A new era begins in the Trinity League on Thursday. After four seasons of being the Southern Section's marquee collection of teams, it's even better this year.
That's because the arrival of two new head coaches has closed the gap for teams that were considered have-nots, St. John Bosco (Bellflower)
and Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita)
St. John Bosco has long been considered by league coaches as a goldmine waiting to be discovered. It looks like Bosco alumnus Jason Negro – who guided Trabuco Hills-Mission Viejo to section finals two of the past three seasons – has employed a pick-axe to uncover the talent. A combination of athletes and size makes the Braves a legitimate threat to break the stranglehold that Servite (Anaheim)
, Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
and Orange Lutheran
have had on league bragging rights.
"Our kids have responded to everything we asked, they bought into our philosophies, from changing the practice format, working in the weight room, to the amount of time we meet," Negro said on the eve of his team's opener against Mater Dei-Santa Ana. "The responsibilities have been different from the past and they've bought into what we're doing. I told the kids, 'Thanks for believing in what we're doing and hopefully we can take you the places you want to go.'"
Bosco might still be a year away. The bulk of its skill players are underclassmen, along with seven on defense.
Running back Martin Brown
has averaged 9.1 yards per carry and needs 128 yards to reach 1,000 on the season. He has nine touchdowns, and has kept defenses honest for junior quarterback Raymond Medina
(8 touchdowns, three interceptions). Over the last two games, victories over Loyola-Los Angeles and La Habra, Medina has thrown for 357 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception. As he matures into the position, his percentage will increase from the 50 percent it is now, although that figure is already skewed – the young receivers have dropped several passes.
Junior Bryce Treggs
has averaged 20.8 yards on his 24 receptions and has six touchdown receptions.
Waiting in the wings is sophomore Davonte Young
– the Pacific Coast League's player of the year as a freshman at Irvine – poised to replace Brown, and with a full season under Negro's direction, next season might really be Bosco's year.
There has also been an noticeable difference in Santa Margarita (4-1), which has Harry Welch as its new coach. Welch has won eight section titles and – with two different teams – two State Bowl championships. Welch, diagnosed with prostate cancer, had surgery last week.
The Eagles are far more physical than they have been in recent years, and as Servite has shown, physical is the way to excel over the long haul in this league. Santa Margarita opens the league season on Friday against Orange Lutheran (3-2). The Eagles have responded to Welch, and quarterback Adam Young
and running back Cory Thomson
are formidable threats. By all appearances, the five turnovers in its only loss to Tesoro seems to have relegated that outcome to fluke status.
The other intriguing team is JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano)
, which just a few years ago forfeited all its league games for safety reasons – the young school couldn't compete against the Trinity varsities.
For the second year in a row, Jim Hartigan's team – he won section titles at Santa Margarita and Clovis West – won all its nonleague games. Last season it beat Santa Margarita, and this year would realistically like to win two league games, a feat that would show legitimate growth for a program that had basically been thrown to the wolves.
But JSerra (5-0) draws Servite (5-0) in its first league game, and one thing is certain – every team that JSerra has beaten thus far is in no way similar to Servite, which has won a share of five consecutive league titles since Troy Thomas became that program's head coach.
Only one of the six schools in the Trinity League doesn't have a MaxPreps rating of at least 43 – Orange Lutheran (29.4), which won the first Division II State Bowl in 2006 and shared the league title in 2007 and 2008. The Lancers and Mater Dei are both 3-2 and have the worst records in the league; the combined league record is 24-6.
"It's always had elite teams in the league, and the appearance at times was that it was top heavy – the Big Three," Negro said. "It's more of a complete league now. From 1 to 6 you've got teams capable of winning this league. It's a shame there are only three teams selected for the playoffs out of this group. There's going to be somebody not in the playoffs who could win one or two playoff games."THE WRITING ON THE WALL
You could see this coming. Arizona-bound Jared Baker
rushed for 219 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead Loyola (Los Angeles)
to a 39-24 victory over Valencia
. It was the first game of the season in which Valencia running back Steven Manfro
failed to score at least four touchdowns – he scored two.
Whether by design or misfortune, Valencia has not had much luck in its nonleague games – opponents have not challenged them enough to make the Vikings better. The Vikings win, but that hasn't necessarily made them better.
Valencia was hurt by something similar last season – it went through the preseason largely unchallenged (except for a 39-36 victory over Thousand Oaks in its opener) and lost its first game of the postseason in the semifinals. Heading into the playoffs, Valencia had played only two teams that finished with winning records.
