Los Angeles Preps: San Clemente

1. With a week left in the regular season, Sonora called on sophomore catcher Andrew Piraino to make his varsity pitching debut, and he responded with a 2-0 shutout of Freeway League leader La Habra. Sonora trails the Highlanders by a game with two remaining. Piraino pitched a four-hitter.

2. One of the outstanding swim performances of the weekend belonged to Villa Park's B.J. Churnside, who clocked 20.57 seconds in the 50 freestyle—the eighth-best time in county history—and 46.35 in the 100 free to win Century League boys' titles. Tiny Irvine Crean Lutheran is making some noise on the girls' side as freshman Ella Eastin clocked 2:01.65 for the eighth-best eighth-best 200 individual medley in county history, and teammate Lindsey Engel turned in the sixth-fastest 50 free in 23.30 in the Academy League finals.

3. There will be a new champion in lacrosse as Corona del Mar remained undefeated by beating five-time defending champion Foothill, 7-5, in the U.S. Lacrosse Division 1 South semifinals on Saturday. The top-seeded Sea Kings (22-0) won behind Casey Mix and Michael Keasey, who had three goals apiece, and Michael Ortleib's 13 saves against the fourth-seeded Knights. CdM will face San Clemente (15-6) in the finals on Wednesday, 7 p.m., at Dana Hills High. San Clemente beat Santa Margarita, 12-11, on Peyton Garrett's sudden death overtime goal. Robbie Burns had five goals for San Clemente, which trailed 11-8 after three quarters.

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Jaime Ortiz, a longtime fixture on the San Clemente sidelines during Eric Patton's long decade-plus reign as coach, has been named the Tritons' new football coach.

Ortiz replaces Jon Hamro, who served as the interim coach at San Clemente after Patton (97-44-1) was relieved of his duties after 11 seasons for his alleged role in a slush fund kickback scheme with a south Orange County sports equipment and apparel company. The decision to remove Patton came Aug. 16, 2011, just a few weeks before the team's first game, a 35-6 victory over Long Beach Cabrillo on Sept. 2.

Under Hamro, who had been an offensive line coach and was also the school's athletic director, and a group of players led by Travis Wilson, Christian Tober, Mike Elespuru and Herbert Gamboa, San Clemente went 12-2 and reached the Pac-5 championship game where it was beaten by Santa Margarita, 27-13.

Ortiz, 36, has been the defensive coordinator for San Clemente for 11 seasons. Hamro will resume his role as the offensive line coach.

Marmonte League headed to Pac-5?

March, 9, 2012
The Marmonte League football teams will play in the CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division next season in a realignment proposal released Friday.

The Marmonte League, with Westlake and Oaks Christian, would move from the Northern Division to the Pac-5 Division. Westlake has won two of the past three Northern Division championships, in 2009 and 2011. Oaks Christian beat Westlake in the 2010 Northern Division championship game.

The Pac-7 League would join the Northern Division. Arroyo Grande, the champion of the Pac-7 League, won the Western Division championship last year. The Eagles had a 13-game winning streak and was 6-0 in the Pac-7 League. The Foothill League, Golden League and Bay League would remain in the Northern Division.

The Sunset League would move from the Pac-5 Division to the Southwest Division in the proposal.

The Pac-5 Division would add two at-large berths to the playoffs. The 10-team Marmonte League would get four guaranteed playoffs spots.

Santa Margarita from the Trinity League won the Pac-5 Division championship, 27-13, over San Clemente last year.

Under the proposed realignment, the Trinity League would have three guaranteed playoff spots, the Moore League would have three, the Serra League two and the South Coast League two, if the South Coast League doesn’t add another as expected.

Here is a link to all the proposed changes to Southern Section divisions in all sports.
SAN CLEMENTE -- The Kyle Murphy Show has finally come to an end, unless the Southland's top college recruit lives up to his hype, in which case the show may just be beginning.

Murphy unburdened himself Wednesday afternoon when he announced that he would attend Stanford instead of USC to continue his football career. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound offensive tackle signed his national letter of intent at 1:54 p.m., inside a temporary building on campus with his mother, Keri, sitting at his side.

Keri and Gary Murphy have an older son, Kevin Murphy, who is a left tackle for Harvard; he is 6-8, 310.

Murphy was one of the last major players still undecided. Actually, he was with his parents Tuesday evening when he finalized his decision, then told his parents after telling a couple of close friends.

The announcement came in front of a couple of hundred students, and a horde of cameras, with about two dozen classmates who were recognized for their signings or commitments to colleges to attend their athletic careers.

"I had to make my own decision," Murphy said afterward, when it was mentioned that teammate Christian Tober was trying to recruit him to USC to the end. Tober, a receiver and defensive back, will attend USC as a preferred walk-on.

"I just felt I connected with the people better at Stanford, I know the incoming class pretty well -- a lot of kids," said Murphy, who carries a 3.97 grade-point average is unsure of his major but will consider an engineering or economics degree.

