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Orange County Register (California)


Orange County football has a large number of excellent quarterbacks this season.

Just look at the Trinity League. All five O.C. teams in that six-team league have a college prospect at the position.

Who is the best of that group? Mater Dei's Bryce Young? Orange Lutheran's Ryan Hilinski?

Santa Margarita sophomore Peter Costelli has improved tremendously as the season progresses. JSerra's Caden Bell is terrific and Servite's Blaze McKibben would be a league MVP candidate if he was in a different league. The non-county team in that league, St. John Bosco, has perhaps the best quarterback in the league, DJ Uiagalelei.

The South Coast League has Joey Yellen at Mission Viejo, Nathan Manning at Capistrano Valley and Brendan Costello at San Clemente. Also having outstanding seasons are Ethan Garbers at Corona del Mar, Anthony Munoz at Western, Paul Piferi at Villa Park and Ryan Zanelli at La Habra.

Yes, there are plenty of other standout quarterbacks in county football. Picking the All-Orange County first-team, second-team and third-team quarterbacks will be a chore in December. (I'm thinking of abstaining from the selection process to let Dan Albano handle it.)

How did we get so many superb quarterbacks at one time?

Former Santa Margarita and Florida State quarterback Chris Rix, now part of Fox Sports West's team of high school football broadcasters, said a combination of factors have come together to produce this bountiful crop.

Of course, quarterbacks like other high school football players and other high school athletes in other sports, are bigger, faster and stronger now thanks to better weight and flexibility training, superior injury prevention and better injury recovery methods.

Beyond that …

"The biggest (reason) is the knowledge, information and technology available now," said Rix, still among the career passing leaders at Florida State. "There is a lot more film study, personalized coaching and extra work kids do in the offseason."

Rix cited the growing use of Hudl, a video analyzing tool, as a major contributor to the more-mature quarterbacks we see in high school football.

Plus many top high school programs have video screens on the sidelines so film review can happen instantaneously.

"You see these guys coming into college now," Rix said. "They don't have to redshirt or sit behind somebody for two or three years to learn anymore. Like JT Daniels (the former Mater Dei QB now at USC). He's young and he's still learning, but with all the time he put in and the coaching he got in high school he was ready to roll."

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

• According to, Yellen is the California leader in passing yardage with 2,148. Munoz is third at 2,127.

• Edison's football team last week had a 16-yard run negated by a penalty, a 49-yard pass completion negated by a penalty and two touchdowns erased by penalties. The Chargers lost to Corona del Mar 21-14.

• De La Salle of Concord's football game this week is "Bob Ladouceur Bobblehead Night." The school has 1,000 bobbleheads of its great ex-coach, whose 399 career victories is the California football record, to distribute at its home game Friday against Monte Vista of Danville. Of course we expect a bobblehead night around here some day for Mater Dei football coach Bruce Rollinson, or Mater Dei boys basketball coach Gary McKnight. (I've seen a McKnight bobblehead prototype.)

• Maybe Mission Viejo will have a bobblehead night for former Mission Viejo football coach Bob Johnson. Johnson is third all-time in California for football career wins, with 342. Keep in mind he averaged 10 wins a year, and he took eight years off between coaching tenures at El Toro and Mission Viejo. Johnson would have been the first and only 400-wins coach in California high school football history if he had not taken that break.

• CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod, when talking at the CIF-SS Council meeting Tuesday about reduced ticket sales of around 100,000 over the past three years for CIF-SS championship events, said he is unsure if live TV of such events impacts ticket sales. The first reaction is, of course it does. Wigod, though, thinks it's more about matchups and, although he did not say so, the IMG Academy-Mater Dei football game a couple of weeks ago was on live TV and that game drew a standing-room-only crowd at Santa Ana Stadium.

• Transfers happen even in cross country. Dana Hills, among the top CIF-SS boys teams, lost standout runner Caleb Niednagel, who transferred to La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad, but got Cole Stark, this week's OC Varsity athlete of the week who transferred from Canyon.

• Mater Dei senior girls golfer Khameryn Utu shot a personal-best 67 on Monday at Long Beach Recreation Park's par-74 course to lead the Monarchs to victory in the Long Beach Invitational. "She's an excellent all-around player," said Mater Dei coach Ramon Aguirre of Utu. "She hits it long and her short game is good." Utu finished third in last year's CIF-SS individual finals, in which Kennedy's Irene Kim was second. @SteveFryer on Twitter

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October 4, 2018


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