Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. The opening week of the fall high school football season has arrived. There will be some postponements because of COVID-19 protocols, but it’s an exciting time. Friday Night Lights are back, along with fans in the bleachers.
Randy Rosenbloom and I provide a sneak preview of top players, teams and issues in this return to our weekly show that will be available every Thursday night at 5 p.m. at latimes.com/sports/highschool.
The Times’ nine-part series looking at top players continues Monday and Tuesday with defensive backs and kickers. Here’s a brief look at one of my favorite stories on Gardena Serra cornerback Rodrick Pleasant.
Adoree’ Jackson. Robert Woods. Marquis Lee. George Farmer. Jordan Lasley. The list of outstanding Gardena Serra football players who used track to show off their speed and athleticism is eye-popping.
Get ready to add Rodrick Pleasant to the list. During a four-day stretch last spring after running the 100 meters in 10.57 seconds, Pleasant said he received 14 scholarship offers from college football recruiters. When he set Division 4 records in the 100 and 200 by running 10.46 and 21.02 in June as a sophomore, his reputation was sealed as an athlete to watch. By the final weekend of June, he ran the 100 in 10.32 and the 200 in 20.59. It capped a meteoric rise to prominence.
Pleasant was already a first-team all-Mission League selection for Serra during its six-game spring football season playing cornerback. He’s 5 feet 11, 175 pounds and has a burst of speed that you just can’t teach.
If you have missed any part of the series, here’s the links.
“Friday Night Live” is back. Randy Rosenbloom and me give you a football preview.
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Zero week schedule
The 2021 football season begins this week. Here’s the opening week schedule of games that may change depending on COVID-19 protocols.
Carson at Los Angeles Roosevelt, 7 p.m.
Buena Park vs. Cerritos at Gahr, 7 p.m.
Chino at Western, 7 p.m.
Corona at Ramona, 7 p.m.
La Palma Kennedy at Long Beach Jordan, 7 p.m.
Linfield Christian vs. Loara at Glover Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
Ontario Christian vs. Crean Lutheran at Portola, 7 p.m.
Santa Fe vs. Summit at Miller, 7 p.m.
San Pedro vs. St. Anthony at St. Pius X-St. Matthias, 7 p.m.
Arleta at Granada Hills, 7 p.m.
Bell at Franklin, 7 p.m.
Bernstein at Taft, 7 p.m.
Chatsworth at Grant, 7 p.m.
Chavez at San Fernando, 7 p.m.
Cleveland at Palisades, 7 p.m.
Contreras at Los Angeles Jordan, 7 p.m.
Crenshaw at Westchester, 7 p.m.
Dorsey at Fairfax, 7 p.m.
Gardena at Sun Valley Poly, 7 p.m.
Huntington Park at Rivera, 4:30 p.m.
Legacy at Maywood CES, 7 p.m.
Manual Arts at Mendez, 7 p.m.
Marquez at Eagle Rock, 7 p.m.
Narbonne at Reseda, 7 p.m.
Roybal at Panorama, 7 p.m.
South East at Jefferson, 7 p.m.
Washington at Los Angeles Hamilton, 3 p.m.
Agoura at Channel Islands, 7 p.m.
Aliso Niguel at Huntington Beach, 7 p.m.
Alta Loma at Colton, 7 p.m.
Anaheim Canyon vs. Sunny Hills at Buena Park, 7 p.m.
Apple Valley at Mission Viejo, 7 p.m.
Aquinas at Etiwanda, 7 p.m.
Arrowhead Christian vs. Capistrano Valley Christian at Capistrano Valley, 7 p.m.
Arroyo Valley at Sierra Vista, 7 p.m.
Barstow at Rubidoux, 7 p.m.
Bell Gardens vs. Troy at Fullerton HS, 7 p.m.
Big Bear at Victor Valley, 7 p.m.
Bloomington at San Gorgonio, 7 p.m.
Bonita vs. La Serna at California, 7 p.m.
Bosco Tech vs. Santa Ana Calvary Chapel at Segerstrom, 7 p.m.
