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OCVarsity O.C. Top 10 (Summer Edition)
(Editor's note: This story was first published in late June.)
Creating an Orange County football top 10 two months before the season begins might seem like a foolhardy endeavor.
We went for it anyway.
This is not the OCVarsity top 10 that will appear in our “Kickoff 2015” season preview package that comes out in late August. We will know much more about county football when that is available.
But from we know now, this is our Early Summer Orange County Top 10.
1. Mater Dei
2014: 9-3 overall, 3-2 Trinity League (3rd place)
What we know: The Monarchs have been outstanding in the summer passing action in which junior-to-be quarterback Matthew McDonald has shown much potential. Their running game will be fine, with All-Trinity selection Brandon LaMarche returning. Frank Martin is one of the county’s top returning offensive linemen.
What we don’t know: If there can be such a thing as too much depth, Mater Dei might have it at receiver. The transfer of Osiris St. Brown from Servite increases what already was a large population of skillful pass catchers. Mater Dei has to fill holes along the defensive front with the graduation of Malik McMorris and Rasheed Williams.
2015 opener: vs. Bishop Amat at Santa Ana Stadium, Aug. 28
2. Mission Viejo
2014: 12-2, 4-0 South Coast League (1st place)
What we know: Quarterback Brock Johnson, all-league first team last year as a junior, could be looking at a terrific senior year. The Diablos have other returning all-league players in the backfield - running back Isaiah Miller and receiver Bryce Chambers. The defensive line should be reliable.
What we don’t know: Graduation hit Mission Viejo pretty hard in the secondary. The Diablos play in a league that throws the ball very well, so getting the secondary ready could be a point of emphasis in nonleague games.
2015 opener: vs. Baldwin of Wailuku (Hawaii) at Hawaii’s War Memorial Stadium, Aug. 21
3. Santa Margarita
2014: 6-5 overall, 2-3 Trinity League (4th place)
What we know: The Eagles bring back quarterback KJ Costello, who was a league offensive co-MVP in 2014. The receiving corps improved markedly when highly recruited Dylan Crawford transferred in from St. Francis of La Canada, but the running back position got weaker with the exit of Dre Hall who transferred to Moreno Valley. Santa Margarita has a strong group of linebackers.
What we don’t know: All-league center Tanner Prenovost returns, but most of the other offensive line positions will be manned by newcomers. A subpar offensive line can limit the production of any quarterback, even one as good as Costello.
2015 opener: at Cathedral of San Diego, Aug. 28
4. Orange Lutheran
2014: 4-6, 0-5 Trinity League (6th place)
What we know: Quarterback LJ Northington, all-league last year, is one of seven returning starters on offense. The Lancers will have plenty of offensive success. They will match up physically with other league teams along the offensive and defensive lines.
What we don’t know: In football, team speed might be most important on defense. Defensive team speed has not been Lutheran’s forte recently. Trinity League teams that make the playoff have team speed in abundance
2015 opener: vs. Dominguez of Compton at Orange Coast College, Aug. 28
5. Los Alamitos
2014: 9-2 overall, 5-0 Sunset League (1st place)
What we know: Returning QB Jack Telenko is coming off of a 2014 junior year in which he was Sunset League offensive back of the year. The Griffins will move Will Armstrong, all-league as a defensive end last year, to middle linebacker. Running back/defensive back Dylan Laurent, Orange Coast League player of the year in ’14 as a sophomore at Estancia, transferred to Los Alamitos.
What we don’t know: Maybe the Griffins will have the playoff success in 2015 that has eluded the program in recent years. Los Alamitos has lost eight of its past nine playoff games.
2015 opener: vs. Paramount at Veterans Stadium, Sept. 3
2014: 7-4 overall, 4-1 Sunset League (2nd place)
What we know: The Chargers have a good corps of returnees, including senior quarterback Grant Lowary who was all-league second team last year and has looked good in summer passing competitions. Also back are all-league second team receivers Jacob Price and Garrett White.
What we don’t know: Edison lost some good defensive players to graduation. This annually is a strong blocking-tackling team. The Chargers’ season opener, against another such team, will be revealing.
2015 opener: at Tesoro, Aug. 28
2014: 10-2, 3-2 Trinity League (2nd place)
What we know: The Lions have to find replacements for several players who were crucial to their success in 2014. Lost to graduation are quarterback Nick Robinson, the Trinity League co-MVP in 2014, and defensive lineman D.J. Bailey, league defensive co-MVP. Another departure is All-County first-team running back Edward Vander who transferred back to Paramount for his senior year. JSerra’s freshman team was 10-0 last year so the program looks strong.
What we don’t know: Last year’s team was hungry to prove JSerra could thrive in the rough-and-tumble Trinity League. Will the Lions be less motivated this year?
2015 opener: vs. Cabrillo of Long Beach at Saddleback College, Aug. 28
8. La Habra
2014: 7-4, 5-0 Freeway League (1st place)
What we know: Last year’s league MVP, quarterback Eric Barriere, returns for his senior year. So does Jake Colacion, an All-CIF linebacker. Some county coaches say the Highlanders could be among the top two or three public school teams in county football.
What we don’t know: La Habra had a workhorse running back in All-County selection Carlos Martin in ’14. The Clan needs to find someone similar for this season to open up the passing game.
2015 opener: at El Toro, Aug. 28
9. San Clemente
2014: 12-2 overall, 4-0 Sea View League (1st place)
What we know: The Tritons lost to graduation several of their top players from a team that reached the CIF-SS Southwest championship game, including quarterback Sam Darnold (the Register’s Orange County offensive player of the year in 2014) and linebacker Riley Whimpey (league defensive co-MVP). But there is a good foundation of returnees, including all-league offensive linemen Donte Harrington and Tucker Scott, running back Vlad Dzhabiyev who was Sea View League offensive MVP in '14 and under-recruited tight end Cole Fotheringham.
What we don’t know: How the heck does a team replace Darnold, not only for his skill but for his leadership and gamesmanship? Lainebacker, a San Clemente strength last year, is a position of uncertainty going into 2015.
2015 opener: at San Juan Hills, Aug. 28
2014: 9-3 overall, 3-1 South Coast League (2nd place)
What we know: Returning all-league quarterback Devon Modster’s passing and running abilities will freak out the opposing team’s defensive game planners. Also back are all-league, first-team selections Anthony Battista at running back and Carter Jaenichen at receiver.
What we don’t know: Ten of last year’s 11 defensive starters were seniors in 2014, so the Titans will have a large number of new faces on that side of the ball. Tesoro’s season opener against a high-qualityopponent will be informative.
2015 opener: vs. Edison, Aug. 28
Others considered (alphabetical order): El Toro (8-4); Servite (4-7); Trabuco Hills (10-4); Villa Park (9-3).