The Coast News Group
Carlsbad High's star quarterback Julian Sayin returns for his final season with the Lancers. Photo by Scott Padgett
Carlsbad High's star quarterback Julian Sayin returns for his final season with the Lancers. Photo by Scott Padgett
CarlsbadCarlsbad FeaturedCitiesColumnsCrimeNewsSportsSports Talk

North County prep football is in the air, and it never disappoints

Expectations are sky-high, there are stars wherever one looks, and the whole region is excited for its favorite team to aim for a title.

The San Diego Padres? 

Enough with those underachievers, and excuse us if we don’t check back until next spring.

Instead, it’s fall, and that means high school football is back this weekend, and that’s something that seldom disappoints.

“North County prep football is huge, and I can’t wait for it to get started,’’ said Solana Beach’s John Kentera. “It can really get the school year started in a big way, with a successful team, and that filters throughout the campus and to the other sports.’’

Kentera, the popular host of the “John Kentera Show” on 97.3 FM The Fan, is among local football’s biggest boosters.

Not only did he play for Torrey Pines High’s first team in 1974, but the mere mention of it brings out a career highlight for someone who’s had many.

“I kicked the first extra point in Torrey Pines history,’’ said Kentera, who cut his teeth in the broadcasting business by doing Friday night prep segments. “And it was good.’’

Good, wholesome fun is what prep football brings to countless teenagers, school faculties and a boatload of family and friends. 

Few things are more American than communities joining hands, cheering for the neighborhood youngsters and supporting the hard-working coaches doing it for the love of the game.

Eric Weddle is introduced before Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Photo by Bill Reilly
Former Chargers player Eric Weddle is the head coach of Rancho Bernardo High School’s football team. Photo by Bill Reilly

This year in North County, three former NFL players are wearing the head coach’s headsets. For these gentlemen, who have played the game at its highest level, to sprinkle their passion and spend their time with youngsters, who’ll likely never play in college or beyond, is commendable.

Two ex-Chargers are among them — Eric Weddle at Rancho Bernardo and Nick Novak at Maranatha Christian. Nick Barnett, the former Green Bay Packers linebacker, is in his first year, like Weddle, at Del Norte.

“That shows me those are men of high character,’’ Kentera said. “They certainly aren’t getting rich by doing it, but they are satisfied just giving back to the kids.’’

No kidding, one of the nation’s brightest prep stars is taking snaps at Carlsbad. 

Quarterback Julian Sayin, a five-star recruit, has committed to the University of Alabama. His teammate, linebacker Luke Ferrelli, is bound for Stanford after the season.

ESPN’s cameras, and a national television audience, will be looking in when Carlsbad faces Mater Dei Catholic on Aug. 26.

There are more TV options through YurView California’s nine-game schedule, and it starts on Aug. 24 as Vista tangles with Ramona.

Vista was winless last season, but it has a new coach in Vika Fa’atuiese. The same goes for Oceanside, another one-time North County powerhouse. 

La Costa Canyon is expected to be another strong contender in the Avocado League. Photo by Rudy Schmoke
La Costa Canyon is expected to be another strong contender in the Avocado League. Photo by Rudy Schmoke

The Pirates have spit-and-rinsed the only 0-10 season in school history and are looking to Fale Poumele, its new coach and a former Oceanside star during its glory days, to get things back on track.

Mission Hills is seldom out of the mix and that stays true. With All-CIF tight end/defensive end Jon Class and All-League defensive back Jalen Veasey returning, coach Chris Hauser has another potent squad.

La Costa Canyon is right around the top 10 listing as it leans on running back Andrew Maes. Why not, after he gained more than 1,600 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns last year.

He’ll likely be scampering behind standout right tackle Blake Mazone, who’s caught the eye of numerous colleges and military academies.

We salute all these players, coaches and their staff for making North County prep football such a significant part of so many people’s life.

If you have a school to root for, go do it. If you don’t, just look for those lights that draw more than moths and slide in for a game. Cheer for both teams, spend an extra buck or two at the snack bar and be comforted in knowing that, unlike the San Diego Chargers, these football teams aren’t going anywhere.

And that includes Escondido’s Classical Academy as it goes about defending its state title.

The state of North County prep football? It’s as strong as ever.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports

Leave a Comment