GAME OF THE WEEK
NO. 1 MATER DEI (0-0) VS. CENTENNIAL (0-0)
Where, when: Centennial High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Analysis: It’s the Mater Dei head coaching debut for Frank McManus, a longtime assistant coach at the school. He has replaced Bruce Rollinson, whose 34 seasons included many CIF Southern Section championships plus a few state and national titles. McManus inherited what is probably among the best rosters in the team’s history. Elijah Brown enters his fourth season as the team’s starting quarterback, armed with a 29-1 record as the starter and a Stanford scholarship. He will work with a huge and powerful offensive line that includes Brandon Baker and DeAndre Carter, and will hand the ball off to Jordon Davison who is considered one of the top junior running backs in the nation. Centennial (11-1 last season) is No. 3 in the CalHiSports.com state rankings, behind No. 1 St. John Bosco and No. 2 Mater Dei. The Huskies have a great veteran coach, Matt Logan, and a terrific quarterback, Husan Longstreet, who passed for 3,941 yards and 41 touchdowns last year as a sophomore at Inglewood. Centennial is deep in talent, but this Mater Dei team appears unstoppable … as long as the players are emotionally engaged.
Winner: Mater Dei
NO. 5 JSERRA (0-0) VS. SIERRA CANYON (0-0)
Where, when: Sierra Canyon High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Analysis: The Lions (6-6 last season) and first-year coach Victor Santa Cruz travel to Chatsworth for their season opener. Their quarterback is Arizona State-committed Michael Tollefson. The junior exhibited slices of excellence the past two seasons at San Juan Hills and also made the sort of mistakes that are expected of an underclassman playing the most difficult position to master in team sports. Look for him to have a fine season starting with this game. JSerra’s strength could be its defense that is led by Luke Webb, a junior who was All-Orange County first-team in 2022. Sierra Canyon (10-5 last season) have ace running back Dane Dunn, who rushed for 1,925 yards last season. It will be a tough task for JSerra to beat Sierra Canyon, No. 7 in the CalHiSports.com state rankings, on the road, but the Lions defense will be ready for it.
NO. 3 LOS ALAMITOS (0-0) VS. NO. 22 WESTERN (0-0)
Where, when: Western High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Analysis: This game is going to be fun just for the opportunity to watch two players – Los Alamitos tight end Davon Mitchell and Western quarterback Anthony Luna. Mitchell is a 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end who played his freshman and sophomore years in Texas. Mitchell, who committed to Oklahoma, has reclassified as a senior for the 2023-24 school year. Luna led Orange County in passing last year with 3,128 yards as the Pioneers finished 10-2. When Luna has the time and lanes to get the ball to receivers he is fantastic. That time and those lanes might not be available Friday. Los Alamitos cornerback Isaiah Rubin is a senior transfer who has offers from many schools including Arizona, Oregon, Texas A&M and Utah. Western has a fine defense, too, including junior linebacker Malachi Alatorre. Los Alamitos (9-3 last year) has all of the offensive firepower and great athletes on defense to win this game.
Winner: Los Alamitos
SERRA VS. NO. 2 ORANGE LUTHERAN
Where, when: Orange Coast College, Friday, 7 p.m.
Analysis: Orange Lutheran will have non-seniors at all sorts of positions. That is not the preferred situation for a member of the Trinity League that is playing a challenging nonleague schedule. Those non-seniors are very good, starting with junior defensive lineman Jireh Moe, who was All-County first team last season. The Lancers also have quarterback TJ Lateef, who was all-league first team last year as a sophomore. Serra (7-5 last season) is No. 15 in the CalHiSports.com state top 50, while Orange Lutheran is ranked No. 10. The Cavaliers have a great asset in their returning starting quarterback, junior Jimmy Butler who threw for 1,605 yards in 2022. Senior cornerback Dakoda Fields is USC commit. This is a grand challenge for Orange Lutheran in its opener. Look for Lateef to be even better than he was last year and for the Moe-led defense to shine.
Winner: Orange Lutheran
NO. 17 CREAN LUTHERAN (0-0 VS. CANYON (0-0)
Where, when: El Modena High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Analysis: Crean Lutheran’s strength last season was its offense. The strength this season could be the defense. The team’s outstanding group of linebackers includes senior Ben Buettell, who was All-Empire League first team last season as a receiver. Junior defensive back Ben Byszewski was all-league first team in ’22. Graduation extracted many top players from Canyon’s team that went 9-3 last season. The Comanches’ sole returning All-North Hills League player is first-team selection Matthew Carrillo. Canyon has confidence that senior Corin Rynders will develop into a fine quarterback. He starts out against a Crean group that appears to be on a decidedly upward trajectory.
Winner: Crean Lutheran