”

None of it seems to make sense, at first glance. Russell is 6 foot 3, weighs 275 pounds and shreds as a motorcycle racer in a sport where the small and wiry are most successful. He’s a standout lineman, but when he first came to Peninsula he was planning to join the marching band. He’s a “hulking figure” who looks like a bruiser, Young said, but also one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet.

Here’s the profile.

Moorpark finds its coach

The expectation that girls’ flag football will be added as an official high school sports in the CIF this fall is causing high schools to get a head start by naming head coaches. And it’s not just any coach willing to start a program. Former varsity coaches could be stepping forward to take on the task.

Moorpark found a good one last week in naming Tim Lins as its new girls’ flag football coach. Lins had great success at Crespi and Moorpark before retiring in 2017. He had continued to be a teacher at Moorpark and run the weight room.

“It’s a chance to start a program from the ground up,” he said of why he’s coming out of coaching retirement. “That will be fun.”

The seven on seven games will require Lins to break out his old playbooks from youth football coaching days. He plans to set up tryouts and look for an athletic, mobile female to become the team’s quarterback.

Asked if he thinks other veteran coaches might opt to coach flag football instead of tackle football, Lins said, “The games are shorter. There’s no contact, so that cuts down your risk of injuries. It’s a smaller game on a smaller field.”

Here’s a report on the girls’ flag football league sponsored by the Rams and Chargers.

Author rising

Former Oak Park basketball player JD Slajchert has become an author.
(Turk Entertainment)

Former Oak Park basketball player JD Slajchert has turned in his shorts and jersey for work with his computer. He’s a writer after graduating from UC Santa Barbara and has finished his second book, “Darling, You’re Not Alone” by Summer House Publishing.

It launches on Nov. 3 and is a book for teens and young adults about the challenges and adversities growing up in today’s world.

His two younger brothers were stars at Oak Park and went on to the Ivy League.

Who can’t wait for his first baseball novel?

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Cross country

Newbury Park unleashed the Young twins, Leo and Lex, and Aaron Sahlman at the Clovis Invitational.

They went 1-2-3 in leading the Panthers to victory over San Clemente in the sweepstakes race.

Leo ran 14:25.9, the second-best time in course history at Woodward Park. Lex finished in 14:31.7 and Sahlman was 14:52.4.

Calabasas’ Arielle McKenzie won the small schools girls’ race. Granada Hills won the varsity girls team title. Jie Yi Denise Chan of Claremont ran 18:13.3.

Here’s the link to complete results.

Girls’ volleyball

Star freshman Anabelle Redaelli led Palisades to a five-set win over Venice Thursday.
Star freshman Anabelle Redaelli led Palisades to a five-set win over Venice Thursday.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

Anabelle Redaelli leapt and swung again, the match hanging on her right arm. After she fell back to the hardwood with another kill, her Palisades bench burst into a serenade.

“That’s-a-fresh-man!” they chanted.

Freshman, yes. Correct, but only in name. Redaelli was an offensive linchpin beyond her years in Palisades’ 25-17, 25-18, 5-25, 25-27, 15-12 rivalry win over Venice on Thursday night, raining shots from all angles, skying from the back for the match-clinching kill.

She wasn’t alone. Three freshmen manned a court featuring two of the top teams in the City. Six, total, were on rosters. Across the City, the rich are only building more generational wealth, with freshmen making significant contributions on four of the undisputed top five teams in the section.

Here’s the link to the volleyball notebook.

Notes . . .

Senior basketball player Parker Strauss of Pacific Christian has committed to Northwestern. . . .

Senior infielder Eli Steinhaus of Thousand Oaks has committed to Lewis & Clark. . . .

The City Section has finalized its site for the Open Division and Division I girls’ volleyball championships. Cal State Northridge will host both championships Friday, Nov. 4 at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. . . . .

Newport Harbor standout girls’ water polo player Avery Montiel has committed to Stanford. . . .

Romeo Pellum was reinstated as football coach at Long Beach Millikan this past week after being suspended by the school district following the discovery of an ineligible player. The Rams had to forfeit four victories. He missed a loss to Long Beach Poly. . . .

Lowell Darius Carr, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, has transferred to Fairfax. He was at Southern California Academy. . . .

Offensive lineman Bryce Boulton from Palm Desert has committed to Oregon. . . .

Pitcher Nicholas Williams from La Mirada has committed to Long Beach State. . . .

Junior shortstop Kaniya Bragg of Garden Grove Pacifica has committed to UCLA for softball.

From the archives: Ceyair Wright

Ceyair Wright of Loyola is a cornerback, actor and scholar.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Ceyair Wright has made it clear he is pursuing two paths: acting and football. He did it during his days at Loyola High and is continuing his balancing act as a starting cornerback at USC.

Here’s a story from 2021 in his role playing LeBron James’ son in “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
Here’s another story from 2021 detailing Wright’s dreams and goals.


From the New York Times, a story on midnight basketball in Oakland.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on a high school team ending its season after a racist chant.

From the Washington Post, a story on a high school football team suddenly getting good by adding lacrosse players.

From the San Diego Union Tribune, a story on the CIF focusing on sportsmanship.

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Until next time...

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