This Saturday brings another big passing league tournament, but not just any tournament.
The Battle at the Beach, hosted by Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.), is probably the best of the season. The host team went undefeated in the summer of 2009 and won its first 13 games before losing to Servite (Anaheim, Calif.) in the Southern Section Pac-5 finals, so whoever emerges here is probably going to have a pretty good season.
The champion from this will emerge after playing three pool play games, then winning an eight-team tournament that includes the top two teams from each of four pools.
"This is the best tournament we've had," said Edison coach Dave White, who has been hosting this event for more than a decade. "To win it you have to be real good and real consistent. It's a grueling day."
There are three defending Southern Section champions in the tournament, and Edison has locked itself into a pool that includes the most highly regarded of the three, Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.), led by quarterback Nick Isham. The Warriors were 14-0 last season.
Rounding out the pool are Carlsbad (Carlsbad, Calif.) and JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.).
Another intriguing angle is to see how Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) does in the tournament. The small-school power will be playing up in competition for the first time as a member of the Marmonte League.
Trevor Gretzky, son of NHL legend Wayne, is expected to be the quarterback for Oaks Christian, which will compete in the same pool as defending Inland Division champion Chaparral (Temecula, Calif.), Foothill (Santa Ana, Calif.) and the runner-up to the season-opening Air Strike tournament, Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.).
The winner of the Air Strike tournament, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), which is led by the USC-bound QB-WR combination of Max Wittek and Victor Blackwell, is in a pool with defending Southern Division champion La Habra (La Habra, Calif.), Pac-5 stalwart Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.), and the perennially solid South Hills (West Covina, Calif.).
The other quartet of schools include the Inland's marquee program, Centennial (Corona, Calif.), with Valencia (Valencia, Calif.), St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and Tesoro (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.).
Pool competition will be played at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11 a.m., and the top two teams from each pool will go into an eight-team tournament format beginning at 1 p.m. The championship game is at 3 p.m.
Awards, awards, awards
The Southern Section released its award winners in each of its seven divisions for softball. Named players of the year were Madison Shipman, an infielder at Valencia; Taylor Edwards, a catcher at Vista Murrieta; Jessica Hall, a pitcher at Ayala; Celisha Walker, a pitcher at Santa Monica; Courtney McGee, a pitcher at Whittier Christian; Allie Forillo, a pitcher at La Salle-Pasadena; and Kayla Evans, a pitcher at Kern Valley-Lake Isabella.
The Southern Section released its award winners in each of its seven divisions for baseball. Named players of the year were Cory Hahn, a pitcher/outfielder at Mater Dei-Santa Ana; Adam Plutko, a pitcher at Glendora; Blake Walker of Ocean View and Adam Quintana of San Gorgonio; Nick Baker of Palm Desert; Matt Chabot of Woodcrest Christian and Dylan Covey of Maranatha-Pasadena; Daniel Lucak of Oxford Academy-Cypress and Taylor Aikenhead of Desert Christian-Lancaster; and Aaron Ruth of Cornerstone Christian-Camarillo.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune named Chloe Wurst of Bonita-La Verne its softball player of the year.
Austin Hill of Roosevelt (Corona, Calif.) has been named by the Riverside Press Enterprise as its male athlete of the year.
Hill was a three-sport standout for the young school. He excelled at football (he will play at Arizona) and track (he competed in the state finals), and was an impact player on the basketball team (he defended the opponent's best scoring option).
He is the son of former NFL Pro Bowl tight end David Hill and nephew to former player and current broadcaster Jim Hill.
The Riverside Press Enterprise selected Lindsay Sherbert, a girls' basketball player at Great Oak (Temecula, Calif.), as its female athlete of the year. She will attend California.
You put a yellow jersey on a quarterback so that the defense doesn't hit him during practice. It's basically done to protect the quarterback.
