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.
New JSerra football head coach Victor Santa Cruz isn’t shying away from “the best league there is in the United States” in the Trinity League.
“It’s like the old golf adage. What’s the course record, and where’s the first tee?” Santa Cruz said. “That’s what we’re looking at. We’re here to win it all, and we’d like to do it this year. But we know it’s Trinity League football, so our plan is to attack, go for it, swing for the fences and do the actual physical and mental work that gives you a chance to do it.”
It’s part of the reason Santa Cruz took the job.
Coming in from the college ranks, Santa Cruz was more than familiar with Trinity League football when he recruited the area. Santa Cruz was most recently the defensive coordinator at the University of Hawaii following 15 years as the head coach of Azusa Pacific University.
The high standard that the Trinity League necessitates, along with the culture and aims of the JSerra administration, made the job an easy sell for Santa Cruz.
“That’s why I enjoy being here at a Trinity school and why I really investigated the opportunity,” Santa Cruz said. “I’ve got the ultimate respect for high school coaches, because it’s such a critical time of life that you need good mentors. With the Trinity League, the competition is every day, and I like that. When you recruited these schools, you just knew there was a high commitment to having a great football program.”
What Santa Cruz is taking over is a program that surprised many with its competitive run in the Trinity League and a CIF-SS playoff win over a league opponent and has plenty of growth potential.
An immediate spot for growth is on offense, as San Juan Hills transfer Michael “Butter” Tollefson comes in for his junior season. Tollefson, an Arizona State commit with 23 Division 1 college offers, is set to be the starter over returning senior Zander Singh, who completed just under 50% of his passes last season but did enough to help guide JSerra into the playoffs.
“When you have more competition inside your roster, that helps everybody elevate. Rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s really happened,” Santa Cruz said. “Zander is a veteran with wins under his belt. I respect the heck out of him. I know he’ll be a great contributor for us. Butter is just a different athlete in his own right.”
Tollefson is a dual threat in the backfield who started as a freshman and a sophomore at San Juan Hills. Last season, Tollefson completed over 52% of his passes for 1,567 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions and ran for another 644 yards and nine touchdowns. It was a slight slip in statistics from his freshman year, as the Stallions started 0-7.
However, Santa Cruz sees it all as part of the growth process for the talented young signal-caller.
“I think what’s happened in this age of what recruiting has become, I think what everybody forgot, was that high schoolers are going through a radical developmental process from freshman to senior year. So, from sophomore to junior, it’s so critical.”
Tollefson will be aided by returning starting running back George Perez, who ran for 776 yards on 176 carries with seven touchdowns in his sophomore season. Junior receiver Logan Christensen and Brett DeBergh will also be attractive targets in this new offense. Jake Flores, a 6-foot-6 junior lineman with 19 Division 1 college offers, leads the group up front.
JSerra’s defense is what sparked the Lions at the end of the season with a shutout against Servite and game-changing plays in the finale over Orange Lutheran and the playoffs over Santa Margarita. It was the first time JSerra won back-to-back Trinity League games or a playoff game since 2018.
Jack Munro, Clarence Chaney, Luke Webb and Christensen lead the defensive returners, along with Cathedral Catholic transfer junior Madden Faraimo—a four-star linebacker who has 19 Division 1 college offers, including Alabama.
It’s early, but Santa Cruz and his group of Lions are taking their first steps to program-defining success.
“I think what people are starting to understand, culturally-wise, we’re at a place where we say we’re building champions while pursuing championships,” Santa Cruz said. “We hired to that. We really mean that. It’s what our players see every day when they come to work here. They’re surrounded by great mentors.”
Date Opponent Location, Time
8/18 Sierra Canyon Sierra Canyon HS, 7 p.m.
8/25 Aquinas JSCHS, 7 p.m.
9/1 Chaminade JSCHS, 7 p.m.
9/8 Notre Dame (SO) JSCHS, 7 p.m.
9/15 Clovis North Clovis Buchanan HS, 7 p.m.
9/29 Orange Lutheran* JSCHS, 7 p.m.
10/6 Mater Dei* Santa Ana Bowl, 7 p.m.
10/13 Santa Margarita* JSCHS, 7 p.m.
10/20 St. John Bosco* JSCHS, 7 p.m.
10/27 Servite* Cerritos College, 7 p.m.
*- Trinity League game