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O.C.: All-region football team

December, 28, 2011
Santa Margarita didn't win the Trinity League title, but the Eagles won something more valuable -- the Southern Section Pac-5 and State Division I Bowl championships. It gave coach Harry Welch his ninth section title and his third state title in six years, remarkably, with three different teams. With Johnny Stanton's leap into the end zone with 16 seconds remaining and the Eagles scoring a 42-37 victory over San Jose Bellarmine, we can put the season to bed. Here's a look at the All-Orange County team.


Jon Hamro, San Clemente -- He couldn't have stepped into a worse situation. Less than three weeks before the start of the season, head coach Eric Patton was relieved of his duties for his alleged involvement in a kickback scheme from a defunct sporting apparel company. With the microscope aimed at the Tritons (12-2), the team had its best season in history and reached the Pac-5 title game, its first championship appearance since 1979. Without great leadership and a deft transition of coaching, the team could of foundered; instead it triumphed.


QB -- Johnny Stanton, Santa Margarita, 6-3, 200, Jr. -- Over the final six weeks of the season, beginning with the season-ending 43-42 loss to Servite (by virtue of an overtime two-point conversion) in the Trinity League finale, Stanton couldn't be stopped. In succession, he faced the two-time defending champion Friars, Bishop Amat, Long Beach Poly, Mission Viejo, San Clemente and San Jose Bellarmine. Other quarterbacks had better numbers than Stanton's 13 TDs and nine interceptions, but Stanton's running ability (1,528 yards, 25 TDs) and leadership was the great equalizer. In five playoff games, he averaged 159 yards passing and threw six TD passes against one interception, and averaged 112 yards rushing with nine touchdowns. With the Division I Bowl championship on the line on fourth and one with 16 seconds remaining, Stanton scored -- the sixth touchdown he had a hand in -- to give his Eagles a 42-37 victory.


RB -- Ryan Wolpin, Santa Margarita, 5-9, 185, Jr. -- Wolpin was a touchdown machine for the Eagles. He scored 28 times, 27 while rushing. He averaged 109.1 yards per game, and 6.6 yards per carry, against a loaded schedule that was among the toughest in the nation.

RB -- Tyler Siudzinski, Tustin, 5-10, 185, Sr. -- Orange County's leading rusher as a junior, Siudzinski didn't match those numbers during his senior season but he did lead Tustin to its first section title since 1948. He rushed for 1,967 yards -- averaging 141 per game and 6.4 per carry -- and scored 21 touchdowns.

WR -- Brett Bartolone, La Habra, 5-10, 180, Sr. -- Bartolone was another one of those playmakers of the highest order. He caught 50 passes for eight touchdowns, and also rushed for 924 yards and nine touchdowns to help the Highlanders reach the Southwest semifinals.

WR -- Cody White, El Toro, 6-2, 175, Jr. -- White's inclusion is in part deference to quarterback Conner Manning, who broke Matt Barkley's single-season county record, with 4,219 yards and 41 touchdowns. Of those, White had 18 TDs among his 85 catches for 1,295 yards.

TE -- Christo Kourtzidis, Orange Lutheran, 6-4, 230, Sr. -- He wasn't the prolific receiver of another great OLu tight end, Blake Ayles, but CK was an outstanding blocker and made plenty of critical catches among his 38 receptions. Averaging 10.9 yards per catch, he has committed to Florida State.

OL -- Max Tuerk, Santa Margarita, 6-6, 254, Sr. -- On a team that started nine underclassmen on offense, the left tackle provided the senior leadership that helped the Eagles win the Pac-5 and State Division I Bowl championships. He committed to USC.

OL -- Kyle Murphy, San Clemente, 6-7, 275, Sr. -- The big left tackle may have played this season as the best player in the country to still be undecided on where he will play college; he is so good he will have his choice. Murphy paved the way for San Clemente (12-2) to average 166 yards passing, 226 rushing .

OL -- Travis Averill, Servite, 6-4, 280, Sr. -- You better be tough to excel in the Trinity League, and Averill is plenty tough; he was a starter on both previous Pac-5 championship teams and helped the Friars win a seventh consecutive league title before suffering its stunning upset loss to Tesoro in the second round.

OL -- Colby Cyburt, Mission Viejo, 6-5, 265, Sr. -- Part of a terrific offensive line that also featured Austin Maass, Cyburt led the way for the Diablos' balanced offense that averaged 202 yards passing and 150 rushing despite several injuries to key skill personnel.

OL -- Lomitusi Sasi, Tustin, 6-3, 300, Sr. -- The Tillers ran the ball 90 percent of the time, but they could do that knowing they had a strong offensive line anchored by Sasi. A two-way starter, he helped the unseeded team close with eight consecutive victories, including an upset of El Toro for the Southwest title.

K -- John McGrory, Santa Margarita, 6-2, 180, Sr. -- McGrory missed only two PATs all season, finally ending a Southern Section record streak of 106 in a row (over two years) in the first round of the playoffs. He was perfect on five field goal attempts, averaged 38 yards per punt and pinned opponents inside the 20 on nine of 24 punts.


