Fryer: Starting the football season with five questions


The sights and sounds at Edison High on Tuesday morning made it clear that football fans can begin the countdown to the first wave of high school football games in Orange County for the 2016 season.

Practice has started, and the games are soon to follow.

The Chargers, entering their 31st and final season with Dave White as their coach, are on the football field and going through drills a few days ahead of most of the other county teams. That’s because they open their season earlier than other teams, on Aug. 20 in Hawaii.

Most of the county teams, which play their season openers on Aug. 26, begin drills in the coming days. Huntington Beach will have its first day on the field Wednesday, while Los Alamitos starts Monday. Laguna Hills players and coaches, meanwhile, will be able to stay in summer mode until Aug. 11, but that’s because their first game isn’t until Sept. 2.

One thing all of the teams have in common: The next few weeks are an extremely important and valuable time. Whether they were a league champion or went winless last season, every team has questions it will try to answer before its first official game under the Friday night lights.

Here are five questions worth asking – and trying to answer – now:

1. What happened to summer?

For high school football players and their coaches, summer vacation ain’t what it used to be. Once July ends, football season begins, at least it did for Edison and St. Margaret’s, which held its first practice last week. Not long ago, teams in the CIF Southern Section were required to take specific consecutive weeks off toward the end of summer before they could start fall practice. Now, teams can schedule their three “dead period” weeks for any time during the summer break, and they don’t have to be consecutive weeks.

2. Who replaces Brock Johnson as Mission Viejo’s quarterback?

Matt McDonald, a senior transfer from Mater Dei, is likely to replace Brock Johnson, the Register’s offensive player of the year last season, as Mission Viejo’s starter. McDonald opened the 2015 season as Mater Dei’s starting quarterback, but he suffered an arm injury in the second game. While sophomore JT Daniels appears locked in as the Monarchs’ starter for 2016 and beyond, McDonald has a chance to take over a Mission Viejo team that has won 28 consecutive games and back-to-back CIF-SS titles.

3. Any other impact transfers in the county?

Several, but the best group might be at Santa Margarita. First-year coach Rich Fisher expects two of the team’s transfers to contribute mightily – receiver/defensive back Malone Mataele, a transfer from Orange Lutheran, and sophomore receiver Munir McClain from Atlanta, who has a scholarship offer from Georgia.

4. What happened to the Academy League?

When Sage Hill opted to play at the 8-man level, the Academy League was forced to disband because it was left with only three teams – Brethren Christian, Crean Lutheran and St. Margaret’s. Four is the minimum number of teams for a league in the CIF-SS. Brethren Christian, Crean Lutheran and St. Margaret’s will play this season as freelance teams. Freelance teams do not belong to a league and can only qualify for the playoffs as an at-large team.

5. What looks like the best game on the schedule for the opening week?

The best Week 0 game will be Santa Margarita at Mission Viejo on Aug. 26. Both teams are likely to be ranked in the top five of the Register’s preseason poll, and both might be included in the preseason state rankings, too. That private school vs. public school angle adds spice.

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