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MARK RIGHTMIRE , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mission Viejo starts the season ranked No. 2 in the county. The Diablos will be led by, from left, Olaijah Griffin, Christian LaValle, Austin Osborne and Matthew McDonald, is the favorite to win the South Coast League title. The Diablos enter the season having won 28 consecutive games.

OCVarsity Kickoff '16: South Coast League preview

STAFF WRITER

OCVarsity's scouting report for the South Coast League:

OC VARSITY PREDICTS

1. Mission Viejo: Graduation took away so many top contributors to last year’s team that went 16-0 and won CIF section and state championships. A few good ones are back, and the program has a talent assembly line in place. The Diablo also have a built-in confidence edge over most opponents, as opposing teams tend to back off at least a little bit, mentally, when they line up against Mission Viejo.

2. San Clemente: With Jack Sears at quarterback and Brandon Reaves at running back, the Tritons will be one of county football’s more-entertaining teams. San Clemente might not unseat Mission Viejo from the South Coast League throne, but a CIF-SS Division 2 championship could be coming.

3. Tesoro: That was a very good senior class that graduated from Tesoro last school year. Tesoro is not like a Mission Viejo or San Clemente that that annually reloads. And if the Titans do make the playoffs, they might be in way over their heads Division 1.

4. Trabuco Hills: The Mustangs moved to the South Coast League from the Sea View in which they were 2-2 last year. It’s difficult to project them winning two South Coast games.

5. San Juan Hills: Last season was a memorable one for the Stallions, with nonleague wins over San Clemente and Los Alamitos, and a playoff appearance. Graduation depleted the roster. This season does not look too promising.

LEAGUE COACHES POLL

1. Mission Viejo, 25 (5)

2. San Clemente, 20

3. Tesoro, 15

4. Trabuco Hills, 8

5. San Juan Hills, 7

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

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Matt McDonald, Mission Viejo: Anybody who replaces an Orange County player of the year is in the spotlight. McDonald replaces Brock Johnson, the Register’s offensive player of the year in 2015. McDonald was Mater Dei’s first-string quarterback at the start of last season. He got injured early and was replaced by JT Daniels who asserted himself as the Monarchs quarterback of the future and the present. McDonald just might be motivated by this second chance and this new environment.

OTHER IMPACT PLAYERS

Brandon Reaves, San Clemente, RB: This hiccup-quick back is a first-down and touchdown-making machine. The Tritons will find all sorts of ways to get the football into his hands.

Jack Sears, San Clemente, QB: He is among the top returning quarterbacks in Orange County and Southern California. He committed to Duke.

Jake Cuero, Trabuco Hills, RB: He will be a workhorse-type of running back for the Mustangs. Last year as a junior, Cuerro (6-foot, 175) rushed for 288 yards on 44 carries, for an average of 7 yards a carry, as since-graduated Chad Crosbie got most of the carries.

Shane Coleman, Tesoro, WR: As a junior last year, Coleman had 46 catches for 844 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 18 yards a catch and 94 yards a game.

Austin Osborne, Mission Viejo, WR: He was All-County first team last season as a sophomore. Osborne will grab the ball on a short pass and turn it into a big play, and he will out-run defenders on a deep route.

Jacob Huff, San Juan Hills, WR: Huff had 82 receptions for 1,293 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. If he develops a connection with the Stallions’ new quarterback, Huff will have another stellar year.

MUST-SEE GAMES

Santa Margarita at Mission Viejo, Aug. 26: This one has so many attractive features – a matchup of O.C. top 5 teams, new coach vs. veteran coach, and Trinity League school vs. O.C.’s best public-school team. What a way to start the season.

La Habra at Mission Viejo, Sept. 9: These two won section championships last season. This one brings together two teams that have been fixtures in the county top 10 for a while now.

Trabuco Hills at San Juan Hills, Oct. 7: League openers are critical for a league’s dark-horse teams. Win, and the chance to usurp the favorites still exists. Lose, and playoff hopes quickly become faint.

San Clemente at Tesoro, Oct. 14: San Clemente is the likeliest challenger to Mission Viejo for the league championship. The Tritons want to be 4-0 when they play Mission in Week 10. The fact that only the league’s top two finishers receive guaranteed playoff berths adds to the intrigue.

Mission Viejo at San Clemente, Nov. 4: We can expect that these teams will be 4-0 in league going into this game on the final night of the regular season. Get there early.

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Contact the writer: sfryer@scng.com


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