Northwood’s football team won a CIF Southern Section championship last year.
The Timberwolves’ season ended in the CIF Southern California Regional championship game.
This year’s Northwood football team also won a CIF-SS championship. The Timberwolves won their regional final this season and qualified for the school’s first appearance in a CIF State Championship bowl game. They’ll play Escalon in the state Division 4-AA final Saturday at Escalon High School.
The difference from 2021 to ’22 might be the quarterback.
Northwood’s Eugene Miyata was mostly a hand-it-off quarterback last season as a junior when running back Adam Harper led the Timberwolves to the CIF-SS Division 11 title before losing to Righetti 14-7 in the regional Division 5-A title game.
This season, Miyata has become a reliable passer. Opposing teams have been unable to game plan exclusively for the dynamic running back Harper.
A good and recent example of that came in the CIF-SS Division 8 championship game, a 35-14 Northwood victory over Lakewood. Miyata completed a pass on the Timberwolves’ first series, a crisp spiral for 22 yards and a first down. A pass like that, and that early in a game, was not happening during the 2021 season.
“My mechanics have gotten much better,” said Miyata, who is 5-10, 165 pounds. “I focused a lot more of my attention on football this summer than I had in the past, going to various college camps. That really made a difference.”
Miyata threw two touchdown passes in the Division 8 final. On one of them, he threw a deep ball to Andrew Penrod, who pulled in the pass at the Lakewood 45-yard line before racing to the end zone for the six points.
Not only did Miyata’s better arm strength make that play happen, so did his improved field vision.
“My play recognition got better and my ability to read defenses got better,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of tape this year.”
Northwood coach JC Clarke gives Miyata plenty of credit for the Timberwolves being as successful playing in the Division 8 playoffs as they were in Division 11 in 2021.
“Eugene is extremely smart,” Clarke said. “And he has such quick feet. That quickness and his smarts have gotten us out of a lot of bad situations.”
Miyata is happy to see that two Pacific Coast League teams, Northwood and Laguna Hills, are the only Orange County teams playing in this week’s state championship games.
“This puts our league on the football map,” Miyata said. “It shows that our league can compete with other leagues’ teams.”
Northwood has a new offensive coordinator this season, Phil Roh, who hit it off immediately with Miyata.
“It’s almost a perfect fit,” Miyata said. “I know what play he’s going to call even before he calls it.”
Harper still is the engine that makes the Northwood offense go. Miyata has the keys to the car and his hands on the wheel.
“We were hoping to give something else for other teams to worry about than just Adam this year,” Clarke said. “Eugene’s done that for us.”
• The Laguna Hills and Northwood football games will be streamed live by the NFHS Network.
• Mater Dei has targeted Feb. 1 as the date to announce its replacement for football coach Bruce Rollinson. The announcement could happen before that date. Candidates are to be interviewed after the holidays.
• JSerra has reached the interviewing stage of its search for a new football coach. Servite is reviewing applications for its football coaching vacancy. Both schools need to make what is called “a splash” with their coaching hires.
• We’re still waiting for the outside group’s assessment of Mater Dei athletics that had been expected this past June. The work on it is in the writing stages.
• There is one Orange County boys wrestling team that is ranked No. 1 in its CIF-Southern Section division: Sonora in Division 5.
• La Habra is the only county boys basketball team ranked No. 1 in its CIF-SS division. The Highlanders are on top in Division 3A. Yorba Linda is ranked No. 2 and Newport Harbor is No. 3 in 3A. La Habra (8-2) is led by sophomore guard Grayson Sinek, who scored 35 points with five rebounds and four assists in a win over Edison last week.
• Three county girls basketball teams are ranked No. 1 in their CIF-SS divisions: Buena Park in Division 4AA; Dana Hills in 4A; and St. Margaret’s in 5AA.
Preview and prediction: Northwood football vs. Escalon in CIF State 4-AA championship
Preview and prediction: Laguna Hills football vs. Bellarmine Prep in CIF State 3-A championship
Video: Fryer and Albano preview the state championship football games for Laguna Hills, Northwood
High school football: Orange County stat leaders through Dec. 6
Orange County boys athlete of the week: Troy Leigber, Laguna Hills
• San Clemente’s boys cross country team finished in seventh place at the Nike Nationals in Portland, Ore., last weekend. Dana Hills sophomore Evan Noonan, a CIF Southern Section and CIF State divisional champion this season, finished 46th in the boys race and JSerra’s girls cross country team was 21st in the team standings.
• Laguna Hills sophomore Holly Barker was seventh and Dana Hills senior Allura Markow was eighth in the CHAMPS Sports West Regionals at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday. Markow this week announced her commitment to Oregon.