DL -- Chris Frost, Santa Margarita, 6-4, 238, Sr. --Paired with Sean Donegan on the opposing end, the Eagles had two huge ends that made it difficult for opposing offenses to find success on the outside. Selected the Trinity League's MVP on defense, Frost had 12 1/2 sacks among his 99 tackles, forced four fumbles and recovered two.

DL -- Kyle Kelley, Woodbridge, 6-3, 215, Sr. -- Arizona commit followed up a junior season in which he had 19 sacks with a senior season in which he had 22 for the Warriors; also forced a fumble and recovered two. Had 18 tackles against Southern Division champion Corona del Mar.

DL -- Chazz Roberts, Tesoro, 6-0, 243, Jr. -- One of the 16 underclassmen who started for the Titans, Roberts recovered a pair of fumbles and led the defense with 8 1/2 sacks as the third-place Titans reached the Pac-5 semifinals with victories over league champions Edison and Servite.

LB -- Butch Pauu, Servite, 5-11, 220, Sr. -- A three-year starter for the two-time Pac-5 champion Friars, Pauu was among the county's most devastating hitters. He also emerged this season as a legit offensive threat receiving the ball. He committed to BYU.

LB -- Ricky Ortiz, Mater Dei, 6-2, 220, Sr. -- A combination of size, speed and strength made Ortiz the Monarchs' defensive playmaker. A three-year starter, he always had to be accounted for, which was easier said than done because he was so active on defense -- and so good.

LB -- Aaron Porter, La Habra, 6-2, 235, Sr. -- All you need to know about Porter is that in a game against Servite he had his way with the Friars. A UCLA commit, Porter had 11 1/2 sacks on his way to setting a school record for tackles, forced five fumbles and intercepted two passes. He also played offense and rushed for 865 yards and 17 TDs.

LB -- Ryan Harris, Mission Viejo, 5-10, 210, Sr. --Another one of the county's big hitters, Harris had 123 tackles, including three sacks, forced four fumbles and recovered two, and also had two interceptions for the Pac-5 semifinalist.

DB -- Connor O'Brien, Santa Margarita, 6-2, 162, Jr. -- Pressure applied up front paid dividends in the defensive backfield as O'Brien led the county with eight interceptions. He was an aggressive safety in on 91 tackles and forced two fumbles. His eight picks and 15 breakups set school records.

DB -- Christian Tober, San Clemente, 5-9, 175, Sr. -- Tober has big-play speed, and would be underutilized on an all-county team if he wasn't also returning kicks; he had a 34.1 average. He had four interceptions, forced two fumbles, and also blocked three field goals. On offense, he caught 23 passes and averaged 26.6 yards per reception.

DB -- Max Redfield, Mission Viejo, 6-3, 195, Jr. -- Redfield has Blue Chip written all over him. An outstanding athlete he has all-county wide receiver potential as well. He had 91 tackles and three interceptions, and already received an offer from USC.

DB -- Anthony Pierce, Mission Viejo, 5-9, 170, Sr. -- Outstanding cover man was chosen South Coast League co-MVP on defense along with teammate Harris. He forced four fumbles and had three interceptions on a defense that allowed 42.5 percent of its points in the fourth quarter -- by which time the game was usually under control.

P -- Sean Wale, La Habra, 6-0, 155, Sr. -- Averaged 45.3 yards, and in his final game against El Toro where field position was played such a crucial role he averaged 50.7. Also kicked eight field goals, including a 52-yarder.

ESPNLA prep football final Top 25

December, 19, 2011
LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Santa Margarita moves into the top spot after winning the CIF State Division I bowl in thrilling fashion. Westlake's stay atop the rankings was short-lived as the Warriors were overwhelmed by a superior Northern California power. The final ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings:

1. Santa Margarita (13-2)
If we learned anything about junior quarterback Johnny Stanton it's that he thrives when the lights shine the brightest. Stanton's go-ahead score with 16 seconds remaining secured the CIF State Division I bowl championship, and it'll be remembered for a long time. Coach Harry Welch won his third bowl game with the third different school. Last week: Beat San Jose Bellarmine, 42-37.

2. Vista Murrieta (9-5)*
The Broncos were a perfect 14-0 on the field but weren't selected for a state bowl game. They could reach the spotlight next year with the dynamic Su'a Cravens returning for the Inland Division champs.

3. Westlake (14-1)
Not exactly how coach Jim Benkert envisioned the CIF State Open Division bowl game, but consolation lies in the fact that it wasn't the first time De La Salle embarrassed a team, and it won't be the last. The Warriors figure to be in the mix again next year, with top playmakers Dashon Hunt and Justin Moore returning. Last week: Lost to De La Salle, 35-0.

4. Narbonne (11-3)
The City Section Division I champions are favored to repeat in 2012, if only because they've got the section's leading passer in Troy Williams (3,247 yards and 34 touchdowns).

5. Corona Centennial (12-2)
Quarterback Hayden Gavett exceeded expectations in his first year as starter following Michael Eubank's graduation. Running back Romello Goodman finished seventh in rushing in the section.

6. San Clemente (12-2)
The Tritons reached the Pac-5 Division championship game but must replace Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson next season.

