The stellar stars, standouts and squads of Southland football 2022

We did it!

Sixteen weeks of high school football ended Saturday night with no COVID shutdowns, no wildfires disrupting games, no chases distracting teams or fans.

The journey began in Allen, Texas in August when Bellflower St. John Bosco tore down one of Texas’ best teams 52-14 in a sold-out stadium. The season ended Saturday night with St. John Bosco demolishing Northern California’s top team, San Mateo Serra, 45-0 at Saddleback College in the CIF Open Division State Championship game.

The drama has been pretty much suppressed at the top level of football in Southern California. From the first practices in July, it was always going to come down to whether St. John Bosco or Santa Ana Mater Dei would win the last game of 2022. It has been that way since 2016. And it will continue that way in 2023. They parted ways in accumulating so much talent and depth that everyone is playing for third or fourth place.

The dominance is similar to when only one Northern California team, Concord De La Salle, won 151 straight games. Coach Jason Negro said on Saturday night: “At the end of the day, you have to give us credit because what we did was we realized what we needed to do to successfully knock out the De La Salles. . Bring down the Mater Deis. To bring down all comers across the land.

St. John Bosco quarterback Pierce Clarkson holds the state championship trophy as coach Jason Negro celebrates.

(Craig Weston)

Those who think two dominant teams aren’t good for high school football might want to make their displeasure known soon, as the Southern Section is in the process of hiring a successor to Rob Wigod as its new commissioner. One of the questions the executive committee should ask applicants as part of the interview process is about ideas for making the Division 1 playoffs more competitive.

This season will be remembered for the quality of the individual players who made an impact.

For pure excitement, there’s nothing like waiting for Gardena Serra’s Rodrick Pleasant to get his hands on a ball, whether with an interception or a kick-off return, and then watching his speed come into play – he ran the 100 meters in 10.14 seconds.

Speed ​​was a big divider. Los Alamitos wide receiver Makai Lemon proved to be the best wide receiver in the state in helping the Griffins reach the Division 1 semifinals.

Granada Hills’ Dijon Stanley used his 400-yard speed to make defenders feel helpless, rushing for 378 yards in the City Section’s Division I championship game.

Birmingham junior Peyton Waters helped his side extend their winning streak to 34 games against City Section opponents by playing as cornerback, receiver and wild quarterback.

Mater Dei lead linebacker Leviticus Su’a was so good he earned MVP honors in the mighty Trinity League.

Newbury Park freshman quarterback Brady Smigiel turned out better than expected, passing for 3,479 yards and 46 touchdowns. Against rival Thousand Oaks, he was intercepted three times in the first quarter. His team fell behind 20-0. Did he pout? Did he rage? Has he found excuses? He rallied his team to tie the Lancers and send the game into overtime before losing 41-38. A star quarterback is born.

Bruce Rollinson announced he would retire after 34 years as head coach of Mater Dei on a Thursday night before the team’s first playoff game. The school president says it was Rollinson’s decision. Every time the Diocese of Orange decides to release a safety assessment of the monarchs sports program that has been “in progress” for over a year, perhaps it will learn more.

The unnamed St. John Bosco Team of the Year was Laguna Hills, which went 15-1 and was the only Southern California team to travel to rainy Northern California and win a title. State. The Hawks rallied from a 27-7 halftime deficit to win the 3-A title over San Jose Bellarmine 28-27. Running back Troy Leigber has contributed an astonishing 52 touchdowns this season.

In a changing environment where what happens at the professional and college level spills over into high schools, there are many issues ahead, from name, image and likeness to the future of competitive equity in the playoffs when there is no competition at the highest level.

There are disagreements that may never be resolved, but let’s not forget the inspiring moments, like teams that haven’t won titles in years and made it through, like Laguna Beach and San Gabriel.

And then there’s the swaggering return to Crenshaw, who won the City Section Division III championship after nearly shutting down their program during the pandemic days.

“It was very tight,” Garrett said. “Even this summer the team was close to disbanding.”

The Cougars are on their way back with 20 underclassmen determined to play football.

“I’m smiling,” Garrett said. “These kids are amazing.

Writer Luca Evans contributed to this column.


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