Thursday, August 17, 2023

Prep Football: Games to Watch (Week One)

Lincoln opens the season in Hawaii on Thursday, while Granite Hills host Mission Hills in a Saturday night showdown.

Here is our top 10 games to watch during Week One action of San Diego Prep Football.

Mission Hills at Granite Hills (Sat.)

In his 11th season as Granite Hills' head coach, Kellan Cobbs steered the Eagles to their inaugural state title. This season, he commands a squad boasting 12 returning starters, including four All-CIF San Diego honorees. Heading into his senior year, four-year starter Jordan Glaze resumes his pivotal role, joined by Nokoi Maddox, forming what could arguably be the county's top safety tandem. The defensive line stands robust with the notable presence of senior edge rusher Damarrion White.

An exceptionally skilled offensive line showcases Alejandro Tejeda. The All-CIF guard displays great prowess. Within the Eagles' arsenal, a dynamic backfield duo emerges, comprising halfbacks Isaiah "Pablo" Jackson and Max Turner. Receiver Josh Zander, renowned for his game-changing touchdown plays last year, is poised to become the primary target for freshman quarterback Zachary Benitez.

Meanwhile, over at Mission Hills, under head coach Chris Hauser, the Grizzlies propelled to nine victories and an appearance in the Division I Finals last season. Quarterback Keaton Smith returns to command the offense, having thrown for nearly 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. Bolstering the team's foundation is a solid offensive line, anchored by tackle Sawyer Knox, right guard Porter Cox and center Robert Davis. After putting up numbers in 2022, Jayden Williams resumes his pivotal role as a top-tier target at receiver, promising a potentially exceptional senior campaign. Additionally, Jon Class assumes a dual role as a tight end and as a prominent figure on the defensive line, having garnered All-CIF accolades in 2022.

Publisher’s Pick: Mission Hills

Mater Dei Catholic at Cathedral Catholic

Defending back-to-back state champions, Mater Dei Catholic is aiming to secure a historic three-peat after navigating through a rollercoaster 2022 campaign. Commencing with a challenging 0-4 record, the Crusaders then mounted an impressive comeback, clinching victory in their final 11 games, ultimately winning the Division 2-AA state title against McClymonds (Oakland, CA). The graduation losses of quarterback Dominic Nankil (USD) and receiver Jerry McClure (UCLA) have left voids, but the team is poised for another successful season with a wealth of returning talent. San Diego State committed running back Anthony McMillian reclaims his pivotal role following a breakout year where he amassed over 1200 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The Crusaders boast an abundance of receiving options, headlined by senior Johnny Scott, Josiah Jefferson, and Isaiah Cook. Anchored by stalwarts Samuel Brown at guard and Joseph Kellogg at center, a formidable offensive line stands ready to bolster the team's offensive prowess. On the defensive front, shutdown corner Isaiah Buxton takes charge alongside fellow senior Jordan Jackson. Sophomore defensive tackle Victor Velasquez II is another player to watch this season.

Over at Cathedral Catholic, guided by Sean Doyle going into his 28th season as head coach, the Dons are on a mission to surpass last year's 6-6 record. Aiming to boost their offensive line, the team relies on the experience of returnees Sam Bjerke and the addition of transfer Will Buck. Jack Stevens is acknowledged as one of the top quarterbacks in the San Diego Section. Senior running back Ethan Ford and dynamic receiver Ty Cortes add explosiveness to the team's playmaking arsenal. The defense showcases standout performers in edge rusher Luke Westfall, nose guard Preston Morris, linebacker Matthias Beals, and defensive back Anthony Taylor.

While the two teams shared the spoils with one victory each in their 2022 encounters, it was Mater Dei who ended Cathedral's season with a 14-9 triumph in the Division I semifinals. Historically, the Dons hold a slight 2-1 lead in the all-time series between the two programs.

Publisher’s Pick: Cathedral Catholic

Rancho Bernardo at Poway

Former Chargers safety, Eric Weddle, is poised to make his much-anticipated head coaching debut for Rancho Bernardo a momentous occasion as they prepare to face off against Poway in a rivalry that has spanned over three decades.