7. Mission Viejo (10-3)
Safety Max Redfield, one of the top defensive backs in the 2013 class, has already bagged an offer from USC. He'll draw plenty of interest next season.

8. Upland (12-1)
No matter what you call them -- the Highlanders or Scots -- Baseline League champion Upland has a good group returning, led by quarterback Nate Romine.

9. Oaks Christian (11-3)
The Lions could take the next step if quarterback Brandon Dawkins, only a sophomore, develops the way many expect him to.

10. St. Bonaventure (10-3)
The Seraphs finished in third place in the Marmonte League and will have to find replacements for leading offensive standouts Shaun Wick and Marc Evans.

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O.C.: The final Top 10

December, 19, 2011
With Santa Margarita's victory at the Home Depot Center, the season is officially over. Despite their loss to Mater Dei in the Trinity League opener, the Eagles are an easy choice for No. 1. After that it gets a little tougher, mostly because of Servite's stunning loss to Tesoro in the second round; all year long the Friars were the best team, and had a victory over Santa Margarita to prove it. If they were to play next week, most people would still expect a Servite victory; nevertheless, we're flipping Servite and Tesoro to reflect the Titans' head-to-head victory even though Servite's body of work is superior. Upon reflection, the lower part of the ranking gets an adjustment as well. For kicks, we added an additional five teams to the end-of-the-year rankings.

1. (1) Santa Margarita (13-2)
Eagles QB Johnny Stanton passed for four touchdowns and ran for two more, the last with 16 seconds left on fourth down, to win the State Division I Bowl Championship. Despite the so-called "bad" loss to Mater Dei, Eagles have victories over Tesoro, Carson, Los Alamitos, Trabuco Hills, Orange Lutheran, St. John Bosco, Bishop Amat, Long Beach Poly, Mission Viejo and San Clemente. Last: beat San Jose Bellarmine 42-36.

2. (2) Mission Viejo (10-3)
Diablos have victories over Long Beach Poly, Carson, San Clemente, Tesoro, Trabuco Hills and Huntington Beach.

3. (3) San Clemente (12-2)
Tritons have victories over Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, Mater Dei, Newport Harbor, Trabuco Hills, Tesoro (twice), Lakewood and St. John Bosco.

4. (5) Tesoro (8-5)
Titans have victories over Hart, Narbonne, Trabuco Hills, Edison and Servite.

5. (4) Servite (10-2)
Friars have victories over Oceanside, Bishop Amat, La Habra, Edison, Orange Lutheran, St. John Bosco, Mater Dei and Santa Margarita.

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ESPNLA prep football Top 25

December, 12, 2011
LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Shiny trophies were handed out to sectional champions, led by state-bowl selections Westlake (Northern Division) and Santa Margarita (Pac-5 Division). Harbor City Narbonne claimed the City Section Division I title, moving up to the No. 4 spot in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings. Our list heading into the state bowl games:

1. Westlake (14-0)
The Warriors won their second Northern Division championship in three years behind Dashon Hunt's five touchdowns. Westlake is going bowling. Last week: Beat Oaks Christian, 49-42. Next: Open Division state championship game vs. Concord De La Salle at Home Depot Center, Saturday, 8 p.m.

2. Vista Murrieta (9-5)#*
Junior quarterback Nicholas Stephens scored the Inland Division championship-winning touchdown with 26 seconds remaining. They were undefeated on the field, but they didn't get the nod for the Division I state bowl. Last week: Beat Corona Centennial, 35-28.

3. Santa Margarita (12-2)
Coach Harry Welch won his ninth overall championship and first with the Eagles. Quarterback Johnny Stanton had 240 total yards. The Eagles are heading to state. Last week: Beat San Clemente, 27-13. Next: Division I state championship game vs. San Jose Bellarmine at Home Depot Center, Friday, 8 p.m.

4. Narbonne (11-3)*
Emotional leader Tray Boone usually talks the talk, but he backed it up Friday with six touchdown runs and 316 total yards to lead the Gauchos to the City Section Division I title. Last week: Beat Carson, 48-32.

5. Corona Centennial (12-2)*
Quarterback Hayden Gavett and running back Romello Goodman finally ran into the team that could keep up. Last week: Lost to Vista Murrieta, 35-28.

6. Oaks Christian (11-3)*
The Lions were closer to Westlake this time around, but it still wasn't enough in the Northern Division championship game. Last week: Lost to Westlake, 49-42.

7. San Clemente (12-2)*
The Tritons had to settle for a pair of first-half field goals, and it was the difference at Angel Stadium. The Tritons could have put the Eagles on their heels. Last week: Lost to Santa Margarita, 27-13.

8. Mission Viejo (10-3)*
The South Coast League champions have Max Redfield coming back next year. He's projected as one of the top safeties on the West Coast.

9. Upland (12-1)*
Quarterback Nate Romine returns next year for the Baseline League champs.

10. St. Bonaventure (10-3)*
The third-place Seraphs must replace departing seniors Shaun Wick and Marc Evans.

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As backstories go, there are some intriguing ones in the Pac-5 championship game Saturday night at Angel Stadium.