Now, consider the City Section, which has been unable to get a new playoff format approved. Therefore, schools will be allowed to determine which playoff they want to enter, Division I, II or III. Basically, anyone who doesn't choose Division I is claiming they are not an elite caliber program, which it turns out is most of the City Section schools.
Only 20 teams have agreed to play in the 16-team Division I football tournament: All six teams from the Marine League; Venice (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.) from the Western League; all but Fremont (Los Angeles, Calif.) from the Coliseum League; Garfield (Los Angeles, Calif.) from the Eastern League; Kennedy (Granada Hills, Calif.), San Fernando (San Fernando, Calif.) and Sylmar (Sylmar, Calif.) from the Valley Mission; and Granada Hills (Granada Hills, Calif.) and Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) from the West Valley.
Good for them. As for everyone else? Yellow jersey.
Chief among them is Jordan (Los Angeles, Calif.), which was the sixth-seeded team in Division I last season but has opted out for Division II; 15th-seeded Santee (Los Angeles, Calif.) is also going Division II, while 16th-seeded Birmingham (Lake Balboa, Calif.) remained in Division I.
The two finalists in Division II, Hamilton (Los Angeles, Calif.) and El Camino Real (Woodland Hills, Calif.), remained in Division II rather than test the strength of the program in Division I. Hamilton scored 55 points or more in three of its four playoff victories, including the 60-40 victory in the title game.
So, 20 teams will be vying for 16 spots in Division I, and 38 teams will be vying for 16 spots in Division II.
Gus Viramontes of Diamond Ranch (Pomona, Calif.) passed for three touchdown passes in the second half to lead the East to a 40-0 victory in the San Gabriel Valley Hall of Fame Game. The East holds a 19-10-1 advantage, and the 40 points was a record. The score was 7-0 at halftime.
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) defeated Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.), 55-48, to win the championship of the Fairfax tournament. Ryan Anderson scored 15 for Poly, Kevin Johnson 17 for Taft.
Danilo Dragovic has enrolled at Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.). The brother of former UCLA player Nikola Dragovic, he had attended San Marcos-Santa Barbara last season though he did not play because of Southern Section transfer restrictions. The 6-foot-5 Serbian native “is pretty good,” H-W coach Greg Hilliard told the Los Angeles Times. It's unknown whether he will be classified as a junior or senior.
Junior Pomee, a tight end at Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, Calif.), has committed to UCLA. . . . Ben Wysocki, a lineman at Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.), has committed to UCLA. . . . La Mirada (La Mirada, Calif.) has had a number of football players make college commitments: lineman Bryan Peters (Kansas); safety Aaryn Bouzos (Nebraska); lineman Isaac Luatua (Alabama); lineman E.J. Galvez (Nevada); and safety Max Gama (Washington State). . . . Josh Williams, a linebacker at Salesian (Los Angeles, Calif.), has committed to Oregon State. Outfielder Ronnie Galosic and pitcher Jonathan Mata of San Pedro (San Pedro, Calif.) have committed to New Mexico. Catcher Danny Matienzo will play at Cal State Los Angeles. . . . Tyler Krause, an outfielder at JSerra, has committed to UC Irvine. Tanner Bily, a junior outfielder/pitcher, has committed to UC Davis. Quincy Quintero, a pitcher/infielder at Valencia, has committed to Pepperdine. . . . Pitcher Willie Kuhl and outfielder Austin Saenz of Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.) have committed to Cal State Fullerton. . . . Robert DeSantiago, a catcher at Arleta, has committed to Riverside.
Comings and goings
Chris Jones has been named the girls basketball coach at Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.). He had been the assistant for four seasons and replaces Andy Rucker, who was earlier named the boys' coach.
Tim Gutierrez has been hired as the football coach at Santa Clara (Oxnard, Calif.).
Martin Henderson began covering Southland preps in 1993 for the Los Angeles Times. He contributes to the Orange County Register, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and San Bernardino Sun, and offers up motorsports opinions at Racescribe.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.