Buena at Oak Park, 7 p.m.
Cajon at Carter, 7 p.m.
California at Schurr, 7 p.m.
Camarillo vs. Hart at College of Canyons, 7 p.m.
Cerritos Valley Christian at St. Paul, 7 p.m.
Chaminade at Oaks Christian, 7 p.m.
Chino Hills at Ayala, 7 p.m.
Citrus Hill at Colony, 7 p.m.
Coachella Valley at Canyon Springs, 7 p.m.
Compton Centennial at Perris, 7 p.m.
Corona Santiago at Heritage, 7 p.m.
Corona del Mar at Downey, 7 p.m.
Costa Mesa at Laguna Beach, 7 p.m.
Desert Hot Springs at Indian Springs, 7 p.m.
Diamond Bar vs. El Dorado at Placentia Valencia, 6 p.m.
Eastside at Riverside Prep, 7 p.m.
El Monte vs. Azusa at Citrus College, 7 p.m.
El Rancho at Don Lugo, 7 p.m.
El Toro vs. La Mirada at Excelsior HS, 7 p.m.
Elsinore at Vista del Lago, 7 p.m.
Firebaugh at Lynwood, 7 p.m.
Fontana vs. Granite Hills at Apple Valley, 7 p.m.
Foothill vs. Cypress at Western, 7 p.m.
Fullerton vs. Garden Grove Pacifica at Bolsa Grande, 7 p.m.
Glendale at Gabrielino, 7 p.m.
Glendora vs. West Ranch at Valencia, 7 p.m.
Heritage Christian at Harvard-Westlake, 7 p.m.
Hillcrest vs. Riverside Poly at King, 7 p.m.
Indio at Shadow Hills, 7 p.m.
Inglewood at Loyola, 7 p.m.
JSerra vs. Sierra Canyon at Birmingham, 7 p.m.
Jurupa Valley at Ontario, 7 p.m.
Keppel at Hoover, 5 p.m.
Laguna Hills vs. Katella at Glover Stadium, 7 p.m.
Lakeside vs. Arlington at Ramona, 7 p.m.
Lancaster at Serrano, 7 p.m.
Lompoc Cabrillo at Nordhoff, 7 p.m.
Los Altos at Hacienda Heights Wilson, 7 p.m.
Magnolia vs. Godinez at Santa Ana Valley, 7 p.m.
Marina at Arcadia, 7 p.m.
Mayfair at Chaffey, 7 p.m.
Moorpark at Royal, 7 p.m.
Murrieta Mesa at Temescal Canyon, 7 p.m.
Newbury Park vs. Burbank at Burbank Burroughs, 7 p.m.
Newport Harbor at Yorba Linda, 7 p.m.
Nogales at Baldwin Park, 7 p.m.
Norco at Vista Murrieta, 7 p.m.
Norte Vista at Hesperia, 7 p.m.
Northview at La Puente, 7 p.m.
Nuview Bridge at La Sierra, 7 p.m.
Oak Hills at Antelope Valley, 7 p.m.
Orange Lutheran at Gardena Serra, 7 p.m.
Orange Vista at Beaumont, 7 p.m.
Pacific at West Valley, 7 p.m.
Palm Springs at Yucaipa, 7 p.m.
Paramount at Mira Costa, 7 p.m.
Pasadena at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 7 p.m.
Patriot at Rialto, 7 p.m.
Peninsula at Dominguez, 7 p.m.
Pioneer at Bellflower, 7 p.m.
Placentia Valencia vs. Fountain Valley at Westminster, 7 p.m.
Quartz Hill at Oxnard, 7 p.m.
Rancho Cucamonga at Eastvale Roosevelt, 7 p.m.
Rancho Mirage at Hemet, 7 p.m.
Ridgecrest Burroughs vs. Paraclete at Antelope Valley College, 7 p.m.
Riverside North at Grand Terrace, 7 p.m.
San Bernardino at Desert Mirage, 7 p.m.
San Gabriel at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
San Juan Hills vs. Santa Margarita at Saddleback College, 7 p.m.