Having clinched the Palomar League title during a remarkable 10-1 record in the previous season, the Titans enter the current year with the challenge of incorporating just three returning starters. The offensive line will find stability in the seasoned presence of senior tackle David Clifford. Spearheading the defense, senior edge rusher Adam Farha and safety Johnny Butler bring their leadership to the forefront. The responsibility of quarterbacking duties falls on the shoulders of sophomore Ty Hurst, who takes the helm of the offense.

Meanwhile, Rancho Bernardo, eager to enhance their performance after a 5-6 showing last year, is under the guidance of Eric Weddle. He inherits a promising blend of experienced players and budding talent. The team's strong suit lies within the lines, anchored by Owen Brinkman and Alan Myers, with Joe Gilliam returning as a dependable tight end. In the secondary headlined by seniors, Tanner Whitford at safety and Jack Engblom at corner, are two players to watch as they are expected to add a crucial defensive dimension to the team's strategies.

Publisher’s Pick: Poway

University City at La Costa Canyon (Thurs.)

In his 14th year at the helm, head coach Sean Sovacool of La Costa Canyon is striving for improved outcomes following a 7-5 season in 2022. Within the Mavericks' ranks, senior running back Andrew Maes comes off an impressive 1600-yard, 12-touchdown campaign, earning all-Avocado League accolades last year. Senior tight end Trevor Ladd will solidify his presence in the offense along with receivers Bode Estabrook and Central transfer Sergio Garcia. On the defensive front, a group of potential college prospects includes defensive end EJ Brandreth, linebacker Trey Blazevich, and safety Kaeden Miller.

University City is fresh off an impressive 11-3 season that included the program's first CIF section title. Despite bidding farewell to key versatile athletes Samuel Cooper IV and Cayden Dawson (Boise State) due to graduation, the reigning Division III champions showcase a roster stacked with talent as they transition to Division II. Under the leadership of sophomore quarterback Quentyn Demara, who notched 11 touchdowns as a backup last season, the offense remains potent. The return of four starting offensive linemen, including Jack Stahl—also a four-year starter and one of the county's premier linebackers—bolsters protection for Demara. Additionally, receiver Josh Dixon is poised to embrace an expanded role within the offensive scheme.

Publisher’s Pick: La Costa Canyon

Point Loma at Madison

After a commendable 10-3 season that concluded with a heart-wrenching 33-28 defeat in the Division III title game, Point Loma prepares for its Division II venture this year. Under the guidance of quarterback Maxim Newbegin, and supported by talented receivers Brady Allen and Aaron Lee, the Pointers are primed for action. The defense finds its linchpin in Rocket Robinson, who amassed 105 tackles last season.

Madison is geared up to build upon their successful 9-2 campaign. The Warhawks only tasted defeat at the hands of Lincoln last year. The defensive dominance this team possesses is owed in large part to front seven stars like defensive tackle Makhai Viavia and linebacker James Tivao. Another major senior contributor will be Jaylon Brown, a standout cornerback who is also set to embrace an expanded role at running back this year. The secondary will benefit from the presence of safety Martell Hughes, who is bound for Arizona State as well as fellow senior Titus Toilolo. Spearheading the Warhawks' offense is new quarterback Riley Parenteau.

Publisher’s Pick: Madison

Bishop’s at La Jolla

The battle for Pearl Street supremacy resumes as Bishop's square off against La Jolla High. Following a commendable 9-3 campaign, the Knights are undergoing a transition with the emergence of numerous new faces due to significant graduation losses. Among these fresh talents, running back Tayshawn Taylor and versatile lineman Tyler Boynton stand out as leaders who will steer the Knights forward.

La Jolla is on a mission to elevate their performance from last year's 6-6 record, with a focus on the adept junior quarterback, Jackson Diehl. Diehl showcased his prowess by contributing to over 2300 yards of offense and delivering 28 passing touchdowns in the previous season. A thrilling player to watch, junior running back Aiden McGill is poised for another remarkable year. The return of prominent targets Brendon Goldstein and Hank Hansen bolsters the receiving corps. On the offensive line, Jett Thomas, who's attracting attention from Division I college scouts, provides essential stability. On the defensive front, linebacker Wyatt Boczanowski takes the lead after an impressive 93-tackle performance last year. He'll be joined in the front seven by senior defensive end Sawyer Moseley.

These teams split their last two meetings with Bishop’s earning a 28-7 victory last year. The Knights lead the series 2-1.

