Prep Rally: A look at the extraordinary riches of SoCal high school sports


Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. Early signing day for all sports but football comes Wednesday. Southern California is loaded with so many top high school athletes from a variety of sports. Let me offer an example of the extraordinary riches.

Catchers en masse

Santa Margarita High catchers from left
Santa Margarita High catchers from left: Luke Lavin, Blake Balsz, and Bryce Humphry. They are signing with Stanford, UCLA and USF.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

As early college signing day approaches this week, there’s a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of high school baseball talent taking place at the catcher position for Santa Margarita High.


The Eagles have three catchers from the class of 2023 who one day could be major leaguers. The fact Blake Balsz (UCLA commit), Luke Lavin (Stanford) and Bryce Humphry (San Francisco) all arrived as freshmen and stuck it out competing for four years, with each earning a college scholarship at the catcher position, is unheard of.

They’ll be signing letters of intent on Wednesday.

“It’s crazy,” Balsz said. “Luke, Bryce and I have been competing every year since the first practice of freshman year. It’s never been dull. We’ve enjoyed the grind. All we want for each other is the best because we have same exact goals.”

“Competition between us made us better and each is such a competitor that we welcomed it,” Lavin said.

“It’s been a long process,” Humphry said. “We’re all good friends and it worked out.”

They made the rare decision to stay and compete instead of run away and find another school where the chance to start would be easier.

Here’s their story.

Football rewind

Bishop Amat running back Aiden Ramos.
Bishop Amat running back Aiden Ramos stiff arms a Murrieta Valley defender to pick up yards in the fourth quarter. He scored seven touchdowns.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The first week of the high school football playoffs produced lots of offense. There were two 500-yard passers, running backs who ran for more than 300 yards and a school-record, seven-touchdown performance from Aiden Ramos of Bishop Amat. Here’s the link to top offensive performances.


The Bishop Amat-Murrieta Valley matchup lived up to the hype as an offensive shootout in Southern Section Division 2. Here’s the report.

Sierra Canyon might have won the Division 2 title by holding off Warren 22-21 in the opening game. Here’s the report.

It was the final game for Tennessee-bound quarterback Nico Iamaleava of Warren. Here’s the report.

In the City Section, Reseda Cleveland won its Division I opener with the help of six touchdowns from junior Kory Hall, who moved from receiver to running back in a 42-41 win over Lincoln.

Here’s the link to scores and updated pairings.

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Cathedral’s Mannys

Junior cross-country runners Emmanuel Perez (left) and Emmanuel Hernandez could lead Cathedral to a state championship.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

They’re called M&M, Little Manny and Big Manny, and the two Mannys.

It’s sometimes confusing watching juniors Emmanuel Hernandez and Emmanuel Perez run for the L.A. Cathedral High cross-country team. Sometimes they’re inseparable and when reporters ask to speak to “Emmanuel,” the response is, “Which one?”

They finished second and third, respectively, at the Mt. SAC Invitational Oct. 22 and have led Cathedral to a No. 1 ranking in Southern Section Division 4. Neither knew of the other until Perez showed up last year at Cathedral. Now they push each other and run as a tandem, with no limit to where it might lead.

Hernandez set the school record for 3 miles at 14 minutes 31 seconds Tuesday at the Del Rey League finals. Perez set the school record for 3,200 meters in track with a time of 9:12.

Sixty miles a week they run together around the hills of Elysian Park, passing the wonders of Dodger Stadium. When they race, they think of the sacrifices made by their parents, each of whom came from Mexico.

Here’s their story.


Cross country

League finals were held last week, and the Marmonte League featured the Newbury Park trio of Lex and Leo Young and Aaron Sahlman crossing the finish line together as they prepare to unleash their best for the Southern Section finals on Nov. 19 at Mt. SAC, followed by the state championships on Nov. 26 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Payton Godsey of Oaks Christian won the girls’ race in 16:43.

At the Pacific League final, Parker Simmons of Crescenta Valley ran away from the field with a time of 14:20.9.

George Yardley book

Former local basketball coach Greg Hayes has written a book on NBA Hall of Famer George Yardley, who went to Newport Harbor and Stanford.

“Known as the Stanford Flash, the California Comet, the Blond Bomber, and the Bald Eagle, Yardley helped usher in the evolution of the modern NBA with a game that transcends generations. He excelled on the greatest basketball stages and broke records of two of basketball’s all-time greatest players… and did so with style and flair.

“Most ballplayers of his time would be anachronisms in today’s game, but Yardley was the opposite - a colorful anachronism playing in a black-and-white era. He was a high-flyer in an earthbound age, a late bloomer who went to the Hall of Fame, an academically gifted engineer in the athletic world, a devoted family man who left the NBA at the top of his game to focus on being a husband, father, and businessman.