San Marino at Norwalk, 7 p.m.
Santa Ana at Millikan, 7 p.m.
Santa Ana Valley at Ocean View, 7 p.m.
Santa Rosa Academy at Bermuda Dunes Desert Christian, 7 p.m.
Saugus at Santa Barbara, 7 p.m.
Segerstrom at North Torrance, 7 p.m.
Silverado at Palm Desert, 7 p.m.
Simi Valley at Ventura, 7 p.m.
South El Monte vs. Alhambra at Moor Field (Alhambra), 7 p.m.
Thousand Oaks at Westlake, 7 p.m.
Trinity Classical Academy at Campbell Hall, 6 p.m.
Tustin at Capistrano Valley, 7 p.m.
Upland at La Habra, 7 p.m.
Valley View at Temecula Valley, 7 p.m.
Verbum Dei at Hawthorne, 7 p.m.
Village Christian at La Salle, 7 p.m.
Warren at Long Beach Wilson, 7 p.m.
West Covina at Monrovia, 7 p.m.
Whittier at San Dimas, 7 p.m.
Woodbridge at Portola, 7 p.m.
Workman at Garey, 7 p.m.
Xavier Prep at St. Pius X-St. Matthias, 7 p.m.
Alemany at Highland (Utah) Lone Peak, 7 p.m.
Anza Hamilton vs. Escondido Charter at Escondido Orange Glen, 7 p.m.
Bakersfield at Los Alamitos, 7 p.m.
Birmingham at Calabasas, 7 p.m.
Bishop Diego at Santa Maria Righetti, 7 p.m.
Bishop Montgomery at Santee, 7 p.m.
Brentwood at San Luis Obispo Mission Prep, 6 p.m.
California City at Fillmore, 7 p.m.
Canoga Park at Canyon Country Canyon, 7 p.m.
Carlsbad at Great Oak, 7 p.m.
Edison at Venice, 7 p.m.
Edwards AFB Desert at St. Monica, 7 p.m.
El Camino Real at Cathedral, 7 p.m.
Long Beach Cabrillo at Hawkins, 7 p.m.
Los Angeles Marshall at Mary Star, 3 p.m.
Miami (Fla.) Central at St. John Bosco, 7 p.m.
Montebello at Garfield, 7 p.m.
Morro Bay at San Marcos, 7 p.m.
North Hollywood at Santa Paula, 7 p.m.
Oceanside at San Clemente, 7 p.m.
Paso Robles at Lompoc, 7 p.m.
Rosamond at Littlerock, 7 p.m.
Rosemead at Granada Hills Kennedy, 7 p.m.
San Marcos Mission Hills at Chaparral, 7 p.m.
Santa Maria St. Joseph at Charter Oak, 7 p.m.
Santa Ynez at Nipomo, 7 p.m.
South Pasadena at Lincoln, 7 p.m.
Tesoro at Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, 7 p.m.
Vista at Paloma Valley, 7 p.m.
Sherman Oaks CES at Sotomayor, 7 p.m.
Lancaster Baptist at Lone Pine, 7 p.m.
South Gate at Los Angeles Wilson, 1 p.m.
Bassett at Cantwell-Sacred Heart, 5 p.m.
Pasadena Poly vs. Savanna at Western, 10:30 a.m.
Redlands East Valley at San Jacinto, 7 p.m.
Rowland at Cathedral City, 7 p.m.
Western Christian at Temecula Prep, 6 p.m.
El Cajon Christian vs. Rancho Christian at El Cajon Granite Hills, 7 p.m.
COVID-19 disrupting openers
It’s not panic time for high school football, but the number of teams pulling out of season openers because of COVID-19 protocols continues to grow.
Santa Ana Mater Dei, Servite and Loyola were all looking for replacement games after Corona Centennial, Bishop Amat and Muir had to cancel because they would not have enough required practices completed in time to play games. Loyola picked up Inglewood. Long Beach Poly is under COVID-19 protocols and postponed opener vs. Leuzinger. St. Bonaventure had to pull out of its opener.
