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Eric Sondheimer

Summer shows off top football talent

August 01, 2008|Eric Sondheimer

After two months of observing and evaluating, here are some final thoughts about the summer seven-on-seven passing season -- with an eye on what could happen in high school football this fall:

Stanjarivus McKay is going to become the next top defensive back from Long Beach Poly. McKay was a backup last season for the Pac-5 Division champions, playing behind Vaughn Telemaque and Herman Davidson, who signed with Miami and North Carolina, respectively.

McKay has speed and toughness, and he was the best safety I saw all summer in seven-on-seven competitions. He twice intercepted passes thrown by Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback Matt Barkley in the Dana Hills tournament.

Moreno Valley Rancho Verde and Los Angeles Crenshaw rank Nos. 1 and 2 in skill-position players.

Rancho Verde players such as linebacker Eric Martin, receiver Terrence Miller and safety Richard Spencer are physical specimens. Former Los Angeles Fremont coach Pete Duffy needs only to find some offensive linemen to take a shot at challenging Corona Centennial for supremacy in the Inland Empire.

As for Crenshaw, I'd hand the ball to sophomore DeAnthony Thomas, sit back and watch him sprint away for touchdowns. Junior linebacker Hayes Pullard is another terrific prospect. The Cougars are young, but don't think by November they won't be a serious City Section title contender.

Oaks Christian's weak schedule this fall is going to cause controversy. Good luck to the section commissioners entrusted with choosing teams for the state CIF championship bowl games when it comes to deciding what to do with the Lions.

Oaks Christian might not have any top 25 teams on its schedule. Its best opponents are Pomona Diamond Ranch and Pasadena Muir. The Lions have a good chance to finish 14-0. Then comes the fun part. Everybody will be arguing about how good the Lions really are. Their roster is filled with outstanding junior prospects. In 2009, Oaks Christian could be No. 1 in the Southland, but what about 2008?

Get ready for the Barkley chase. The Mater Dei quarterback wasn't sacked in his first seven games last season. He opens this season Sept. 3 against Carson at Long Beach Veterans Stadium in a nationally televised game, and ready to pursue him is his future USC teammate, Carson's Morrell Presley, who's known more for his tight end skills but will also devote time to defensive end.

A sack of Barkley could make the season for any defensive player, so the pressure will be on Mater Dei's offensive line.

The top teams for 2008 look familiar. When the preseason rankings come out, don't be surprised if the top teams are the same as in 2007: Long Beach Poly, Corona Centennial, Encino Crespi, Orange Lutheran, Mater Dei, Anaheim Servite, Ventura St. Bonaventure. These programs don't seem to rebuild anymore. They reload, aided by strong lower-level teams and transfers.

Among the schools that could break into the top 10 are Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro, Los Alamitos, Huntington Beach Edison, Oaks Christian, Anaheim Esperanza, Temecula Chaparral, Rancho Verde, Lake Balboa Birmingham and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

The Inland Empire is loaded with talent. Centennial's rise last season into the Division I bowl game was no fluke. The new Big VIII League will challenge the Trinity League as best in Southern California. In particular, the Inland Empire is strong with quarterbacks. The improvement made by quarterback Richard Brehaut of Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos was one of the revelations of the summer season. His commitment to UCLA is a big deal considering how far he has advanced his skills.

The shotgun formation continues to proliferate. It has become a rarity not to see the shotgun formation used in a game. That's how popular it is to snap the ball to the quarterback standing in the backfield.

The kicking game is getting better. With more opportunities for kickers to learn their specialty at summer camps and clinics, field goals from 50 yards and longer are becoming routine. Mike Bowlin from Aliso Niguel and Mike Loftus from Servite have already committed to Oregon and Southern Methodist, respectively, and there are other top kickers such as El Toro's Vince D'Amato, who made 15 field goals last season; Upland's Jake VanGinkle, who kicked field goals of 57 and 58 yards as a freshman, and Brea Olinda's Michael Frisina, who might be the most accurate kicker of all.

--

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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