San Clemente (12-1) has a balanced, high-powered offense that has reached the finals for only the second time in its long history with an interim coach.

Santa Margarita (11-2) has a balanced, high-powered offense that has a second-year coach going for his ninth section title.

No matter who wins, there should be plenty of angles. A couple weeks before the season began, San Clemente's longtime coach Eric Patton was removed for his role in an alleged kickback scheme involving a local apparel company. Enter Jon Hamro, the school's athletic director, who found the Triton players rallying together and being of one focus, one purpose.

Apart from one hiccup, a disastrous first half against South Coast League rival Mission Viejo that cost San Clemente a perfect season, the Tritons have been fantastic. They have ripped through playoff opponents like they were JV teams with an average score of 45-15. Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson (24 TDs, 7 int., 163 yards/game) can not only pass, but is an outstanding situational runner and has nine rushing touchdowns; at 6 feet 6 and 215 pounds, he's not easy to bring down.

Behind tackle Kyle Murphy and an offensive line that is among the best in the state, the Tritons also have a tough ground attack led by Mike Elespuru (14 TDs, 118 yards/game), and a big-play threat in receiver Christian Tober, who scored three touchdowns last week -- one a kickoff return -- on plays of 70 yards or more.

They, along with a defense led by linebackers Herbert Gamboa, Chad Foster, Landon Cook and Nico Ruberti, will try to bring San Clemente its first championship; they lost in their only other appearance in 1979.

San Clemente hasn't faced a league champion or seeded team in its playoff run. After beating second-place Lakewood, the Tritons defeated third-place teams St. John Bosco and Tesoro. But in Santa Margarita, the Tritons will be facing a second-place team that played even with top-seeded Servite before losing in overtime, 42-41, in the Trinity League finale and has since scored playoff victories over Bishop Amat, third-seeded Long Beach Poly and second-seeded Mission Viejo, 21-20.

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1. You can't say that Conner Manning's performance against La Habra in which he finally eclipsed Matt Barkley's county single-season passing record came cheap. Manning completed 32 of 49 passes for 465 yards and two touchdowns as El Toro upset second-seeded La Habra, 47-41, in the Southwest Division semifinal. Manning needed 88 yards to match Barkley's 3,560 set in his junior season in 2007. Manning, a junior, now has 3,946 and leads the Chargers into the finals for the first time since 1995 when they defeated Servite for the Division V championship. Manning wasn't the only offense: Jacob Furnari carried 36 times for 231 yards and four touchdowns. Cody White and Blake Murphy both had nine receptions, for 109 and 103 yards, respectively.

2. Kudos to La Habra for going out like a champion. Trying to win its fifth consecutive title,a first for an Orange County team, the Highlanders set a standard for other teams in the division and gained considerable respect among higher division teams for playing opponents such as Servite, Orange Lutheran and St. John Bosco. Trailing 41-13 with 1:07 left in the third quarter, La Habra pulled to 47-41 behind Aaron Porter's three touchdowns; had it recovered its third consecutive onside kick with 3:31 left in the game (the ball went out of bounds) it might have been a different outcome. Instead, Manning had possession and El Toro ran out the clock -- and ended La Habra's drive for five.

3. Reporters at Santa Margarita's 21-20 victory over Mission Viejo in the Pac-5 semifinal began discussing the Orange County player of the year. Although Servite's Cody Pittman and Santa Margarita's Johnny Stanton appeared to be frontrunners early in the season (Pittman losing in the second round almost certainly destroyed his chances) and there has been talk that a lineman such as San Clemente's Kyle Murphy might be a deserving choice, El Toro's Manning was bandied about after his big night against La Habra.

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ESPNLA prep football Top 25

December, 4, 2011
LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Top-ranked Westlake rolled through Thousand Oaks to clinch its spot in the Northern Division championship game. Four new teams enter the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings this week, led by Carson, which upset top-seeded San Pedro in the City Section Division I semifinals. The Colts return to the title game after losing to Crenshaw last year. Ocean League champion Santa Monica lost to league rival Culver City -- the surprise of the playoffs -- and fell out. Our rankings heading into the championship round:

1. Westlake (13-0)
Quarterback Justin Moore and tailback Dashon Hunt encountered no problems, leading the Warriors to their largest margin of victory since September. Last week: Beat Thousand Oaks, 62-0. Next: Northern Division championship vs. Oaks Christian, Friday.

2. Corona Centennial (12-1)
What the 5-foot-5 Romello Goodman lacks in size he makes up for in speed. The tailback rushed for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns to send the Huskies to another title game. Last week: Beat Rancho Cucamonga, 41-21. Next: Inland Division championship vs. Vista Murrieta, Friday.

3. Vista Murrieta (8-5)#
All units contributed Friday, with the Broncos getting scores on offense, defense and special teams. The versatile Su'a Cravens, an offensive hero the previous week, had four sacks. Last week: Beat Upland, 39-19. Next: Inland Division championship vs. Corona Centennial, Friday.