So this loss to Loyola is a blessing. It gives Valencia something tangible to work on before Foothill League play begins and before it tries to upend one of the Marmonte League teams in the Northern Division playoffs. You don't get better by winning blowouts; you get better by having your weaknesses exposed and correcting them.
Loyola is another private school – like Santa Margarita, Bosco and Crespi-Encino (Jon Mack) – that has elevated its game this season under a new coach (Mike Christensen) even though the team's record is only 3-3. Loyola lost 35-14 to Valencia in last year's game.YET ANOTHER SCHOOL RECORD
For the third time in four weeks, Kenneth Stenhouse
of Crespi (Encino)
(5-1) set a school record. Although the first two were advancements of the single game record for yardage, his most recent record was for touchdowns in a game. Stenhouse passed for six in a 53-47 victory over Taft-Woodland Hills (2-3). He also passed for 364 yards, well off the 484 he threw for a week earlier in a 45-31 victory over Vista Murrieta. The most impressive thing about Stenhouse's records are that they are taking place in games in which big performances are needed – they aren't coming in blowout victories against overmatched teams. Also impressive in a losing effort was Michael Bercovici
of Taft. The game was hyped as a battle of quarterbacks, and Bercovici completed 34 of 50 passes for 431 yards and five touchdowns.
Stenhouse now has 20 touchdowns and four interceptions – including 16 TDs and one interception in the past four games – and has averaged 287 yards per game. Since losing its opener to Dominguez, 14-11, in its first game under Jon Mack, the Celts have won five in a row. Crespi's next game will be its biggest: The Celts open Serra League play at the 6-0 and league favorite Bishop Amat (La Puente)
squad Friday, 7 p.m.POLY BOUNCES BACK
Rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. Long Beach Poly
stunned Lakewood over the weekend, 27-14, reclaiming for the moment the driver's seat for the Moore League title. Lakewood, which snapped the Jackrabbits' 80-game league winning streak last year, was ineffective on offense and got beat by the Poly passing game. Chaiyse Hales
completed 14 of 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for a score. Common thought is that you must make Poly beat you through the air. It did.
Poly (4-2, 2-0) has a bye this week before playing Millikan (1-5, 0-2), which beat Poly in double overtime a year ago, 35-34. Lakewood
(5-1, 1-1), which had been positioned to be one of the four seeded teams in the Pac-5 playoffs, dropped to seventh this week in the Southern Section poll – one spot behind the Jackrabbits.BURKS CHOOSES USC
, one of the outstanding and really physical defensive linemen in California, has committed to USC. Burks, a 6-2, 230-pound defensive end, recorded 14 sacks as a junior despite missing a month of the season and helped Edison (Huntington Beach)
reach the Southern Section Pac-5 Division finals.
Burks told the Orange County Register on Monday that USC had earlier offered a scholarship if he could graduate a semester early, but had since made it an unconditional offer that he seized. The Trojans were recruiting Burks as a linebacker and are considering him as a rush specialist or a fullback.
He is averaging almost nine tackles per game this season for the Chargers (3-2).THREE DOTS AND A CLOUD OF DUSTMohammad Roknipour
kicked a school record 57-yard field goal as Canyon (Canyon Country)
beat Dos Pueblos 36-3 to improve to 5-0. . . . Westlake (Westlake Village)
(5-0, 4-0) figures to get the second of three tests in the Marmonte League when it plays host to Moorpark
(3-2, 3-1) on Friday. . . . A not-so-funny thing happened to Norco (4-1, 1-1) on its way to its game of the year. The Cougars were beaten by Roosevelt (Corona)
, 24-21, taking some of the shine off their Big VIII game against Centennial-Corona (5-0, 2-0) on Oct. 29. Four teams are now 1-1, with Centennial and Corona the only 2-0 teams in the league. Recruiting notes
* Trevor Gretzky
, quarterback at Oaks Christian (Westlake Village)
, has committed to San Diego State. *
Kendall Dusenberry, a junior at Hart (Newhall)
, has committed to San Diego State for women's golf.*
Jasmine Wooton, a guard at Chatsworth
, has committed to Portland for women's basketball.*
Maria Winters of Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks)
, has committed to Boston College for women's soccer.Martin Henderson is a reporter for Patch.com. He began covering Southland preps in 1993 for the Los Angeles Times, and has written for several papers including the Orange County Register and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. He offers up motorsports opinions at racescribe.wordpress.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.