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In our annual San Juan Capistrano high school football preview, we delve into everything you need to know about the upcoming football season. Click the links below to read the team-specific previews, scroll through the PDF version here for more photos and interviews.

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By Zach Cavanagh

San Juan Hills has a stable of young Stallions ready to take hold of this football team and charge back to the CIF-SS playoffs.

Last season was a disappointment for San Juan Hills by most objective measures. The Stallions lost a handful of close contests against an incredibly tough schedule, and despite a Division 3-level power rating, a 3-7 record kept San Juan Hills out of CIF-SS’ new playoff system.

San Juan Hills head coach Rob Frith has his gripes about the playoff model, which is based off in-season calpreps.com power ratings and slots teams into playoff divisions immediately after the regular season, but he says the team was able to turn the page quickly last year.

“As soon as the season was over, we moved on,” Frith said. “Got back in the weight room, started the process all over again and just focused on ourselves. Whether you go 3-7 or win a CIF championship, you have to erase it and start all over again. Some years, you roll with momentum or sometimes you have to build momentum.”

While San Juan Hills lost its entire starting receiving corps to graduation and NCAA Division 1 opportunities, it feels as if San Juan Hills is rolling with momentum, as well as building.

The Stallions grabbed national attention over the offseason for its two best players, who just happened to be freshmen last season: sophomore quarterback Michael “Butter” Tollefson and sophomore linebacker Weston Port.

Port, listed at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, was named a first-team Freshman All-American by MaxPreps and enters his sophomore year with 18 Division 1 offers, including offseason visits to Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, BYU and Utah. Port has offers from the Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big 10 and beyond.

“It was super fun seeing all the schools and stuff,” Port said. “It’s really cool just to build connections with coaches and see the campuses. It’s a good building experience. … I don’t really focus on the media and everything that’s happening around me. I just focus on what I can control.”

Port led San Juan Hills in tackles (91), tackles for loss (25) and sacks (12). He was already a dynamic force for the Stallions’ stoppers, but he’ll get more work in coverage and will also move all around the San Juan Hills defensive front.

Offensively, San Juan Hills is now completely in the hands of Tollefson. Tollefson was part of a three-way quarterback battle last season and took the reins for good starting in the fifth game of his freshman season. He finished with a 60% completion rate, 1,307 yards passing, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

“I remember the first time I went in, I was so nervous,” Tollefson said. “But over time, you start to get more and more confident and realize it’s just football. You pick up the speed, how defenses move, how momentum works. I’ve gotten a lot more confident.”

Tollefson, who enters the season with 14 Division 1 offers also from the SEC, Pac-12, Big 10, ACC and more, has a new group of receivers to integrate with, along with Brayden Bockler, a senior returner at tight end. Bockler is the only returning player to actually catch a varsity pass last season.

It’ll still be tough sledding early for San Juan Hills with the same extremely competitive schedule as last season, but league play will be an easier task as the Stallions drop down to the Sea View League. Despite having only three home games, San Juan Hills should make its way back to the playoffs this season.

San Juan Hills opens the season at home against Santa Margarita out of the Trinity League on Friday, Aug. 19. The game will be broadcast on Bally Sports West as the CIF-SS Game of the Week.

Schedule

Date      Opponent                           Location, Time

8/19       Santa Margarita                SJHHS, 7:30 p.m.

8/25       Cypress                                Western HS, 7 p.m.

9/2         Roosevelt (Eastvale)       Roosevelt HS, 7 p.m.

9/9         Yorba Linda                         Yorba Linda HS, 7 p.m.

9/15       Corona del Mar                 Newport Harbor HS, 7 p.m.

9/23       El Modena                          SJHHS, 7 p.m.

9/30       Tesoro                                  Tesoro HS, 7 p.m.

10/14     El Toro*                               El Toro HS, 7 p.m.

10/21     Trabuco Hills*                    Trabuco Hills HS, 7 p.m.

10/28     Aliso Niguel*                      SJHHS, 7 p.m.

*- Sea View 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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