Publisher’s Pick: La Jolla

Torrey Pines at Del Norte

Torrey Pines is focused on surpassing their previous 4-6 record, led by second-year coach Robby Collins. A pivotal figure on both ends of the field, linebacker Dawson Washington leaves a significant impact. The defensive line benefits from the pass-rush prowess of defensive end Kade Wilken. Leading the offensive charge is new quarterback Lukas Tu, supported by the dynamic duo of running back Jake Sweeney and tight end Karel Novy. The stability of the offensive line is entrusted to Noah Garatic and Ford Smith.

Del Norte, undergoing a coaching transition with the appointment of former NFL linebacker Nick Barnett, is poised for a strong playoff push, thanks to their wealth of talent. Quarterback Jack Schneider, who amassed over 2500 passing yards and delivered 26 touchdowns in the last season, frequently connected with receiver Ty Olsen. The ground game is bolstered by running back Chris Guzman, who put up over 1000 rushing yards last year. In the trenches, linemen Esteban Limon and Terry Hou will lead the way. Leading the defense, linebacker Khalid Farah and edge rusher Elyas Zaheer solidify the team's front seven.

Publisher’s Pick: Torrey Pines

San Diego at Grossmont

San Diego is determined to surpass their previous 4-6 record, guided by second-year head coach Syd Reed. Spearheading the spread offense is quarterback Casey Kotcher-Smith, equipped with a formidable array of weapons including Caden Petrucelli, Rogelio Zepeda, and Jayden Wade. In the ground game, Miles Johnson and Eric Walker will share carries. Defensively, Jorvic Ponce takes on a pivotal role on the Cavers' defensive line.

Following a winless 2022 season, Grossmont is entering a new era under the leadership of former standout quarterback Anthony Lawrence as head coach. Lawrence inherits a pool of talent that includes quarterback Hudson Herber and running back Isaac Aceves. Supported by wideouts Cody Bigley, Elias Burlaza, and Noah Walker, Herber has reliable targets that promise a dynamic passing attack. On the defensive front, senior safety Josh Ferrera and Walter Jackson emerge as key leaders, poised to make their mark.

Publisher’s Pick: Grossmont

Mount Miguel at Sweetwater

Mount Miguel welcomes a fresh chapter under the leadership of new head coach Verlain Betofe, who aims to reverse the fortunes of a program that has seen a decade without a winning season. Drawing from his successful stints as an offensive coordinator at Lincoln, Madison, Kearny, and Mater Dei Catholic, Betofe boasts an impressive track record, securing four state titles during his tenure. Senior quarterback Matthew Barton returns to command the offense, following a remarkable season where he threw for over 2,200 yards and notched 31 touchdowns. Top target Jeremiah Castillo rejoins the team after amassing an impressive 1,342 receiving yards, while AJ Logan, a transfer from San Ysidro, bolsters the passing game with his evident talent. Anchored by players like Angel Cortez and Chris Zaramiento, the offensive line boasts a substantial physical presence. Defensively, the team finds strength in linebacker Eric White and safety Hector Armenta.

Under the guidance of coach Ervin Hernandez, Sweetwater is poised to maintain its dominance in the run game, building on a total rushing yardage of over 2,100 yards last season. Senior running backs Izell Wright and Carlos Delgado, both two-time all-league selections, headline this formidable ground attack. Wright also emerges as a pivotal figure within a robust linebacking group. Leading both the offensive and defensive lines is Fernando Cruz, a crucial presence on both fronts.

Publisher’s Pick: Mount Miguel

Escondido at Morse (Thurs.)

Escondido embarks on a new era under the guidance of head coach Stephen Dixon, as he attempts to transform the team's fortunes following three consecutive losing seasons. Spearheading the offense, freshman quarterback Calen Thompson assumes the mantle, supported by notable receivers Josh Gonzales and Jake Fleming. Deangelo Pollard and Jesus Rodriguez will lead both lines.

Morse, under veteran head coach Tracy McNair, faces the challenge of filling the void left by significant graduation losses, including standout running back Damarion Wright. Khalif Bloome steps into the role of primary back, shouldering the offensive load. Adding to the team's versatility, Okada also shines as a linebacker, alongside Nathan Wilson on the defensive front. The receiving corps is led by Jonah Holloway and Superior Garror. Junior athlete Michael Yancy III boasts exceptional skills across multiple positions, making him a dynamic asset to the team.

Publisher’s Pick: Escondido

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