A look at each of the Orange County high school football leagues, with our pick for the league favorite.
League favorite: Fairmont Prep
Outlook: Fairmont Prep went 6-6 overall last season and was second in the league to Capistrano Valley Christian, which has been moved to the San Joaquin League. Fairmont Prep brings back starting quarterback Lui Ala, a senior who was all-league second team last year, and running back Jason Terry, who was all-league first team last season when he rushed for 1,178 yards and 22 touchdowns. Trinity Classical of Valencia (5-5 in 2018) is a league title contender.
Key league game: Trinity Classical vs. Fairmont Prep at Yorba Linda High, Nov. 2
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BIG 4 LEAGUE
League favorite: Segerstrom
Outlook: Garden Grove won the championship of this four-team league last season, but not by much. The Argonauts beat second-place Segerstrom 21-14 in overtime to take the title of this league, which is part of the Golden West Conference. (The Pac 4 League is the other four-team league in the conference that debuted last year.) It could be Segerstrom’s turn this season. The Jaguars, 8-3 last year, will be led by quarterback Angel Vega, who was a league co-offensive player of the year last season as a sophomore. Senior linebacker Reymundo Garcia was a 2018 league co-defensive player of the year. Expect Garden Grove, 11-2 and a Division 9 semifinalist last season, to be a league contender, of course.
Key league game: Garden Grove at Segerstrom, Oct. 18
League favorite: Villa Park
Outlook: Villa Park has not lost a league game since the Crestview League formed a few years ago. The Spartans (12-1 in 2018) likely will continue that trend in 2019. The Alefosio brothers, senior Zion (league player of the year last season) and junior Zeus, are playmakers. Villa Park will be challenged by Yorba Linda (9-3 overall, 2-1 in league last year). El Modena (6-5, 0-3) could be better than it was last season.
Key league game: Villa Park at Yorba Linda, Oct. 13.
League favorite: Valencia
Outlook: Valencia won the league title last season with a 5-0 league record and finished 11-2 overall while advancing to the Division 7 semifinals. The Tigers bring back senior all-league quarterback Sean McHale, who last season passed for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for more than 500 yards. Cypress (5-6, 3-2 in 2018) and Tustin (4-7, 3-2) look like the Tigers’ top challengers.
Key league game: Cypress at Valencia, Oct. 11.
League favorite: La Habra
Outlook: La Habra is going to be undefeated in this league, just like last year. The Highlanders (7-4 overall last year) have the league’s best player, senior defensive back/receiver Clark Phillips III, who has committed to Ohio State. Senior quarterback Ryan Zanelli seems set for a spectacular season. It’s a significant dropoff from La Habra to the rest of the league, with Sunny Hills (8-3, 4-1) probably the best of the rest.
Key league game: La Habra vs. Sunny Hills at Buena Park High, Oct. 18
GARDEN GROVE LEAGUE
League favorite: Rancho Alamitos
Outlook: Loara and Rancho Alamitos appear to be the best teams in this league. Rancho Alamitos (7-4 overall) won the 2018 league title with a 5-0 league record, with Loara (8-4, 4-1) second. Loara is getting better each season as would be expected since Mitch Olson took over as head coach. Another team that could contend is Santiago (6-4, 3-2).
Key league game: Loara vs. Rancho Alamitos at Garden Grove High, Oct. 4
NORTH HILLS LEAGUE
League favorite: Foothill
Outlook: After a couple of tough years, Foothill had a good 2018 in which it won the league title with a 3-0 record. The Knights (4-7 overall) bring back 2018 league player of the year, senior receiver/defensive back Gabe Gallardo, and junior running back Roman Pistone, who was league offensive player of the year. Brea Olinda (8-6, 2-1) last year lost to Foothill by six points in a league game, then in the playoffs advanced to the Division 9 final. El Dorado (3-7, 1-2) should be better.
Key league game: Foothill at Brea Olinda, Nov. 1
League favorite: Maranatha of Pasadena
Outlook: Maranatha (6-5, 3-1) will battle defending league champion Heritage Christian (9-1, 4-0) for the league title. Whittier Christian (0-9, 0-4) will have to make grand improvement to contend.