4. Santa Margarita (11-2)
Some job second-year coach Harry Welch has done. Quarterback Johnny Stanton capped the game-winning 70-yard drive with a late one-yard touchdown run. Last week: Beat Mission Viejo, 21-20. Next: Pac-5 Division championship vs. San Clemente at Angel Stadium, Saturday.

5. Oaks Christian (11-2)
The Lions erased a 10-point deficit to punch their ticket to the final. Oaks Christian captured the Northern Division crown last year with a one-point win over Westlake. Last week: Beat St. Bonaventure, 27-24. Next: Northern Division championship vs. Westlake, Friday.

6. San Clemente (12-1)
Senior Christian Tober scored three touchdowns Friday -- each of at least 70 yards -- helping the Tritons reach their first final since 1979. Last week: Beat Tesoro, 51-16. Next: Pac-5 Division championship vs. Santa Margarita at Angel Stadium, Saturday.

7. Narbonne (10-3)
The Gauchos made easy work of a very good defense to secure a spot in the title game for the third time in four years. Quarterback Troy Williams is hungry. Last week: Beat Dorsey, 41-7. Next: City Section Division I championship vs. Carson at East L.A. College, Friday.

8. Mission Viejo (10-3)*
A tough way for the Diablos to go out. The defense had a go-ahead 85-yard touchdown on a recovered fumble but couldn't make a stop in the final minutes. Quarterback Alex Bridgford wasn't able to manufacture the game-winning drive. Last week: Lost to Santa Margarita, 21-20.

9. Upland (12-1)*
It took a while, but the previously unbeaten Highlanders finally met their match. They were within two points at the break but numerous mistakes turned costly in the second half. Receiver Kenny Lawler won't soon be forgotten, though. Last week: Lost to Vista Murrieta, 39-18.

10. St. Bonaventure (10-3)*
The Seraphs at one point led by 10 despite the absence of quarterback Marc Evans, who did not play because of a shoulder injury. They got the ball back in the waning seconds but time ran out on the final punt return. Last week: Lost to Oaks Christian, 27-24.

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O.C.: The top 10

December, 4, 2011
El Toro's victory over La Habra moves the Chargers into the top 10, at the expense of Huntington Beach, which beat El Toro in the season opener. Despite Tesoro's victory over Servite two weekends ago, it's hard to believe that Servite would have lost to San Clemente by five touchdowns with a championship berth on the line.

1. (1) Santa Margarita (11-2)
Eagles went 70 yards with the game in the balance as Johnny Stanton scored with 62 seconds left, and Ryan Wolpin rushed for two touchdowns as Santa Margarita reached a section final for the first time since 1998. Last: beat Mission Viejo, 21-20. Next: vs. San Clemente at Angel Stadium, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

2. (2) Mission Viejo (10-3)
A lost fumble at the Santa Margarita one-yard line before halftime was a killer, even though Doug Ruggles' fumble return for a TD, and interception at the Santa Margarita 22 had the Diablos positioned for victory in the fourth quarter. Last: lost to Santa Margarita, 21-20. Next: season concluded.

3. (3) San Clemente (12-1)
Tritons rolling through the playoffs; in last four games against three playoff teams (Tesoro twice, Lakewood, St. John Bosco), their average score is 42-13. Last: beat Tesoro, 51-16. Next: vs. Santa Margarita at Angel Stadium, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

4. (5) Servite (10-2)
Friars have victories over Bishop Amat, La Habra, Edison, Orange Lutheran, St. John Bosco, Mater Dei and Santa Margarita. Last: season concluded.

5. (4) Tesoro (8-5)
A week after the biggest victory in school history, Titans fail to back up the performance; suffer worst defeat since Mission Viejo piled on, 60-14, in 2009. Last: lost to San Clemente, 51-16. Next: season concluded.

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O.C.: Games of the week

December, 2, 2011
No. 6 Santa Margarita (10-2) at No. 2 Mission Viejo (10-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports West
This Pac-5 semifinal is as good as any championship game. Mission knocked Santa Margarita out of the playoffs last year, 31-28, and went on to the section finals where it lost to Servite. The second-seeded Diablos will try do it again riding the legs of Buzzy Yokoyama; though injured much of the season, Yokoyama (12 TDs, 112 yards/game) has shown in six games that he is a huge threat. He rarely goes down on the first hit, and he will be even more dangerous now that quarterback Alex Bridgford (23 TDs, 15 int., 208 yards/game) seems to be dialed in. That wasn't always the case this season. The pressure is on the Mission defense to control quarterback Johnny Stanton (22 TDs), who ran wild against Servite, who ran wild against Long Beach Poly, and who is fully capable of running wild against Mission. Stanton is averaging 98.7 yards rushing, and though his passing numbers aren't eye-popping (62.4 percent, 8 TDs, 8 int., 161 yards/game) he can still make the big play with talented receivers. Running back Ryan Wolpin (24 TDs, 115 yards/game) is no slouch either. The last two Servite quarterbacks to beat Mission in the playoffs, Cody Fajardo and Cody Pittman, were dual-threat QBs like Stanton. Both head coaches, Bob Johnson (265-91-1) for Mission and Harry Welch (246-54-2) for Santa Margarita, are among the best around.

