Albano on football: San Juan Hills hungry for top competition
San Juan Hills is right where it wants to be this week.
And the Stallions will find their ideal spot again in mid-October.
San Juan Hills wants to compete at a high level, and will get that chance Friday when it plays host to No. 5 Edison.
“Our kids are excited to play against one of the traditional powers in the county,” Stallions coach Aaron Flowers said of the Chargers, winners of five CIF-SS titles.
In mid-October, San Juan Hills will again play in the South Coast League. While the rugged league was reconfigured in the offseason, with El Toro and Dana Hills switching places with San Clemente and Trabuco Hills of Sea View League, the Stallions remain, eager to compete.
“That’s the goal,” Flowers said.
San Juan Hills (3-0) has shown its competitive spirit so far, climbing to 15th in the county despite the graduation of quarterback Patrick O’Brien (Nebraska) and several other key seniors.
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In a 17-10 victory last week against rival Capistrano Valley, the Stallions played three different quarterbacks – San Clemente transfer Doug Jackson, Capistrano Valley transfer Matt Rodriguez and athlete Brady Bjorkman – but outdueled Cougars QB Kevin Brown.
They also might have found their top running. Cole Suchesk, who had been part of a rotation with Brock Cazel, rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown last week. Cazel also plays safety.
San Juan Hills' defense has been more of a known quantity.
In the past two weeks, the Stallions have allowed only 13 points. But in their season-opener, they edged Dos Pueblos, 36-29.
So who are these fiery and flexible Stallions?
“From what we’ve seen,” Flowers said, “it might not always be pretty but they find a way to win. That’s kind of the feeling we’ve gotten from them.
“Obviously, you need to prove that every week. … They’re a pretty resilient, persistent bunch.”
BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES
Edison center Mike Saffell against San Juan Hills nose guard JJ Glass could be one of the best duals of the week.
Both players have already built an impressive collection of video highlights. Glass has played some defensive end and earned OCVarsity defensive player of the week while Saffell recently landed an offer from Harvard. Saffell also has seven pancake blocks.
The seniors know each other from a Stanford camp in the offseason.
“It will be a great test for JJ,” Flowers said.
In another twist for Friday, Edison and San Juan Hills are each in Division 3 for the playoffs.
LOOKING TO IMPROVE
Mission Viejo (3-0) enters its first game against Long Beach Poly since the 2012 playoffs knowing it needs to play better than it did against La Habra.
The Diablos missed all four of their extra points, committed two turnovers, had three touchdowns negated by penalties and fell behind, 7-0.
"We can't come out slow like we did (against La Habra) or maybe the score will look different," Mission Viejo running back/linebacker Colin Schooler said after the Diablos' 32-14 victory against La Habra.
BRETHREN CHRISTIAN GETTING DEFENSIVE
Brethren Christian was known for scoring last season in reaching the CIF East Valley semifinals. So far this season, the Warriors’ defense is leading the charge.
Through three games, Brethren Christian has allowed only 14 points.
Warriors coach Pat McInally believes new defensive coordinator Keith Laszlo, a former coach at Mater Dei, deserves some of the credit.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
There are several exciting ones to pick but here are two that might be under a few radars.
On Thursday, Marina (3-0) plays host to Santa Ana (3-0) at Westminster. One team is going to be thrilled with the victory.
On Friday, the Tritons (2-1) take on host La Mirada (1-2). The Matadores are coming off consecutive shutout losses to Mater Dei and St. John Bosco but beat Orange Lutheran in their opener. They also won a Division III-AA state title last season, taking their final 12 games after a 42-26 loss against the Tritons.
Please send football news to Dan Albano at firstname.lastname@example.org of @ocvarsityguy on Twitter