Fryer: First look at possible O.C. football top 10 for next season


A final look at Orange County high school sports for the 2015-16 school year, and a look ahead to 2016-17:

• An early county football preseason top 10: 1. Mater Dei; 2. Mission Viejo; 3. Santa Margarita; 4. Orange Lutheran; 5. San Clemente; 6. La Habra; 7. JSerra; 8. Edison; 9. Servite; 10. Buena Park. My email address is at the end of this.

• A semi-reliable preview of every football season is the “Battle at the Beach” passing tournament that Edison hosts every summer. This year’s event is July 9 and includes Centennial of Corona, JSerra, La Habra, Mater Dei, Mission Viejo, Santa Margarita, St. John Bosco, Tesoro and Corona del Mar. It’s “semi-reliable” because it is a football competition with no blocking or tackling.

• The fall sports season begins Aug. 22. Among the first-week football games is Santa Margarita at Mission Viejo, Aug. 26.

• We will have plenty of new coaches in county football. Among the more notable changes are Ray Fenton moving from Fountain Valley to Los Alamitos, where he succeeds the irreplaceable John Barnes, and longtime college coach Rich Fisher takes over at Santa Margarita.

• This will be the final season for Edison football coach Dave White. White has a huge collection of league titles and playoff wins. Most remarkable is that White has kept the public-school program in the county top 10 year after year.

• The playoffs structure for many team sports will be different for the 2016-17 school year. Instead of all of a league’s teams playing in the same CIF-Southern Section playoff division, teams will be sent to playoff divisions according to their recent playoff performance. This will be especially interesting in football – does Mission Viejo return to the Pac-5 Division, and how high will La Habra be placed?

• A bridge between last football season and the coming football season is the Orange County North-South All-Star Game. Something of a summer tradition around here, the game is July 8 at Orange Coast College.

• The athlete who came into this school year facing the most pressure might have been Mission Viejo quarterback Brock Johnson. His father Bret might have been the best high school quarterback in county history, and his uncle Rob set school and conference passing records at USC before a long tenure in the NFL. Brock Johnson led Mission Viejo to a 16-0 season and CIF-SS and CIF State championships with a terrific arm and mature leadership.

• The name you probably will want to most remember from this past high school sports year is Grant Shoults, the record-setting swimmer at Santa Margarita. You will say “I remember that guy” when he climbs the Olympic medals stand.

• Valencia girls wrestler Gabby Garcia won her fourth CIF State championship. Four years of wrestling, four state titles.

• Brea Olinda senior Austin Tamagno belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of county distance runners. He won everything he tried to win.

Amanda Gehrich of Tesoro was just as good her senior year as she was her junior year. She was state champion both years in the 1,600 meters.

• The best high school girls pole vaulter in county history and in the nation is Rachel Baxter of Canyon. And she’s just a junior.

Bronson Osborn of Esperanza dominated the county and the state in the shot put and discus. And he’s just a junior.

• Sage Hill’s baseball team will take a 27-game win streak into the 2017 season. That’s a county record. Sage Hill does not play Trinity, South Coast or Sunset League types of teams, but it beat teams of its ilk and there is nothing wrong with that.

• Who is the county’s top football recruit next season? San Clemente quarterback Jack Sears probably is No. 1.

• The best returning baseball player for the 2017 season will be JSerra third baseman Royce Lewis. He is a polished talent already.

• A super-early boys basketball preseason top 10: 1. Mater Dei; 2. Santa Margarita; 3. Villa Park; 4. Edison; 5. Orange Lutheran; 6. Esperanza; 7. Capistrano Valley; 8. El Toro; 9. Canyon; 10. JSerra. That’s right, the email address is at the end of this.

• Mater Dei has a great many quality returnees, including All-County first-team point guard Spencer Freedman, who will be a junior this coming school year. The best Monarch this coming season might be 6-foot-7 senior-to-be Justice Sueing. He is a scorer.

• A semi-reliable preview of the basketball season is provided this weekend in the Mater Dei Tournament at Misty May-Treanor Sports Center in Irvine. Among the teams in the Friday-Sunday event are Canyon, Capistrano Valley, Corona del Mar, Edison, El Toro, Esperanza, Mater Dei, Orange Lutheran, Santa Margarita, Sonora and Servite.

• Brea Olinda’s girls basketball team won a state championship with only one senior starter. That was a heck of a senior starter, county player of the year Reili Richardson. The Ladycats will miss her, but they might have started another sequence of championship years.

• The county’s larger private schools have outstanding athletic programs, but athletes don’t have to go to one of them to get recruited. One of many examples: Girls soccer star Carly Malatskey of little Tarbut V’Torah got a scholarship to Stanford.

• One of the all-time great people in county athletics died Wednesday. Larry Arason was an athlete, coach, athletic director, football official, track and field starter and a member of just about every youth sports board around here.

• Arason’s decades of outstanding contributions to county athletics in general, and to Santa Ana and Santa Ana Valley high schools in particular, have inspired many to be better … including me. That’s the plan here when we get back to doing this in a couple of months.

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