No. 9 San Clemente (11-1) vs. No. 12 Tesoro (8-4) at Orange Coast College, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Tesoro beat top-seeded Servite last week, 24-20, so throw out everything the Titans have done this season and focus on what they bring to the table right now. Actually, one might look at their run over the past four weeks. They gave away a 14-7 loss to Mission Viejo, and the following week were flat in a 31-6 loss to San Clemente. Then they beat fourth-seeded Alemany, then Servite. Their emotional health going into this game against San Clemente vs. the last game with San Clemente will be night and day. Matt Adam (8 TDs, 6 int., 83 yards/game) must have a good outing so that Mission cannot gang up on the run game, which features Nate Tago (12 TDs, 103 yards/game) or Blake Rodgers -- who was the difference-maker when he sparked Tesoro's victory from a 20-3 deficit to Servite after replacing the injured Tago. The defense will have its hands full because San Clemente is among the most balanced teams in the playoffs, featuring a strong offensive line led by Kyle Murphy that protects runner Mike Elespuru (13 TDs, 118 yards/game) and Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson (21 TDs, 7 int., 158 yards/game). To a lot of people, San Clemente's second-round victory over St. John Bosco, 42-24, was an upset too; the Tritons hadn't won a playoff game since 2005, but three of the four semifinalists -- including Tesoro and San Clemente -- are from the South Coast League instead of the Trinity League. And, if you're looking for motivation, San Clemente might have the edge; this is the team that had their coach, Eric Patton, removed just weeks before the season for his alleged role in a kickback scheme with a now defunct athletic apparel company. Coached by Jon Hamro, the team has been playing for Patton as much as themselves.

El Toro (11-1) at No. 23 La Habra (9-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
This Southwest Division game actually has a Pac-5 kind of intrigue to it in Orange County. El Toro brings a no-huddle offense and a prolific passing attack into the game with junior Conner Manning (35 TDs, 5 int.), who is 88 yards from matching Matt Barkley's single-season county passing record (3,560 yards). La Habra has faced the no-huddle of Servite, and it's faced a terrific passing game in St. John Bosco, but the combination might catch the La Habra off guard early as it gets used to the pace. Then again, El Toro -- which has averaged 43.9 points and hasn't lost since a season-opening 23-21 setback to Huntington Beach -- hasn't seen a defense like La Habra's or a player like linebacker Aaron Porter. There's plenty at stake for La Habra; the Highlanders are trying to win a fifth consecutive title, but they won't get the chance if they don't contain Manning.

Foothill (8-4) at Tustin (9-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
These two rivals play each other annually and use Tustin High as a home field, so this game is huge. This is 50th meeting and at stake is a spot in the Southwest Division finals. Tustin has won the three previous playoff games between the schools (the last in 2000), as well as the last three games, including 27-14 in the season opener. It's the first time these teams have met as deep as the semifinals. Tustin's Tyler Siudzinski (19 TDs, 141 yards/game) rushed for 152 yards in a 35-7 victory over top-seeded Villa Park, and Foothill's Jack Gilchrist (12 TDs, 11 int., 112 yards/game) threw a 32-yard TD pass and scored on a three-yard run in the last 2 1/2 minutes to beat fourth-seeded Cypress, 34-24.

Beckman (10-2) at Estancia (10-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
When they played earlier this season, top-seeded Beckman scored a 12-10 victory but did so without their best offensive threat, Jeff Kim (22 TDs, 138 yards/game). Fourth-seeded Estancia -- which has since won seven in a row -- was down a few players too, although not junior running back Robert Murtha (19 TDs, 165 yards/game). Beckman beat Estancia in the first round last season, 56-22. In the semifinals for the first time in school history, will the pressure to reach the Southern Division finals be too much for Estancia? Beckman is trying to return to the finals after losing last year's title game to Garden Grove in an Instant Classic.

Corona del Mar (10-2) at Laguna Beach (10-2) Friday, 7 p.m.
Second-seeded Corona del Mar has appeared to be on a collision course with Beckman all season, but Laguna Beach is a dangerous opponent that defeated third-seeded Segerstrom, 51-40. Powered by Drake Martinez (27 TDs, 145 yards/game), the Breakers have averaged 47.8 points; their last loss was 63-47 to Costa Mesa. Behind quarterback Brent Lawson (25 TDs, 10 int.), CdM has scored at least 31 points in its last six games, and at least 42 points in its last four.
1. Tesoro's victory over Servite in the second round of the Pac-5 playoffs was as surprising an outcome as there has been in this postseason. It was Tesoro that turned in a very Servite-like performance in knocking off the state's No. 2-ranked team (and No. 21 nationally). In the end, it was all about the defense. Tesoro limited Servite's running attack to fewer than three yards per carry (31 carries for 89 yards) and intercepted three passes (Cody Pittman had thrown only two all season) -- not to mention the fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Jay Perez one minute after Blake Rodgers scored on the opening drive of the second half. Perez's TD made it 20-17, the defense prevented Servite from scoring in the second half, and Rodgers' second score -- a 51-yard run in the fourth quarter-- ended Servite's reign as two-time champion.