“He was The Bird – an all-time great NBA scoring machine.”

It’s available on Amazon.

Stanford-Cal lateral game

New book on Stanford-Cal lateral game.
(Eric Sondheimer)

A new book, “Five Laterals and a Trombone,” about the Stanford-Cal lateral game from 40 years ago, was published on Nov. 1.

John Elway wrote a foreword and talks about his days at Granada Hills High leading up to him playing in the Stanford-Cal game on Nov. 19, 1982 and what transpired in a game that produced the “wildest finish ever to a college football game” that saw laterals and band members involved.

The Play was not televised live. There was no instant replay—let alone a viral video. In 1982, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, who had founded Apple Computer Company in a garage only 10 miles from the Stanford campus, were just developing the first personal computers. It took hours for news of the rivalry game’s outcome to spread across the country, yet football fans would remain enthralled by the bizarre sequence for decades to come.

Girls’ golf

Sophomore Anna Song of Palisades won the City Section girls' golf individual title with a 67.
(Steve Galluzzo)

Sophomore Anna Song of Palisades fired off one of the best rounds in the history of the City Section girls’ golf finals, finishing with a 6-under par 67 at Balboa Golf Course on Wednesday to win the individual championship and also lead the Dolphins to the team championship.


She had two bogeys and eight birdies. Her putting led to the low round, including one from 18 feet for a birdie.

She likes the Balboa course, having shot 66 at the league finals

“I loved the layout today,” she said. “It’s wide but sometimes a little tricky.”

Ashley Yun from Walnut won the Southern Section individual championship. The Southern California Regional is in Pasadena on Thursday.

Skye is limit

Skye Belker of Windward went 29-0 in individual tennis matches this season. She's headed to Princeton for basketball.

There aren’t many better two-sport female athletes in Southern California this season than Skye Belker of Windward.

Skye Belker of Windward dribbles in the CIF state Division I girls' final.
(Nick Koza)

She just finished the tennis regular season with a 29-0 individual record. But basketball is where she makes her biggest impact as a shooting guard for Windward. She’s headed to Princeton because of her basketball shooting skills.

Girls’ volleyball

Granada Hills won the City Section Open Division girls’ volleyball team, its seventh under coach Tom Harp.

Here’s the report on the Highlanders’ win over Taft at Cal State Northridge.

Sierra Canyon defeated Mira Costa to win the Southern Section Division 1 championship. Here’s the report.

The Southern California regional playoffs begin on Tuesday. Here are the pairings.


Notes . . .

Cross-country and track standout Jadyn Zdanavage from Portola has committed to Michigan. . . .

Crespi has begun looking for a new football coach after parting ways with Dameon Porter following an 0-10 season in 2022. . . .

Early signing day is Wednesday. Louisville softball will have four players signing: Hayden Luderer (New Mexico), Cece Cellura (San Diego State), Sophia Stein (Long Beach State), Bella Wellbaum (CBU). . . .

Taft senior volleyball player Julia Bazylevych has committed to Long Beach State. . . .

Baseball player Logan Ortega from Norco has committed to Pomona Pitzer. . . .

Long Beach Poly linebacker/track athlete Javon Hampton has committed to Cal. . . .

Santa Margarita basketball player Rockwell Reynolds has committed to Northern Arizona. . . .

Bishop Montgomery boys’ basketball player Kelcy Phipps has committed to Portland State. . . .

Newport Harbor girls’ water polo goalie Anna Reed has committed to USC.

From the archives: Jaime and Gabriela Jaquez

Incoming UCLA freshman Gabriela Jaquez and her brother, UCLA senior Jaime Jaquez Jr., pose in their Bruins uniforms.
Incoming UCLA freshman Gabriela Jaquez and her brother, UCLA senior Jaime Jaquez Jr., pose on the court in their Bruins uniforms.
(Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

It’s going to be probably the only year in which siblings Gabriela and Jaime Jaquez get to play for UCLA together. But what a year it should be. The former Camarillo standouts have the chance to be the best sister-brother duo in the nation.

Gabriela was a McDonald’s All-American last season for Camarillo. Jaime was hurting with an injury for UCLA but is finally healthy.

Here’s a 2018 story on Jaime positioning himself to be a trendsetter.

Here’s a story from last April on how Gabriela would not be denied a UCLA scholarship.

Here’s a story from July on how the brother-sister duo plans to enjoy this season.



From the Los Angeles Times, a story on Donda Academy and where the players might be headed.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on how freshman Amari Bailey is making quite an early impression for UCLA.

From, a story on the Southern Section football playoff system.

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Until next time...

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