A look back and a look ahead at Orange County high school sports – Orange County Register

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Every high school athletic year is filled with greatness and surprises.

The 2022-23 High School Athletic Year is too much to recite here.

Let’s review some of them and look ahead to the 2023-24 sports year…

Greatness and surprises began in the fall when Bruce Rollinson decided to make last season his last as Mater Dei football coach. Just weeks after Rawlinson said he would return in 2023, he announced that 22 years would be over — and that was a surprise. The greatness lies in all his championship and big game successes in 34 seasons, and the kindness and patience of working with him. …

Patience and kindness also apply to Rob Wigod, who concludes his tenure as CIF’s Southern District Commissioner. He’s advanced the section in every category — competitive fairness, financial stability, playoff quality, and more — and he’s even quelled the usual animosity that public schools have toward private schools. …

Wigod’s replacement is Mike West, who was headmaster at ML King in Riverside and has held various CIF-SS and CIF State positions. …

Leadership in the West and CIF states, as well as California legislators, will also have to deal with trans athletes. Some participated in high school sports, primarily cross country and track, during the previous school year. People love simple solutions to complex problems, but that approach probably won’t work on this one…

Frank McManus replaces Rollinson as Mater Dei’s football coach. As the program’s longtime assistant coach, McManus is a solid choice. Players love him, and he’s already had big wins by keeping ace defensive coordinator Eric Johnson on the team. …

Another interesting football hire is Pacifica’s Kyle Murphy. Murphy, who was a standout assistant at Edison, has long been head coach material but is waiting for the right time and the right circumstances. He’ll make the Pacifica a strong contender for the CIF title in no time. …

Other interesting football coaching moves: Dan O’Shea leaves Corona del Mar coaching position to become Santa Margaret’s head coach; JSerra hires former Azusa Pacific University coach Victor Santa Cruz; Servite hires Friars alum Chris Reinert comes in to replace Troy Thomas, who was inexplicably released; Charlie TeGantvoort leaves Santa Ana for the docks. …

We’re not going to see the results of the Mater Dei Sports Division review that was supposed to be released last June, are we? …

One look at the MLB roster shows just how good Orange County high schools are at the sport. Water sports are equally strong in Orange County. Probably the best sport in the county high school, though, is boys’ and girls’ volleyball, which is surprisingly high-quality and highly entertaining. …

The Newport Harbor Volleyball Team will host the CIF-SS Division 1 Men's Volleyball Championship Medal Celebration on Saturday, May 13, 2023 in Cerritos.  (Photography: Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)
The Newport Harbor Volleyball Team will host the CIF-SS Division 1 Men’s Volleyball Championship Medal Celebration on Saturday, May 13, 2023 in Cerritos. (Photography: Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Another exciting sport, and a relatively new one, is lacrosse. It is fast and strong, requiring stamina and excellent hand-eye coordination. Boys and girls lacrosse is also growing rapidly. …

It’s hard to pick the best game of the year. Just a few weeks ago, a standout candidate emerged: JSerra 1, Santa Margarita 0 in eight innings in the CIF-SS Division 1 baseball tournament. The drama is raw and the atmosphere is intense. …

Another candidate is Canyon’s 58-56 victory over JSerra in the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals. Canyon sophomore Brandon Benjamin’s willpower led to his game-winning shot at the buzzer. …

It’s rare for a sport’s player of the year to transfer, but that happened last school year. Benjamin, Orange County Boys Basketball Player of the Year, left the Canyons to attend Mater Dei. He will be a junior this coming school year…

never give up. Aliso Niguel’s baseball team went 1-7. The Wolverines won the CIF-SS Division 3 Championship. …

Matt Morrell of Cypress is Orange County Men’s Athlete of the Year and Jake Stafford of JSerra is OC Men’s Athlete of the Year. The nominee for both awards is Northwood’s Adam Harper, a classic, old-school, fast and tough running back who is also baseball’s All-CIF. …

The two most dominant individual athletes for the 2022-23 season are Fountain Valley wrestler TJ McDonnell and Santa Margarita swimmer Teagan O’Dell. McDonnell was the CIF-SS and CIF State Champion at 182 pounds. O’Dell, Orange County Women’s Athlete of the Year, set the national record in the 200 medley and broke four Orange County records and three state records. …

Defending champion TJ McDonnell from Fountain Valley High School competed at 182 lbs.  A championship match against Laguna Beach's Jeremy Kanter in the CIF-SS Outback Division Individual Championship on Saturday, February 11, 2023, pinning him at 1:14.  (Photo: Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)
Defending champion TJ McDonnell from Fountain Valley High School competed at 182 lbs. A championship match against Laguna Beach’s Jeremy Kanter in the CIF-SS Outback Division Individual Championship on Saturday, February 11, 2023, pinning him at 1:14. (Photo: Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

The 2023-24 high school athletic year is the final year of Orange County’s existing league structure. For the 2024-25 school year the county football teams — except for the Trinity League teams — will be grouped into leagues based on their performance in the previous two seasons, so we could see the likes of Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos in the same league team. As with other sports, conferences will create leagues we haven’t seen before. …

Women’s volleyball is the first sport to be played in the upcoming school year, with opening day Aug. 12. Soccer teams can play their first game on August 18. …

That brings us to the Orange County 2023 football preseason top 10 to get this done: 1. Mater Dei; 2. Orange Lutheran; 3. Los Alamitos; 4. Mission Viejo; 5. JSerra; 6. Edison; 7. Yorba Linda; 8. Santa Margarita; 9. Cypress; 10. San Clemente. Other considerations are… well, for that you’ll have to wait for our 2023 Football Preseason Top 25 in early August.

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