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.
For the St. Margaret’s football program, being a small school doesn’t mean having small goals, and the 2023 Tartans have their sights set on bigger and better with new head coach Dan O’Shea.
O’Shea comes to St. Margaret’s with plenty of high-level pedigree in Orange County football, including a 2019 state championship and an 80-18 mark in eight seasons at his previous position as head coach at Corona del Mar High.
O’Shea is more than familiar with the long history of athletic success at St. Margaret’s—his wife works on the academic side of the school, and they have two children in the elementary school. O’Shea aims to bring the Tartans back to that championship level and expand the program.
“I could not be more happy,” O’Shea said. “It was an opportunity to come where my family is, a school I’ve been a part of the past eight years, knowing the storied history of this particular program and its success over the years. We’re just so interested in not only establishing a competitive, hard-working, disciplined and fundamental team, but building the numbers. That’s our No. 1 priority. We’ve had a wonderful opportunity building with our youth program so far.”
O’Shea can take a pretty good swing at success in his first year, thanks to much of the returning talent.
That starts with returning senior quarterback Max Ruff, who threw for 2,356 yards and 26 touchdowns with a 61% completion rate last season. The three-star signal-caller will take the reins of a spread offense under former San Clemente offensive coordinator Brandon Camarillo.
“We installed a new offense, asking the quarterback to be the triggerman for this,” O’Shea said. “Not only making the line calls, but getting everybody in the right place for perfect execution. His ability to process information is as good as it gets.”
Ruff will have plenty of options to spread the ball around with returning junior wide receivers Maverick Young and Will Viola and the emergence of senior tight end Russell Frye. Frye has made his name at St. Margaret’s on the basketball and volleyball courts, but now his 6-foot-4, 187-pound frame transitions over to football for a stron,g over-the-middle option for Ruff.
“What an amazing athlete,” O’Shea said. “He’s just got natural gifts—certainly the ability to run and catch the football, but what we’re most impressed by is how physical he is in the run game and as an in-line tight end blocking.”
O’Shea initially made his mark at Corona del Mar on the defensive side of the ball, when the Sea Kings won three CIF-SS championships with O’Shea as the defensive coordinator. The new Tartans coach likes the back seven of his new defense.
St. Margaret’s has experience from the linebackers with Battle Gideons, Chase Springer and Jack Klausner and in the secondary with returning starters Luke Newman, Sebastian Salazar and Drew Otto. Gideons was the team’s second-leading tackler as a junior with 93 tackles, and Salazar was fourth with 56 tackles as a freshman.
O’Shea has been impressed with his returning talent through his first summer with the group, but with lofty goals, his main focus is building out the depth of the roster to have a complete unit that can compete deep into November.
“I’m really comfortable with our returning guys who have a lot of snaps,” O’Shea said. “What we want to do in the early going is especially develop our young guys and our depth. Our goal is to play for 16 weeks, and to do that, we need the young guys to develop. And to establish a frosh/soph program, which they haven’t had here in three years.”
St. Margaret’s had to make a late charge in league play to earn the Orange Coast League’s final playoff spot, and as the top of the league remains strong with the likes of Orange and Santa Ana, the Tartans will again have to slug it out in the public-school league.
However, O’Shea has the know-how and the energy to keep pushing this St. Margaret’s program higher and past the challenges it faces.
Date Opponent Location, Time
8/18 Ontario Christian SMES, 7 p.m.
8/25 Western Western HS, 7 p.m.
9/1 CVCS Saddleback College, 7 p.m.
9/8 John Muir John Muir HS, 7 p.m.
9/14 Santa Ana* Santa Ana Bowl, 7 p.m.
9/22 Orange* El Modena HS, 7 p.m.
9/29 Estancia* SMES, 7 p.m.
10/13 Costa Mesa* SMES, 7 p.m.
10/20 Saddleback* Saddleback HS, 7 p.m.
10/27 Calvary Chapel* SMES, 7 p.m.
*- Orange Coast League game