The South Bay/Long Beach region is traditionally one of California’s most condensed for individual talent and this season is no different. Similar to last season, three programs (St. John Bosco, Long Beach Poly, Gardena Serra) figure to reign supreme as the vast region’s top teams and those three dominate this preseason honors squad with 13 selections. Note that we also include the L.A. Westside schools with the South Bay/Long Beach schools for purposes of this series.
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MORE PRESEASON HONORS SQUADS: CIFSS/Inland Empire | Central Section | L.A. City Section | Central Coast Section | San Diego Section | Northern Section | CIFSS/Orange County | CIFSS/San Fernando Valley
The Long Beach-South Bay region has traditionally pumped out some of the state’s best football players for many years. For the last two generations, it was concentrated at Long Beach Poly and L.A. City Section programs Carson and Banning. With much of the South Bay’s football talent switching from public to private schools, the two schools that seem to be gobbling up much of the talent that used to go to public schools are St. John Bosco of Bellflower and Serra of Gardena.St. John Bosco opens up the season ranked No. 1 in the state with plenty of talent returning off a club that recorded a historic victory in last year’s CIF Open Division bowl game over De La Salle of Concord. The Braves’ first game is Friday, Aug. 22 in Hawaii against perennial power St. Louis of Honolulu so this honors team has been posted just in time for that.
Serra probably had just as much individual talent as Bosco last season, but hopes for actually playing the Braves in what would have been a titantic CIF Southern California Open Division bowl game between 15-0 teams was lost in a dramatic CIFSS Western Division final to Chaminade of West Hills. Serra opens up the season ranked No. 7 in the state — but only No. 3 in the region. That’s because Long Beach Poly checks in at the No. 6 position, one spot ahead of Serra.
Long Beach Poly has been consistent in producing talent since World War II, and really, since the early 1900s. The Jackrabbits had some lean years, team-wise, in the 1970s and early 1990s, but the individual talent continues to roll through Atlantic Avenue. That bodes well for new coach Antonio Pierce. He isn’t a Poly alum (and that surprised some when his hiring was announced), but he is from the region having attended Paramount High School.
When you add in communities on L.A.’s Westside near LAX like we do for purposes of this team, this team really becomes loaded. In fact, not only does it contain three of the state’s top seven ranked teams, it includes four of the state’s top 10 overall prospects in the preseason 2015 Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100. You could argue the state’s top quarterback (Bosco’s Josh Rosen), top defensive back (Poly’s Iman Marshall) and top linebacker (Serra’s John Houston) hail from the region.
Will the individual talent translate into team success? There’s no guarantee it will, but you can bet many teams will be in the hunt for CIFSS titles in their respective divisions. The only certainty is a majority of the players on this team will eventually sign letters of intent with D1 colleges.
Note: There are additional players mentioned within some of the writeups.
WR — Kanya Bell (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) 6-0, 160, Sr.
Transfer from Diamond Bar is a big-time talent with offers from USC and UCLA, among others. The nephew of famous Poly alum Snoop Dog (whose son also left Diamond Bar and is now at Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas) can play cornerback and is a big play-maker on offense who should thrive in Poly’s wide-open attack.
WR — Nick Karsseboom (El Segundo) 6-1, 160, Sr.
He helped ‘Gundo to its first CIFSS Divisional final by making big plays on both sides of the ball. He had four interceptions on defense and averaged 21.8 yards per catch (41 for 894 yards) with 12 touchdowns while being named to the all CIFSS Northwest Division team.
QB — Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-4, 205, Sr.
Last year’s State Junior Player of the Year quarterbacked Bosco to the CIF Open Division state title by completing 68 percent of his passes while throwing 39 touchdowns against seven interceptions as the Braves finished 16-0. Last year, he was surrounded by a plethora of offensive talent and a great offensive line, but this year he will be counted on more to win games using his own individual abilities, smarts and experience.
RB — Justin Huff (Downey) 5-11, 200, Sr.
A repeat selection, Huff is coming off an injury plagued season in which he rushed for 826 yards and scored eight touchdowns while adding two touchdowns receiving. He showed what he capable of in 2012 when he helped the Vikings win the CIFSS Southeast Division title by rushing for 2,364 yards and 24 touchdowns. It wouldn’t be surprising if he got back to his sophomore level, but he must improve his overall speed to play college football.
RB — Sean McGrew (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 5-8, 175, Jr.
There was a lot of questions this spring surrounding McGrew’s legitimacy as a breakaway runner and college prospect. Did he mainly benefit running behind one of the better offensive lines in state history while racking up 1,928 yards and 23 touchdowns for a 16-0 club as a sophomore? He answered some of those questions by ripping off a 4.51 in the 40 and a 4.16 in the 20-yard shuttle at the 2014 L.A. Nike Camp. Last year’s State Sophomore of the Year may be a slot receiver in college, but he’s a legitimate threat on every down at this level.
