The stars, standouts, stellar teams of 2022 Southland football

We made it!

Sixteen weeks of high school football ended Saturday night with no COVID shutdowns, no wildfires disrupting games, no lawsuits distracting teams or fans.

The journey began in August in Allen, Texas, when Bellflower St. John Bosco demolished one of Texas’ top teams 52-14 in a packed stadium. The season concluded Saturday night with St. John Bosco beating Northern California’s top team San Mateo Serra 45-0 at Saddleback College in the bowl game of the CIF Open Division State Championship.

The drama has been all but eliminated at the highest level of football in Southern California. From the first training sessions in July, it was always a matter of whether St. John Bosco or Santa Ana Mater Dei would win the 2022 final. This has been the case since 2016. And this is how it will continue in 2023. They’ve set themselves apart by accumulating so much talent and depth that everyone else is playing for third or fourth place.

The dominance is akin to the days when a single Northern California team, Concord De La Salle, won 151 straight games. Coach Jason Negro said on Saturday night: “At the end of the day you have to give us credit because we realized what we had to do to successfully beat De La Salles. To beat off the Mater Deis. To shoot down all the comers across the land.”

St. John Bosco quarterback Pierce Clarkson holds up the state championship trophy as coach Jason Negro celebrates.

St. John Bosco quarterback Pierce Clarkson holds up the state championship trophy as coach Jason Negro celebrates.

(Craig Weston)

Those who think two dominant teams aren’t good for high school football might want to voice their displeasure as the Southern Section is in the process of hiring a replacement for Rob Wigod as the new commissioner. One of the questions the Executive Committee should ask candidates during interviews is how to make the Division 1 playoffs more competitive.

This season will be remembered for the quality of individual players.

For pure excitement, nothing compares to waiting for Gardena Serra’s Rodrick Pleasant to get his hands on a ball, whether it’s with an interception or kickoff return, and then seeing his speed kick in – he’s got the 100 yards in 10.14 seconds run.

Speed ​​was a big divider. Los Alamitos receiver Makai Lemon proved to be the best receiver in the state as he helped the Griffins reach the Division 1 semifinals.

Granada Hills’ Dijon Stanley used his 400-yard pace to make defenders feel helpless, running for 378 yards in the City Section Division I championship game.

Birmingham junior Peyton Waters helped his team extend their winning streak to 34 games against City Section opponents by appearing as cornerback, receiver and Wildcat quarterback.

Mater Dei’s senior linebacker Leviticus Su’a was so good he earned MVP honors in the mighty Trinity League.

Newbury Park freshman quarterback Brady Smigiel turned out to be better than advertised, rushing for 3,479 yards and 46 touchdowns. Against rival Thousand Oaks, he was intercepted three times in the first quarter. His team fell 20-0 behind. Did he sulk? Did he rage? Did he apologize? He rallied his team to tie the Lancers and sent the game into overtime before losing 41-38. A star quarterback was born.

Bruce Rollinson announced on a Thursday night before the team’s first playoff game that he was retiring after 34 years as head coach at Mater Dei. The school president says it was Rollinson’s decision. Whenever the Diocese of Orange decides to release a safety assessment of the Monarchs’ sports program, which has been “in the works” for more than a year, we may learn more.

The non-St. John Bosco team of the year was Laguna Hills, who, 15-1, were the only Southern California team to travel to rain-soaked Northern California and win a state title. The Hawks bounced back from a 27-7 halftime deficit to win the 3-A title over San Jose Bellarmine 28-27. Running back Troy Leigber contributed an amazing 52 touchdowns this season.

In a changing environment where what’s happening at the pro and collegiate levels trickles down to high schools, many issues lie ahead, from name, image and likeness to the future of competitive equity in the playoffs if it there is no competitiveness at the highest level.

There are disagreements that may never be resolved, but let’s not forget inspirational moments, like teams that haven’t won titles in years but are thriving, like Laguna Beach and San Gabriel.

And then there’s the return of swagger after Crenshaw, which won the City Section Division III championship after teetering on the brink of shutting down its program during the pandemic days.

“It was very close,” Garrett said. “Already this summer, the team was on the verge of dissolution.”

The Cougars are on their way back with 20 undergrads who have committed to playing soccer.

“I’m smiling,” Garrett said. “These kids are great.”

Staff writer Luca Evans contributed to this column. The stars, standouts, stellar teams of 2022 Southland football

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