2. Trabuco Hills boys and San Clemente girls won State Division 1 cross country titles in Fresno. Trabuco had its five scoring runners finish in the top 35. The Mustangs were so strong that only 30 seconds separated ninth-place Jared Hazlett (15 minutes 25 seconds) from 34th Max Moncur (15:55). The combined time of the top five runners (78:12.30) on the 3.1-mile layout was seven seconds faster than the next-closest team from any of the five divisions, Arcadia. San Clemente won behind sophomore Melissa Eisele, who finished 13th; the Tritons' five scoring runners included two freshmen. Also winning a title, in Division V, was St. Margaret's boys and individual champion Billy Gaudreau, who won his second in a row. JSerra's girls won the Division IV title behind Brooke Kunzelman and Ashley Geisler, who finished 20th and 21st.

3. Conner Manning of El Toro has passed for 3,472 yards this season, and should break the Orange County record on Friday against La Habra; needing just 88 yards to reach the total set by Matt Barkley (Mater Dei), who graduated in 2009. If Manning (35 TDs, 5 int.) doesn't reach the record, then the Chargers will be in a mess of hurt. The junior passed for a season-best 444 yards and five touchdowns in a first-round victory over Esperanza, and on Friday passed for 332 yards and four touchdowns in a 54-30 victory over Yorba Linda. He passed for fewer than 217 yards only once, when he passed for 161 and two touchdowns in a 48-0 win over Schurr. Manning's favorite target, Cody White, has 70 receptions and 13 touchdowns.

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ESPN LA prep football Top 25

November, 27, 2011
LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Servite's stunning second-round loss opened the door for a new No. 1 in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25. The Friars, who spent the entire season at the top spot, were one of eight ranked teams to lose Friday. Our rankings heading into Week 3 of the playoffs:

1. Westlake (12-0)
The Marmonte League champions slide into the No. 1 spot following Servite's loss. The Warriors are more than worthy of the ranking, touting an average margin of victory of nearly 33 points. Last week: Beat Hart, 42-14. Next: semifinals vs. Thousand Oaks, Friday.

2. Corona Centennial (11-1)
Running back Romello Goodman was unstoppable Friday, setting a school record with eight rushing touchdowns and accumulating 335 yards in 24 carries (14-yard average). Last week: Beat Chaparral, 56-21. Next: semifinals at Rancho Cucamonga, Friday.

3. Mission Viejo (10-2)
The second-seeded Diablos are the only seeded team remaining in the Pac-5 Division playoffs. Tailback Buzzy Yokoyama, who had four rushing touchdowns Friday, has been key down the stretch. Last week: Beat Huntington Beach, 41-31. Next: semifinals vs. Santa Margarita, Friday.

4. Vista Murrieta (7-5)*
Is there any debate on who the area's top junior is? Right now that title belongs to the versatile Su'a Cravens, who added to his lore Friday with three touchdowns and 205 rushing yards in only 10 carries. Last week: Beat J.W. North, 58-14. Next: semifinals vs. Upland, Friday.

5. Upland (12-0)
Lost in the continued success of running back Donta Abron and receiver Kenny Lawler is quarterback Nate Romine's efficiency. The junior passed for 291 yards in only 15 attempts in Friday's blowout. Last week: Beat Charter Oak, 51-13. Next: semifinals at Vista Murrieta, Friday.

6. Santa Margarita (10-2)
Quarterback Johnny Stanton took to the ground to help his team advance Friday. The Eagles, the only remaining Trinity League team, can avenge last year's second-round loss to the Diablos. Last week: Beat Long Beach Poly, 49-16. Next: semifinals at Mission Viejo, Friday.

7. Oaks Christian (10-2)
After seven touchdown passes from quarterback Brandon Dawkins on Friday, it's safe to say the Lions offense has a star in the making behind center. Dawkins, only a sophomore, is playing beyond his years. Last week: Beat Highland, 55-21. Next: semifinals at St. Bonaventure, Friday.

8. St. Bonaventure (10-2)
The quick-striking Seraphs scored two touchdowns in a 10-second span Friday to earn a rematch with Marmonte League runner-up Oaks Christian. They lost to the Lions by 12 on Sept. 23. Last week: Beat Canyon Country Canyon, 38-17. Next: semifinals vs. Oaks Christian, Friday.

9. San Clemente (11-1)
Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson ran for three scores and had 125 yards passing on the road, and the Tritons get another look at a familiar South Coast League foe. S.C. beat Tesoro by 25 on Nov. 10. Last week: Beat St. John Bosco, 42-24. Next: semifinals at Tesoro, Friday.

10. Rancho Cucamonga (11-1)
A safety and a short touchdown on a sneak by quarterback Dimitri Morales was all the Cougars needed Friday because, for once, it was the defense making the big plays. Last week: Beat Redlands East Valley, 9-6. Next: vs. Corona Centennial, Friday.

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