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KYUSUNG GONG, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Santa Ana Valley has a talented roster, which includes, from left, Sherman Thomas, Malcolm Wesley and Chris Hernandez, and could be the team to beat in the Orange League.

OCVarsity Kickoff '16: Orange League preview

STAFF WRITER

OCVarsity’s scouting report and predictions for the Orange League:

OCVARSITY PREDICTS

1. Santa Ana Valley: A fast and experienced offense will be the Falcons’ strength. They have two big-play receivers – Sherman Thomas and Malcolm Wesley – and a running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, Chris Hernandez.

2. Katella: The Knights will have plenty of muscle on offense, returning senior running back Francisco Pineda and senior receiver James Faitasia. They each ranked in the top 15 in the county in 2015.

3. Anaheim: The Colonists return all-league running back Raymond Serna, but have a first-year starter at quarterback, Jesse Ornels. Serna and a senior-dominated offense could give the Colonists an edge in the race for third place.

4. Magnolia: Senior Nathan Michel, a transfer from Cypress, and juniors Lia Asoau and Raymond Perez are in a battle to be the team’s starting quarterback. The Sentinels are young and inexperienced on both sides of the ball.

5. Century: With only four starters returning, the Centurions appear to lack the experience and depth to be a serious contender for one of the league’s three guaranteed playoff berths.

6. Savanna: Coach Roger Whalen has praised the Rebels for being a dedicated, hard-working group, but it is going to be difficult for them to compete for a playoff spot.

LEAGUE COACHES POLL

1. Katella, 35 poll points, (41/2)

2. Santa Ana Valley, 31 (11/2)

3. Anaheim, 20

4. Magnolia, 21

5. Century, 10

6. Savanna, 9

How the poll works: The league coaches do the voting. First-place votes (shown in parentheses) are worth 6 points, second are worth 5, etc.

PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Sherman Thomas, Santa Ana Valley: He has the talent to be a game-changer for the Falcons. According to Falcons coach Larry Mohr, he is fast, has “great hands” and runs “great routes.” In 2015, Thomas hauled in 20 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns.

OTHER IMPACT PLAYERS

Chris Hernandez, Santa Ana Valley, RB: The 5-10, 190-pound senior is not super fast, but he has plenty of power (he can squat 400 pounds). He was selected all-league last season after he finished with 10 touchdowns and an average of 5.3 yards per carry.

Malcolm Wesley, Santa Ana Valley, WR: He ranked second in the league last year with a 556 receiving yards on 39 catches. He scored five touchdowns and averaged 50.5 yards per game.

Francisco Pineda, Katella, RB: The 5-10, 175-pound senior averaged 6.9 yards per carry and 108.8 yards per game in 2015.

Alfredo Gomez, Century, ILB: He will anchor the defense this season after finishing 2015 with 80 tackles, which ranked second on the team.

Richard Sanchez, Anaheim, WR: He finished with 217 receiving yards on 12 catches and 174 rushing yards on 33 carries.

Raymond Perez, Magnolia, QB: He completed 55.1 percent of his 89 passes and averaged 68.1 yards per game.

Ivan Lopez, Savnna, DT: The senior returns after becoming the only Rebels player to earn all-league honors last fall.

MUST-SEE GAMES

Santa Ana Valley vs. Katella, Oct. 20: The Falcons and Knights will meet in a game that will likely determine the Orange League championship.

Santa Ana Valley vs. Anaheim, Oct. 27: This game will feature two of the best running backs in the county – Santa Ana Valley’s Chris Hernandez and Anaheim’s Raymond Serna.

Anaheim vs. Magnolia, Oct. 6: This game could determine which of these two teams gets the league’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot.

RELATED LINKS

Contact the writer: ddottore@scng.com


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