The City Section is in worse shape. Belmont pulled out of its game with Marshall. Marquez, Bell, L.A. Wilson, Dorsey and Chavez had to pause practices. Schools are also trying to build up depleted rosters to make it through a 10-game schedule.
It appears it’s going to be touch and go to see which teams can play, forcing schools and coaches to bring back the strategy of last spring, when they had to rapidly find replacement games when one school can’t play and hope their administration agrees to last-minute replacements.
For weeks, lists have been coming out identifying top Southland high school football players for the new season. Let me offer another list — projected breakout stars for 2021.
Jason Jones, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, running back, senior. “That running back is special,” West Hills Chaminade coach Ed Croson said of Jones after seeing him in a scrimmage this week. Fast and strong, Jones will be running behind an exceptional offensive line.
Ty Dieffenbach, Agoura, quarterback, junior. A 6-foot-5 receiver moved to quarterback, he passed for 867 yards in six games last spring while learning the position on the job. His coach, former quarterback Dustin Croick, expects a big jump this fall.
Here’s a look at other potential breakout standouts.
Coaches returning to high school
Who would have predicted that landing a top high school basketball coaching job might be better than a college assistant position?
There’s a small trend under way of college assistants returning to high school coaching. It started in 2015 when David Rebibo returned from being an assistant at USF to become head coach at Harvard-Westlake and Colin Pfaf became head coach at Windward after being at Portland.
Others have made the switch, such as Reggie Morris Jr. at Fairfax, Mark Amaral, the new head coach at Oaks Christian, and De La Salle just hired the No. 1 assistant at St. Mary’s.
Yes, the money is usually better at the collegiate level, but there’s also negatives, such as constant travel, dealing with recruiting and trying to raise a family while needing to be available 24/7.
Landing a high school job where an administration cares greatly about developing the student-athletes gives coaches the feeling of job security and the ability to control players and parents without feeling someone is going to question their motives.
Class of 2023 making an impact
The baseball season is pretty much over, but a group of players from the Class of 2023 helped the VCBA 16U team win the Five Tool West World Series.
Among the key players were pitchers Cristian Brewster (Chaminade), Derek Turner (Newbury Park) and Trevor Hansen (Royal), catcher Brady Francisco (Thousand Oaks), infielder Tanner Beltowski (Buena) and outfielder Brandon Contreras (Camarillo).
Years ago, when he was head coach at Lake Balboa Birmingham, Ed Croson coached identical twins Malik and Marquis Jackson. He said he could figure out the two side by side in 2007.
Croson is now coaching another pair of identical twins at Chaminade, defensive end/linebackers Victor and John Crawshaw.
He’s having trouble separating the two. Both are straight-A students with SATs above 1500 and 6 feet 2, 235 pounds. And, unless they are wearing their different numbers, he has no idea which one is Victor and which one is John.
“Somebody asked who is who?” Croson said. “God knows.”
During the spring season, No. 37 Victor was in on 29 tackles. No. 38 John was in on — wait for it — 29 tackles. You can’t make this stuff up.
Girls’ volleyball returns
High school girls’ volleyball is back in the Southern Section after a year’s absence because of COVID-19 restrictions. Athletes were pretty much left with club competitions, though the City Section did move its season to spring, enabling championships to take place.
The Lakewood/Molten Classic started the schedule on Saturday at Lakewood High. Among the teams entered in the Division 1 competition are Redondo Union, Harvard-Westlake, Los Alamitos and Long Beach Poly.
The semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. will match Redondo vs. Huntington Beach and La Salle vs. Harvard-Westlake.
Southern Section favorite Marymount lost out on a chance to win a Division 1 title last season, but the Sailors are the team to beat this season with the return of Stanford-bound Elia Rubin and Duke-bound Kerry Keefe.
Village Christian defeated Mira Costa in the finals of the Ann Kang Invitational.
Chaparral won the championship of the Citrus Valley tournament after going 5-0.
Here’s a look at others to watch.
Notes . . .
Steve Harris is the new basketball coach at Huntington Beach Ocean View. . . .