Key league game: Maranatha vs. Heritage Christian at Granada Hills High, Oct. 5
League favorite: Katella
Outlook: Graduation took many top players from Katella’s 2018 team that went 10-0 in the regular season and 5-0 in league and lost in the Division 8 quarterfinals. The Knights remain strong, though, so they are the choice to win the league title again. Savanna (9-3, 4-1) last year was Katella’s top league challenge. That might be Anaheim (5-5, 3-2) this year. Katella’s average margin of victory in league games last season was 46 points. The Knights might not be that dominating in 2019, but they still should be league champions.
Key league game: Katella vs. Anaheim at Glover Stadium, Oct. 25
ORANGE COAST LEAGUE
League favorite: Santa Ana
Outlook: Santa Ana was 10-3 overall and Orange Coast champion with a 5-0 league record. Orange (8-3, 4-1) was second. It could be the same this year. Or it could be reversed. The league champion almost certainly will be one of the two. There is a deep drop from Santa Ana and Orange to the rest of the league.
Key league game: Santa Ana vs. Orange at Chapman University, Nov. 1
PAC 4 LEAGUE
League favorite: Western
Outlook: Western has the Savage brothers, Caine and Cassius. Caine was CIF-SS Division 11 player of the year and Cassius was All-CIF last season, when the Pioneers (12-3) won their first CIF football championship. There was a three-way tie for the Pac 4 championship as Western, Ocean View and Laguna Beach all went 2-1 in league. Western looks like an undefeated champ this year, with Laguna Beach probably the next best.
Key league game: Western at Laguna Beach, Oct. 25
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE
League favorite: Woodbridge
Outlook: Woodbridge has five all-league returnees from last year’s team that was 5-0 in league and 7-4 overall. The interesting team to watch in this group is Portola. which will have its first class of seniors. Portola predictably went 0-5 in league last year but could finish among the league’s top three this year. This could be one of the more competitive leagues in the county.
Key league game: Irvine vs. Woodbridge at University High, Oct. 4
SAN JOAQUIN LEAGUE
League favorite: St. Margaret’s
Outlook: St. Margaret’s is one of the sure-thing league favorites in county football. The Tartans went 3-0 in the league last season and 10-2 overall. They are easily the best of the smaller private school teams in Orange County. Capistrano Valley Christian, which was the Academy League champion last season, going 9-2 overall and 4-0 in league, and Saddleback Valley Christian (3-7, 2-1) will challenge for second place.
Key league game: St. Margaret’s vs. Capistrano Valley Christian at San Clemente High, Nov. 1
SEA VIEW LEAGUE
League favorite: San Juan Hills
Outlook: Defending league champion San Juan Hills (8-4, 4-0) has the league’s best player, All-County all-purpose first-team selection Joey Hobert, and a few other all-league returnees. Aliso Niguel (10-2, 3-1 in 2018) again looks like the Stallions’ chief competition in the league. But don’t count out the other hungry teams.
Key league game: San Juan Hills at Aliso Niguel, Oct.11
SOUTH COAST LEAGUE
League favorite: Mission Viejo
Outlook: San Clemente (7-5, 4-0) won the league championship last season thanks to a gritty 21-20 win over Mission Viejo (6-6, 3-1) on the final night of the regular season. Mission Viejo, with a disruptive front seven on defense and a potentially explosive offense, looks like it will recapture the league throne. Tesoro (6-5, 2-2) might be second best team in the league and certainly has the makings of an Orange County top 10 team. San Clemente might be rebuilding, but Coach Jaime Ortiz is an expert at getting the most out of his roster, so remember the Tritons.
Key league game: Tesoro at Mission Viejo, Nov. 1
League favorite: Corona del Mar
Outlook: Corona del Mar (11-2-1, 4-0-1) returns 10 of 11 starters on an offense that averaged 35 points a game last year, including senior receiver John Humphreys, the 2018 league player of the year, and senior quarterback Ethan Garbers, the 2018 offensive player of the year. Los Alamitos (9-2-1, 4-0-1), which shared the league title with the Sea Kings last season, is strong at all positions and will contend. Edison (5-6, 3-2) always is going to give its best.
Key league game: Los Alamitos vs. Corona del Mar at Newport Harbor High, Nov. 1
League favorite: Mater Dei
Outlook: And that’s Mater Dei (13-2, 4-1) by a nose over St. John Bosco (13-1, 5-0). It’s entirely feasible that Bosco will win the league championship again. JSerra (9-3, 3-2) might have its best football team in school history, but that might be good enough for only third place in this league. Servite (4-5, 1-4) should be better this season.
Key league game: Mater Dei at St. John Bosco, Oct. 25
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