By Zach Cavanagh
In a year like none before it, San Juan Capistrano athletes still found success in the small early window they had and well after the stadiums and gyms had closed.
Here is a look back at some of the memorable San Juan Capistrano sports moments of 2020:
Efstathiou Returns to San Juan Hills Bench
After being away from the team since May battling a rare neuropathy and only joining for practices in December, San Juan Hills boys basketball coach Jason Efstathiou returned to full head coaching duties on Jan. 3.
All Five SJC Boys Basketball Teams Make Playoffs
The boys basketball teams for San Juan Hills, JSerra, Capistrano Valley Christian, St. Margaret’s and Saddleback Valley Christian all qualified for the CIF-SS playoffs. JSerra made the deepest run to the Division 1 semifinals.
San Juan Hills Qualifies for All Winter Sports Playoffs
In addition to the boys basketball team, the Stallions’ girls basketball team, boys and girls soccer teams and girls water polo team all qualified for the CIF-SS postseason.
JSerra Girls Soccer Makes Fourth Straight Regional Final
Despite falling in the CIF-SS semifinals after a run of three straight CIF-SS titles, the JSerra girls soccer team fought its way to a fourth straight CIF Southern California Regional title game. JSerra fell to Upland, 3-2.
CUSD Athletics, Youth Sports Suspend Activities
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Capistrano Unified School District canceled all athletic events and competitions on March 12 through spring break, and nearly all youth sports organizations suspended activities earlier or immediately thereafter.
CIF Cancels Spring Sports Championships
The CIF State office and CIF-SS canceled the section, region and state playoffs for spring sports. The move, along with CUSD schools closing indefinitely, brought an end to any hopes of resuming and finishing the spring sports season.
JSerra Alumnus Nick Harris Selected in NFL Draft
University of Washington lineman and 2016 JSerra graduate Nick Harris became the second JSerra alumnus to be selected in the NFL Draft. The Cleveland Browns picked Harris in the fifth round.
Joey Hobert contributed in all phases –offense, defense and special teams—in San Juan Hills football’s run to its first CIF-SS championship. Max Miller scored 163 goals for the CIF-SS runner-up boys water polo team. Lucy Hodge scored 44 goals in six games for the Stallions girls lacrosse team.
Three-time state cross country champion Anthony Grover was the JSerra male athlete of the year. All-CIF soccer player Samantha Williams was the JSerra female athlete of the year. All-CIF football player Will Kenner was the St. Margaret’s male athlete of the year. Southern Section girls lacrosse champion Campbell Case was the St. Margaret’s female athlete of the year.
Youth, High School Sports Put on Hold Again
After Orange County put out guidance allowing youth sports to resume in June, many programs started practices, and CUSD was set to open camps on July 6. However, CUSD canceled those plans ahead of July 7, when the state counteracted the county and confirmed earlier guidance that youth sports were not yet permitted to return.
CIF Pushes Back Start of School Sports to December
CIF State reorganized its sports calendar and scheduled fall sports to begin in December, starting with boys volleyball games on Dec. 12 and football practices on Dec. 14. In December, the start of school sports was delayed until January and fall sports regional and state championships were canceled.
CUSD Athletic Programs Begin Conditioning Camps
CUSD Athletics Programs Expand Camps
As some COVID-19 restrictions eased, CUSD allowed for larger groups and varied workouts and drills in Phase 2 in late September and Phase 3 in late October. Teams were able to start using weights and could incorporate balls and equipment into their drills.
Williams Opens Record-Tying Special Teams Season
JSerra alumnus Avery Williams had another explosive season for Boise State on special teams and finished his college career with nine return TDs, which tied the NCAA FBS record set by former Washington returner and fellow JSerra graduate Dante Pettis.
JSerra Honors 19 Athletes on Fall Signing Day
JSerra had 19 student-athletes make their college choices on Fall Signing Day. The Lions had nine baseball players sign, including four with UCLA. San Juan Hills had four signees.
State Provides Guidance Tied to Tier System
The state finally delivered guidelines for youth and high school sports tied to the four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system. Low-contact sports including cross country and baseball could return in the purple or red high-risk tiers, but high-contact or indoor sports including football and basketball couldn’t return until the orange or yellow lower-risk tiers.