Zachary Harden, a junior at Santa Ana Foothill, was invited to the USA Lacrosse National Team training combine this week in Maryland as one of the top lacrosse players in the country. . . .
Former Loyola High defensive back Ceyair Wright of USC is the first college athlete signed by Overtime to an NIL athlete deal. Wright stars in Overtime’s “Dual Threat” series that will focus on Wright’s life over the last few months of high school as he prepared for the release of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and his transition to college. . . .
Tom Lewis is the new basketball coach at Cerritos Valley Christian. . . .
Junior Kehden Hettinger of Sierra Canyon has committed to play baseball at Oregon. . . .
Santa Margarita girls’ water polo goalie Isabella Rosensitto has committed to UCLA. . . .
Pitcher/outfielder Mike Pirrello of Los Alamitos has committed to UC Irvine. . . .
Running back Sheldon Canley Jr. from Lompoc has committed to San Diego State. He has scored 22 touchdowns in 15 games for Lompoc. . . .
Forward Kijani Wright, who played his first three seasons for Windward but has since transferred to Sierra Canyon in basketball, announced he has committed to USC. . . .
Softball infielder Rylee Pinedo of Camarillo has committed to UCLA. . . .
Kevin Kiernan, the interim athletic director at Mater Dei, has been named athletic director on a full-time basis and will continue as the school’s highly successful girls’ basketball coach. . . .
Ryan Bradshaw has resigned as boys’ basketball coach at Simi Valley. . . .
Layla Curry of Corona Centennial has committed to Loyola Marymount for women’s basketball. . . .
Ribet has dropped its boys’ basketball program as the school deals with enrollment and financial issues. Top players are transferring to other schools. . . .
Mater Dei defensive back Cam Sidney has committed to Cal. . . .
Sierra Canyon defensive back Kamari Ramsey has committed to Stanford. . . .
In a sign of hope, Loyola football coach Drew Casani said his program has 94 freshman who came out for football.
Keeping tabs: Miller Moss
Seventeen long months had passed since former Mission Hills Bishop Alemany quarterback Miller Moss last stepped into a huddle, but when he arrived at USC during the spring as one of two touted freshmen vying to emerge as the heir apparent to quarterback Kedon Slovis, Moss expected to pick up right where he left off in high school.
“I don’t think it was a realistic expectation,” the freshman realizes now.
Moss has never lacked confidence, but the long layoff from football left him feeling overwhelmed. Suddenly, everything was faster and more competitive. The transition proved to be a steeper learning curve than he expected. While Jaxson Dart, the Trojans’ other four-star freshman quarterback, turned heads with his big arm and big-play potential, Moss spent most of the spring just finding his footing.
Here’s a look at where Moss is now.
From the archives: Jim Bonds
For those of us who got to know and appreciate Jim Bonds, we still miss him but honor him every day by laughing and trying to do our best.
Bonds, the football coach at La Canada St. Francis for 20 years, died on Oct. 28, 2020, of cancer.
I had been writing about him since he was a Hart High quarterback in the 1980s, then at UCLA and through his many years of coaching, from Alemany to St. Francis.
I’m thinking of him because next month, I continue my annual visit to the Glendale Quarterback Club, where he’d make everyone chuckle during lunch with one of his quips.
Here’s my column from 2020 about a week before his death in which I tried to express what a difference maker he was.
One of his mentors, Dean Herrington, is now the head coach at St. Francis. I’m sure Jim would be very pleased. And, as Dean said what Jim would have told him, “Don’t mess it up.”
From the Washington Post, a story on high school athletes getting another year of athletic eligibility because of COVID-19 and a signed a state law in Kentucky, leading to fifth-year seniors.
From the San Jose Mercury News, an early look at the best football team in Northern California, De La Salle.
From MSN, a story from Georgia on two basketball coaches being charged with murder after a teen died at an outside practice on a hot day.
From 247Sports, a look at former St. John Bosco quarterback DJ Uiagalelei signing an NIL deal with Dr. Pepper.
From the New York Times, a story on high school athletes seeking NIL deals.
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