RB — Jeremy Calhoun (Poly, Long Beach) 6-0, 180, Sr.
A second team all-area pick and all-CIFSS Pac-Five Division choice as a junior, Calhoun is quick and also a tough runner in between the tackles. As Poly looks to install its new wide open attack under new coach Antonio Pierce, Calhoun’s experience and ability to keep the chains moving will be key against a tough non-league slate.
OL — Rodrigo Sanchez (Norwalk) 6-3, 305, Sr.
The Lancers lose plenty of senior leadership (not to mention the ability of RB Rashaad Penny) off its CIFSS Southeast Division runner-up squad and Sanchez is expected to pick up the slack. In the trenches, there is no slack as this late bloomer paves the way for a double-wing offense with his impressive combination of size and aggressive play.
OL — Roy Hemsley (Windward, Los Angeles) 6-5, 280 Sr.
Known more for his basketball exploits so far, Hemsley’s future is clearly on the gridiron. This small school terror has the necessary size, agility and strength be an offensive tackle at USC, where he’s committed to. He’s ranked No. 27 in the Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 for football and No. 26 in Hot 100 for basketball.
OL — Rasheem Green (Serra, Gardena) 6-3, 270, Sr.
We cheated a bit here because Green is a prototypical college defensive lineman with a great nose for the ball. We have a plethora of top-shelf defensive end types in this region and Green is the biggest, so he shifts over to offense for the purposes of this team. Green burst onto the scene as a junior with 14 sacks and 26 tackles for loss while earning first team all-state underclass honors.
OL — Matt Katnik (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-4, 290, Sr.
This all-state underclass pick will help the Braves suffer little, if any, drop off in the trenches after last year’s historic season. Ranked No. 47 in the Hot 100, Katnik is a good all-around athlete who also does the weight events in track.
OL — Zachary Robertson (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-5, 315, Sr.
Replaces Damien Mama as Bosco’s most physical and imposing tackle and will sign with a Pac-12 program next February. Robertson was a second team all-state underclass choice last season and his performance early will be key as the Braves look to remain the state’s No. 1 ranked team.
K — Alexander Vasquez (La Serna, Whittier) 5-10, 160, Jr.
He had an excellent junior season in helping La Serna capture the CIFSS Southeast Division title. Vasquez converted 61-of-64 PATs and made 8-of-10 field goals, with a long of 40 yards.
DL — Breland Brandt (Windward, Los Angeles) 6-4, 215, Jr.
Another talented Grid-Hooper, Brandt is poised for a breakout junior season after starring at a number of camps this off-season. He’s admittedly new to the football scene after taking up the sport for the first time last season, but when you already field offers from USC and UCLA and have schools such as Alabama touting you as a big-time outside linebacker-defensive end type, you tend to pick up on things quickly.
DL — Joseph Wicker (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) 6-4, 265, Sr.
He was a bit overshadowed on Poly’s defensive front last season by Jason Fao and Caleb Turner, but he still had a good enough year statistically to be named second team all-state underclass. At the L.A. Nike Camp, Wicker looked bigger and quicker and is a big-time defensive end prospect who should open up things for teammates with all the attention he’ll get from offensive coordinators.
DL — Dearryus Dorsey (Santa Monica) 6-2, 245, Sr.
Teammate Terrance Jackson got most of the post-season honors in 2013, but Dorsey is a big-time player and prospect in his own right. As a junior, he was in on 45 tackles, including nine for loss, while adding three sacks. At the L.A. Nike Camp, he looked like he could play either line spot on the next level and also contributes on SaMoHi’s offense as a tight end.
DL — Cedric Muzik (Redondo, Redondo Beach) 6-2, 205, Jr.
Similar to Breland Brandt, Muzik could have a breakout junior campaign. In fact, he was quite productive as a 10th grader, earning all-state sophomore honors after racking up 10 sacks for the Seahawks. He should be one of the top players in the Bay League this season.
LB — Daniel Campos (La Serna, Whittier) 5-11, 190, Jr.
A cinch pick to this team after being named the CIFSS Southeast Division co-Defensive Player of the Year with graduated teammate Luis Camacho, Campos excels against the run and in pass coverage. He racked up 126 tackles, added six sacks and forced a fumble for the Southeast Division champs. Similar to Dearryus Dorsey, he can also contribute at tight end.
LB — Terrence Jackson (Santa Monica) 6-2, 225, Sr.
Statistically, Jackson had one of the better season of any player in L.A.’s Westside/South Bay region, racking up 67 solo tackles, assisting on 28 others with 21 tackles for loss. Jackson, an all-CIFSS Western Division and second team all-state underclass choice in 2013, also had 20 sacks and 29 hurries.
