June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PRE-GAME NOTES: It’s the greatest time of the year as high school football returns

Woodbridge students cheer on the Warriors during a game last season. (Photo: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

After months of anticipation, high school football is back in a big way Friday, Aug. 18 with a full slate of high school games throughout Orange County.

OC Sports Zone is beginning its sixth year of coverage in the county and will once again publish a football scoreboard with updates on game nights. OC Sports Zone is a free website.

We also have some game coverage Friday night and will have bonus coverage on Saturday with photos. Plus, more stories on Sunday.

High school football games began Thursday with four games involving OC teams.


We hope you enjoy our coverage.

Here are some notes and updates to get you ready:

Many coaching changes

There have been lots of coaching changes throughout the county. The Orange Coast League had three changes. Rory Schoonmaker took over at Santa Ana for Charlie TeGantvoort, who took the Marina job. Long-time Corona del Mar coach Dan O’Shea took over at St. Margaret’s. He was replaced at CdM by long-time associate head coach Kevin Hettig.

Also in the Orange Coast League, Paige Nobles was named to replace Glenn Campbell at Saddleback.

In addition, Daniel Hernandez is bringing a lot of enthusiasm to Ocean View as the new head coach. Hernandez wants his team to ‘protect the nest’ this year. Also, veteran Orange County coach Lance Neal is the new coach at Century, trying to turn the Centurions program around.

Five teams try to repeat

Laguna Hills, Northwood, Yorba Linda, Laguna Beach and Whittier Christian football teams all won CIF titles last year in what was a banner year for OC. Laguna Hills also won a state title under Coach John Lester.

Can the teams repeat as CIF champions?

We asked the coaches at Laguna Hills, Northwood and Yorba Linda whether that was possible. Nobody predicted a repeat.

It’s likely that all will be moved up in playoff divisions so the task could be formidable. Northwood, under Coach JC Clarke, has won two CIF titles in a row and the Timberwolves look talented again with Joseph Harper, the brother of the graduated Adam Harper, leading the way.

“We hope to compete for another league title this year and then try to stay in the playoffs as long as we can,” Clarke said.

Tough Empire League race

Cypress has returning quarterback Aidan Houston back along with some other talented players from the Centurions league title team. Houston had more than 3,000 passing yards and 1,150 rushing yards helping Cypress reach the CIF Division 4 title game.

But Crean Lutheran, coached by Rick Curtis, has some talented players and some transfers too which should help the Saints challenge for the Empire League title.

Crean Lutheran is coming off a break-out season and is looking to make even more strides this year,

Talented players at CdM

Kevin Hettig, the new coach at CdM has some talented players he’s counting on for a successful season led by senior Christian Brooks, a middle linebacker who is the “emotional leader of the team,” Hettig said.

Other top returners are wide receiver Russell Weir, linebacker/running back Colin Pene, “a returning three-year varsity starter, who “will contribute in both sides of the ball,” Hettig said.

Also quarterback Kaleb Annett, who is committed to Boise State, is set for a big senior year, the coach said. Junior tight end Zach Giuliano, senior center Jacob Bouda and returning starting safety Thomas Telesco are other standouts.

Telasco is “always in the right spot and had a productive junior year for us defensively,” Hettig said.

“The keys to the season are making how much these kids care about each other equate to success on the field,” Hettig said. “We are young on both lines of scrimmage and they will improve dramatically as the season progresses.  

“Offense must get production out of a talented skill group.  Defensively we have to lean on our speed and pursuit.”

New Saddleback stadium

Saddleback High School’s football team will have a new on-campus stadium to play in. The 2,500-seat facility, scheduled to open next season, should be a big boost for the program and a great venue for fans to watch games.

There also appears to be plenty of parking, which is also very important.

Interesting crosstown match-up

Northwood meets Woodbridge in a non-league game Saturday at University and the starting quarterback for Northwood is scheduled to be Woodbridge transfer Eddie Ma, who has been impressive for the Timberwolves in training camp, Clarke said.

It adds one more angle to the crosstown game.


—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com