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South Orange County football talent pool powers area high schools

Eric Sondheimer on high schools: Santa Margarita, Tesoro and Mission Viejo are all in Pac-5 division playoff games Friday, thanks in part to the talent they draw from south Orange County youth leagues.

November 23, 2011|Eric Sondheimer
  • Santa Margarita quarterback Johnny Stanton in action against Servite on Fri., Nov. 11.
Santa Margarita quarterback Johnny Stanton in action against Servite… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)

With apologies to Texas and Florida, there's a 10-mile stretch in south Orange County that has as much if not more football talent than those two states.

The competition among Santa Margarita, Tesoro and Mission Viejo high schools for landing that talent is fierce.

"You could probably put a pin in the middle and probably within three or four miles of that point, you'd be able to touch each of the three schools, and it's truly amazing, the football success," Santa Margarita Coach Harry Welch said.

All three schools are alive in the Pac-5 division playoffs. Santa Margarita (9-2) faces Long Beach Poly (10-1) Friday night at Veterans Stadium. Mission Viejo (9-2) is at Huntington Beach (9-2), and Tesoro (7-4) plays host to Anaheim Servite (10-1).

Santa Margarita, a Catholic school, is five miles from Tesoro, which is five miles from Mission Viejo. All seek players from the same youth leagues.

"The caliber of our football is very strong," Mission Viejo Coach Bob Johnson said.

Said Tesoro Coach Brian Barnes: "It's real competitive. Whomever wins, the next year the freshman class is real good."

River Cracraft, the standout receiver at Santa Margarita, has a brother, Sky, who played at Tesoro. Yes, families can be divided.

When any of the three teams meet, it's a guaranteed sellout crowd.

Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo could play in the semifinals if both schools win Friday.

Rising QB

Junior quarterback Conner Manning of Lake Forest El Toro is having a standout season. He has passed for 3,140 yards and 31 touchdowns. In a playoff opener last week against Anaheim Esperanza, he was 33 for 43 for 444 yards and five touchdowns in a 54-30 victory.

Game-time decision

Standout two-way player Michael Whitt of San Pedro missed last week's opener against Gardena because of a foot injury. Coach Mike Walsh said it will be a doctor's decision whether Whitt can play Friday against Crenshaw in a City Section Division I quarterfinal.

If Whitt can't play on defense, look for quarterback Kenny Potter to play in the secondary, something he did during his sophomore year.

Basketball begins

Basketball season moves into high gear Monday. One of the best opening tournaments is at Redondo High and will feature top teams Los Angeles Loyola, Long Beach Poly, Palisades, Fairfax, Westchester and Harvard-Westlake.

Opening games Monday: Long Beach Poly vs. Pacific Hills, 3 p.m.; Compton vs. Westchester, 4:25 p.m.; Harvard-Westlake vs. Santa Monica, 5:50 p.m.; Hawthorne vs. Fairfax, 7:15 p.m.; Mayfair vs. Bishop Montgomery, 8:40 p.m. Tuesday's schedule: Palisades vs. Torrance, 5:50 p.m.; Dominguez vs. Loyola, 7:15 p.m.; Bakersfield vs. Redondo, 8:40 p.m.

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