LB — John Houston (Serra, Gardena) 6-3, 220, Sr.
This hard-hitting and athletic ‘backer has an ideal frame to play on the outside on the next level, and like teammate Dwight Williams was last season, Houston rates as the state’s top overall linebacker prospect. He more than just passes the eye ball test on a team loaded with college prospects, as he was first team all-state underclass and all-CIFSS Western Division after collecting 137 tackles and recovering two fumbles.
LB — Darrian Franklin (Downey) 6-0, 205, Jr.
Another prime-time outside ‘backer prospect, Franklin already fields Pac-12 offers and is poised to follow up on his successful spring and summer play. As a tenth-grader, he racked up 34 tackles, including four for loss, with an interception and is known for his smart and aggressive play.
DB — Iman Marshall (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) 6-2, 190, Sr.
A repeat selection, it’s not a stretch to call Marshall the state’s top overall football player. He’s ranked No. 3 in the Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 and this after a junior season in which he racked up 64 tackles and didn’t give up a reception during Moore League play. Yes, not allowing a catch against talents such as Barry Ware (UCLA) makes him one of the state’s best players, but it’s his size, poise, confidence, and smarts on the field that has some longtime observers calling him one of the very best DBs in Poly’s illustrious history.
DB — Jack Jones (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) 5-10, 150, Jr.
The sleeper pick in the secondary, Jones took his lumps at times as Poly’s nickel back, but he also showed major ability as a ball-hawk and is poised to have a breakout season as a wide receiver, too. He was a second team all-state sophomore pick along with secondary mate Micah Croom (now at Anaheim Servite). Iman Marshall might very well go down as Poly’s best all-around pound-for pound DB, but for now that title is held by Jason Jones (’90), Jack’s uncle.
DB — Lucas Cooper (Palos Verdes, PV Estates) 5-10, 165, Sr.
He wasn’t challenged much as the season wore along, but still contributed to a talented defense by racking up 105 tackles and an interception. Cooper was named first team all-Bay League and second team all-region by the South Bay Daily Breeze.
P — Jose Fonseca (Gahr, Cerritos) 5-11, 180, Sr.
Also an excellent soccer player, Fonseca averaged 38.4 yards per punt (24 for 921) and also can kick field goals. He made a 50-yarder vs. Lynwood.
DB/WR/KR — Stanley Norman (Serra, Gardena) 6-0, 185, Sr.
He was named to the all-CIFSS Western Division team last season at Culver City and should help the Cavs remain in CIF state title contention despite big graduation losses. He’s a repeat selection and is best at being physical and taking receivers out of their game. He’s lightening quick, and uses that ability to make big plays on both offense and special teams.
QB/ATH — Mique Juarez (North, Torrance) 6-1, 190, Jr.
This is not just another quarterback we had to make room for. Juarez is the most versatile player in the region, excelling at running, passing, and catching the ball. Juarez, an all-state sophomore and all-CIFSS Northwest Division choice, had 977 yards passing, 714 rushing, 304 receiving and scored 21 touchdowns, including two on kickoff returns. Of course, he has major ability as a defender, too.
QB/RB — Jorge Reyna (Downey) 6-0, 200, Sr.
A returning all-CIFSS Southeast Division choice, Reyna almost made this team last year and left no doubt he’s one of the state’s better dual-threats under center with his standout 2013 season. He passed for 2,027 yards with 20 touchdowns (against seven interceptions) and rushed for 1,018 yards on 105 carries with 10 touchdowns.
RB/DB/WR — Malik Roberson (Serra, Gardena) 5-10, 185 Sr.
He would be a repeat selection had he not tore his ACL during the 2013 track season that forced him to miss all of last year. Roberson is expected to make a full recovery and should be one of the region’s best offensive players after rushing for 1,506 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. He has solid hands and can also contribute in the defensive backfield.
DB/WR — Davir Hamilton (Verbum Dei, Los Angeles) 6-3, 190, Jr.
There’s a couple of sleepers we could have went with for this spot such as Long Beach Millikan RB Donald Gordon, but Hamilton has a chance to be a big-time player on the next level so he’s the choice. He is a big play-maker at receiver and has the size to excel at corner or safety. He originally committed to San Diego State, but has opened his recruitment.
QB/RB — Lars Nootbaar (El Segundo) 6-2, 185, Sr.
A USC baseball commit, Nootbaar could also play on the next level on the gridiron. On this level, he’s ultra-productive, propelling ‘Gundo to its first CIFSS Divisional final by passing for 2,864 yards with 33 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. This all-CIFSS Northwest Division pick only threw one touchdown in the post-season and added nine rushing touchdowns.