Last year was a historic one for the league as Long Beach Poly won its first title in 15 years, and Millikan said goodbye to veteran coach Rod Petkovic after 39 seasons at the helm.
Long Beach Poly has been working hard during this extended offseason to successfully defend its title, and fifth-year coach Eric Leon said he expects to be one of the highest scoring teams in the league with Moore League Offensive Player of the Year Kenny Barnabee back after a breakout junior season. He’ll be joined once again by fellow impact returners Ethan Shnack, Christian Mendoza, Bryant Amador, Nathaniel Goodman and Luke Brown.
Mendoza will lead a backline that is a work in progress in front of new sophomore goalkeeper Amir Espinoza. The Poly midfield will be more experienced with Amador and Brown welcoming junior Omar Juarez into the mix. Leon said he’s a dynamic playmaker coming back from developmental academy commitments.
“We did a good job of mentally preparing to come back to play with weekly Zoom calls and conditioning practices,” Leon said. “But with no preseason games in the books we hope that our intersquad scrimmages along with some heavy conditioning days come in handy.”
Millikan has a new coach for the first time ever, but Jeff Schofield also brings with him more than 20 years of coaching experience. He was at Marina High for 13 years, coached at multiple elite clubs and was an assistant at Orange Coast College, Golden West and Vanguard junior colleges.
Two years ago, Schofield was two weeks removed from coaching club in order to spend more time with his young children. Petkovic convinced Schofield to come shadow him for a year before taking over himself.
“There’s an expectation to win because the Millikan program has been synonymous with winning forever,” Schofield said. “On one hand that’s challenging because it puts pressure on you. But it’s also somewhat of a blessing because I’ve got guys who what to win, want to work, want to get better and keep that tradition going.”
With knowledge of the roster in hand, Schofield knows captains Jesus Moreno and Michael Schoen will be his most important leaders on the field. Moreno will be up top again, and Schoen will be the new goalkeeper. Other key returners will be defender Christian Palacios, forward Anton Moore and defender Noah Scott.
The Millikan midfield is full of newcomers with Heath Pablico, Samani Villanueva and Pierre Khoury ready to make an immediate impact. Danny Guttierez will also be a welcomed addition to the Rams attack.
Wilson went through the inevitable rebuilding season last year after winning its first league title in 12 years and graduating 24 seniors off that squad. Coach C.J. Brewer said he’s tried to do a good job of keeping his players busy so they don’t have to play catch up when it comes to fitness.
“Our expectation for this team is to unite and play together, every minute, every game,” Brewer said. “We want to be hard to beat. It’s hard to beat someone who never quits. “
Seniors Fernando Rameriz and Daniel Cervantes look to be the most reliable leaders for Brewer. Rameriz will be a workhorse in the midfield who will need to communicate well with his teammates in order to orchestrate their formation. Cervantes, who scored in CIF playoff games as a freshman and sophomore, will be back at striker. Brewer added that junior Beck Peterson will be a key utility player.
Brewer is also excited to see what newcomer Gavin Pool-Harris can do at goalkeeper this year. The sophomore is a developmental academy talent.
Cabrillo has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and its residual effects on players’ eligibility or availability. Veteran coach Pat Noyes said he’s still trying to get some players cleared to take the field.
“Turnout has been sporadic for us,” Noyes said of his offseason training sessions. “Each activity and each scrimmage we try to put new kids and older kids in new situations. It is what it is.”
Noyes is being realistic and said that finishing the season with all three levels playing games will constitute a successful season, but that his program is hungry to repeat the success of the CIF State Championship two seasons ago. Cabrillo will start the season with only a varsity squad, and will add the lower levels for the second round of league play.
Junior Miguel Ruiz has emerged as a strong team captain who will need to shepherd a host of newcomers including Antonio Diaz, Duanne Baker, Tyler Brand, Alex Ochoa, Alan Flores, William Lopez and Ezra Salcido.
Jordan is coming off an inconsistent campaign that saw them finish fourth after taking points at Poly, Wilson, Cabrillo and Millikan.
Lakewood has set a CIF playoff appearance as their team goal this season with a host of returning starters. Jonathan Guerrero and Lewis Blanton have been selected as team captains.
Compton didn’t win a league game last year, and hopes to turn things around with Juan Reynoso back at the helm. Seniors Andrew Pocassangre and Brandon Morales will be the team captains.
St. Anthony has a new coach in Aaron Rodriguez and the Saints are looking to repeat their success from last season when they went to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time in school history. Senior Jacob Hunter and junior Michael Chage have been selected as team captains.