PREVIEW: Around the Southern California Top 25

Southern California Top 25

The 2016 season is officially underway and Friday night’s slate of games is enough to get anyone dreaming about a possible state championship run.

Feature Game: #13 La Mirada vs. #10 Orange Lutheran at Orange Coast College

One of the most interesting match-ups Friday night will be at Orange Coast College where two teams that aren’t afraid to play ultra-tough non-league schedules will square-off.  La Mirada, fresh-off its 2015 CIF Division III-AA state championship, will take Orange Lutheran from the ultra-roughed Trinity League.

Before examining the talent on the field, I’m going to look at the schedule played by these two.

La Mirada, which plays in the Suburban League, having won two straight league titles, will play three straight Trinity League teams to open the season.  After OLu, the Matadores will face nationally-ranked St. John Bosco and Mater Dei, who are #1 and #4 respectively in the latest High School Football America Top 25.  LM’s fourth non-league game will come against San Clemente, ranked #15 in our preseason High School Football America Southern California Top 25.

Aside from its usual meat-grinder of a schedule in the Trinity League, OLu has non-league games against Corona Centennial, Norco and Crespi and Mullen from Denver, Colorado.  Last year, head coach Chuck Petersen and his troops battled Corona Centennial twice, once during the regular season and then in the second round CIF Southern Section PAC-5 playoffs.  Overall, the Lancers finished 6-6 last year with five of those losses coming to teams that ended 2015 ranked in the High School Football America National Top 50 — #2 De La Salle (California), #5 Corona Centennial, #9 St. John Bosco and #37 Mater Dei.

LM was 13-3 last year with its losses coming at the hands of Mater Dei, St. John Bosco and San Clemente.

One of the most obvious differences in Friday night’s game may be at the quarterback position where La Mirada head coach Mike Moschetti has Tristan Meyer back under center.  Petersen needs to replace LJ Northington, who’s moved-on to Harvard.

Meyer, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards last year with 27 touchdowns last, should have plenty of skill to work with since wide receiver/defensive back Elijah Hicks is back, as is tight end Sire Woods.  Hicks, who will play cornerback at the next level, has 25 college scholarship offers.  Woods is also expected to play at the next levels with offers from Air Force, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon State and San Jose State.

Expect to see more passing out of Petersen’s offensive attack this year as he has made some major changes to his triple-threat offense.  He’s chosen sophomore Ryan Hilinski, who transferred from JSerra, to be his starter.  Hilinski is from a family of quarterbacks.  His brother Kelly, who is now at Weber State played at Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) and Tyler, who played at Upland, is now at Washington State.

Look for senior receiver Austin Liles to be one of Hilinski’s top targets.  Liles had 34 catches for 878 yards last year.  The ground-game will be in good shape with Dominik Austin coming-off a 1,000 yard season.

On defense, the Lancers return seven starters, including Washington verbal commit Brandon McKinney.

La Mirada opens 2016 ranked #14 in the High School Football America Preseason Top 25, while OLu is #10.

Some of the other top games this week:

#2 Mater Dei at Bishop Amat

Last year, this one was a national marquee match-up with Mater Dei beginning 2015 ranked #18 in the High School Football America National Top 25, while Amat was in our Top 50.

Mater Dei’s 24-21 with head coach Bruce Rollinson starting 10 sophomores opened a lot of eyes.  The Monarchs’ starting QB that night was Matt McDonald.  A week later, McDonald was injured and that opened the door for freshman J.T. Daniels, who went-on to break all of Matt Barkley‘s freshman passing records.  The Monarchs finished 10-3 and ranked #37 in our national Top 50.  After transferring, McDonald is now entering his senior year as the starting quarterback at Mission Viejo.

MD starts the season ranked #4 in our national poll and #2 in Southern California, while Amat is in a rebuilding mode as head coach Steve Hagerty must replace the team’s leading passer, rusher and top receivers.

Related: Preview – #4 Chaminade at #7 Oaks Christian

Santa Margarita at #5 Mission Viejo

We already mentioned that Matt McDonald will be the Diablos’ signal caller this year, replacing head coach Bob Johnson‘s grandson Brock, who now at Georgetown.  Brock Johnson led MV to the school’s first-ever state title last year.

The Diablos, who have won 28 straight, have plenty of talent back, led by two-way stand-out Colin Schooler at running back and linebacker.

Santa Margarita is now led by first-year head coach Rich Fisher, a former assistant with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Related: Mission Viejo unveils 28 uniform/helmet combos from Under Armour

#6 Narbonne at #13 Serra

The game was originally scheduled for El Camino College, but now has been moved to Serra.  The Cavaliers, ranked #13 in our preseason poll, opened the season Friday with a loss to Saguaro, one of the top teams in Arizona  Narbonne, coming-off a CIF Division I-A state championship, is ranked #6 in our poll.

Both teams have very good defenses.  Serra has talented sophomore cornerback Max Williams, who has over a dozen college offers, including scholarship offers from Notre Dame and USC.  Narbonne junior linebacker Raymond Scott, has already given his verbal to USC.  Up-front for Narbonne is Anthony Pandy, who has racked-up 25 sacks over the last two season.

Serra has won three straight against the Gauchos, including a 41-40 overtime thriller last year.

Saturday

On Saturday, top-ranked St. John Bosco will open on the road at St. Xavier in Cincinnati, while #27 Corona Centennial will play Arizona-power Chandler.  We’ll have previews of those games later today.

High School Football America SoCal Top 25

#1 St. John Bosco at St. Xavier (Ohio), Saturday

#2 Mater Dei at Bishop Amat, Friday

#3 Corona Centennial vs. Chandler (Arizona), Saturday

#4 Chaminade at #7 Oaks Christian, Friday

#5 Mission Viejo vs. Santa Margarita, Friday

#6 Narbonne at #13 Serra, Friday

#7 Oaks Christian vs. #4 Chaminade, Friday

#8 Vista Murrieta vs. Madison, Friday

#9 Servite vs. Fountain Valley, Friday

#10 Orange Lutheran vs. #14 La Mirada, Friday

#11 Long Beach Poly vs. Los Alamitos, Friday

#12 Calabasas at Agoura, Friday

#13 Serra (0-1) vs. #6 Narbonne, Friday

#14 La Mirada at #10 Orange Lutheran, Friday

#15 San Clemente vs. Oceanside, Friday

#16 Loyola at Highland, Friday

#17 Corona del Mar at Palos Verdes, Friday

#18 Rancho Cucamonga at Chaparral, Friday

#19 Edison vs. Tesoro, Saturday

#20 JSerra vs. Sacramento, Friday

#21 Upland vs. Mountain Pointe (Arizona), Saturday

#22 St. Bonaventure vs. Bakersfield Centennial, Saturday

#23 La Habra vs. El Toro, Friday

#24 Murrieta Valley at Corona Santiago, Friday

#25 Redlands East Valley – Idle

About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.