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By Zach Cavanagh

San Juan Hills football knows where it belongs in the classes of Orange County high school football.

In the years prior to head coach Rob Frith’s arrival and since his tenure began in 2018, the Stallions have produced top college recruits. San Juan Hills also now has the hardware after winning its first CIF-SS championship in 2019.

San Juan Hills had risen back to the South Coast League in 2020 and was ready to prove it belonged in what Frith called “arguably the best public school league in the county, maybe even Southern California.”

Instead, the Stallions dealt with the turmoil of the pandemic, and once the season finally arrived in March, San Juan Hills had seemingly set itself up for a strong showing in its return to the South Coast League with two strong crossover wins against Sea View League opponents.

San Juan Hills quarterback Colton Joseph. Photo: Zach Cavanagh

Then injuries struck, and instead of giving a full-force swing at the league’s elite, the Stallions were summarily beaten by league standard Mission Viejo and eventual league champion San Clemente. Even San Juan Hills’ final shot against rival Tesoro in the Battle for the Bell was snuffed out in a late slip-up in a one-point loss.

Now back on track for a normal schedule and a full slate in the fall of 2021, the Stallions have talent shining throughout their skill positions, and groups of big, strong linemen ready to take on the challenge and fight to stay in the South Coast League.

“Last season was obviously very disappointing,” senior defensive back Chase Schmidt said. “Our group of seniors this year, we’ve all banded together, we have a strong bond, we’ve grinded super hard. We’re all holding each other accountable and trying to make the most of our last season together.”

When looking over the bona fides of the San Juan Hills roster, eyes fall immediately on a talented group of wide receivers. Braden Pegan is a UCLA commit; Elijah Barclay, a former Mater Dei player who transferred from Salpointe High School in Arizona, has college offers from Arizona, Nebraska, TCU and Purdue, among others; and Cole Monach has been an instrumental varsity player since the 2019 CIF-SS title run.

Junior quarterback Colton Joseph figures to be the starting quarterback who will find connections in this receiver group, and Luke Davis will also get snaps at quarterback as a “Taysom Hill-type” utility player, according to Frith.

Photo: Zach Cavanagh

For San Juan Hills, even if the passing offense develops, the overall offense begins at the ground level with the running game and the offensive line. Four starting linemen return to a deep group that Frith called one of the best he’s had in his time at San Juan Hills.

Defensively, San Juan Hills returns its three starting down linemen in what is always an aggressive and creative front from defensive coordinator Pete Silvey. Senior defensive end Jaden Williams (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), junior defensive end Brayden Bockler (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and junior nose tackle Jasper O’Loughlin (6-foot-2, 340 pounds) make up that line.

The secondary is made up of fast players with good ball skills including Schmidt and most of the receiving corps, including Pegan, Barclay and Monach.

San Juan Hills boasts one of the toughest schedules in the entire county, and that’s just how Frith likes it. Frith likes to challenge his teams with tough games, like their opener against Santa Margarita of the Trinity League on Aug 20 at Saddleback College. The schedule will also help in the new current-season, power rankings-based CIF-SS playoff format, which Frith is also a fan of and rewards teams for criteria such as strength of schedule.

The early challenges prepare the Stallions for their tough league slate and will get them battle-tested for a potential playoff run ahead.

Schedule

Date    Opponent                               Location, Time

8/20     Santa Margarita                     Saddleback College, 7 p.m.

8/27     Cypress                                    SJHHS, 7 p.m.

9/3       Roosevelt (Eastvale)               SJHHS, 7 p.m.

9/10     Yorba Linda                             SJHHS, 7 p.m.

9/17     Corona del Mar                       SJHHS, 7 p.m.

10/1     El Toro                                     ETHS, 7 p.m.

10/8     Capistrano Valley                    SJHHS, 7 p.m.

10/15   San Clemente*                       SCHS, 7 p.m.

10/22   Mission Viejo*                         SJHHS, 7 p.m.

10/29   Tesoro*                                   THS, 7 p.m.

*– South Coast League game

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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