This is the fourth in a series of posts comparing two local rivals who both may be toward the top of the preseason state football rankings. We’ll write up what we think these teams will be like heading into the season, then we hope to see what their fans have to say through comments, reaction.
(Thanks to San Diego contributor Thomas Gutierrez for providing details on these teams)
To check out the preseason Top 100 Player Rankings, you need to be a member of our Gold Club. If you’re not and want to get everything we do on California high school sports, CLICK HERE.
What The Teams Accomplished Last Season: For the 10th season in a row, Oceanside (10-3) made it to the CIF San Diego Section finals, but was outplayed by determined and talented Mission Hills. The Pirates’ season was highlighted by one of the best games of the year at the U-T Honor Bowl against the highly touted Serra Gardena. The game resulted in a close loss, but demonstrated that the Pirates could compete with top CIF Southern Section programs. Mission Hills (12-2) defeated Oceanside for the first time in school history, then won a CIF San Diego Section title in the newly created Open Division The Grizzlies showed they were a complete team by winning convincingly over Oceanside in the section final and losing in a close game to Bakersfield in the CIF SoCal Division I bowl game.
Shapshot of Oceanside: It was great news when the Pirates learned that legendary head coach John Carroll would return this season after health issues caused him to miss some games last year. The first outings out of the gate should provide a gage and challenge to prepare for a 2014 championship run, with Mission Viejo representing their biggest test at the U-T Honor Bowl. Other than a spirited 7-on-7 game a few weeks back, these two great programs (Oceanside/Mission Viejo) have never faced each other on the gridiron. The Pirates should be led on defense by one of the best defensive ends in San Diego in Tommy Woo, and Washington-bound Jordan Miller at cornerback. On the other side of the ball, improved QB Matthew Romero has developed his skill set and poise. The Pirates lost several D-1 players, including Jace Whittaker to Arizona and Elijah Holder to Stanford, but are not doing too bad this year with five D-1 prospects. Through great coaching and the fact that high school players physically change over the seasons, the Pirates replenish with size and talent on a consistent basis.
Shapshot of Mission Hills: The Grizzlies had a tremendous season last year by beating their arch-rival from Oceanside in the regular season and in the section championship game. Coach Chris Hauser, who has been a staple in the North County with Vista and now Mission Hills, will continue to produce top level teams. Top players Ricky Liuchan, Fred Warner, and QB Conner Wynn are gone, but with new quarterback Dakota Miller (who played junior varsity at Oceanside last season), the Grizzlies may not miss a beat. This left-hander shows reminisces of Mark Brunell. He can scramble and has a powerful, accurate arm. Most importantly, he plays fearlessly and illustrates confidence beyond your average junior. On defense, there is blazing speed from Martrel Holmes, who was clocked 4.49 in the 40. But it is All-State Underclass pick Dechaun Holiday that Oceanside will be most concerned about. He is being recruited by several colleges, including Florida State, Oregon and USC.
Top Players for Oceanside: OL Cedric Bigge-Duren (Washington St. commit); OL Christian Cronk (D-1 recruit); DL Tommy Woo (D-1 recruit); DB Jordan Miller (Washington commit); WR/LB Sai PaoPao (D-1 recruit).
Top Players for Mission Hills: Jr. QB Dakota Miller (D-1 recruit), DB Martel Holmes (4.49 in the 40), DB Dechaun Holiday (ESPN 4 Star recruit); DE Jared Cheatwood (D-1 recruit); TE/LB Justus Tei (D-1 recruit).
Recent History Between These Two: The last meeting in 2013 resulted in a 36-14 defeat for Oceanside in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division final. In all of the games played between these two stellar programs, however, the Pirates still lead 5-2-1. Mission Hills is still a relatively new school, but these two programs have established a rivalry that is based on competitiveness through upper echelon players and elite coaching rather than location and tradition.
Hunch As To Where Each Team Should Be Ranked In The Preseason: Both teams will be in the 1-2 or 2-3 slots for the San Diego Section to start out with Helix of La Mesa the other team that should be up there. The Highlanders are loaded with returnees and lost by just three points in the playoffs to Mission Hills last season. Both Mission Hills and Oceanside do play a stronger early schedule compared to Helix, however, so we’re currently leaning toward starting those two higher and then see what happens.
Next Preseason Duel: Westlake (Westlake Village) vs. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village).