The stars, standouts, stellar groups of 2022 Southland soccer

We made it!

Sixteen weeks of highschool soccer ended Saturday night time with no COVID shutdowns, no wild fires disrupting video games, no lawsuits distracting groups or followers.

The journey began in Allen, Texas, in August when Bellflower St. John Bosco demolished one among Texas’ prime groups 52-14 in a sold-out stadium. The season ended Saturday night time with St. John Bosco demolishing Northern California’s finest workforce, San Mateo Serra, 45-0 at Saddleback School within the CIF Open Division state championship bowl recreation.

The drama has been just about eliminated on the highest stage of soccer in Southern California. From the primary practices in July, it at all times was going to come back down as to whether St. John Bosco or Santa Ana Mater Dei can be successful the ultimate recreation of 2022. It’s been that approach since 2016. And it’ll proceed that approach in 2023. They’ve separated themselves in accumulating a lot expertise and depth that everybody else is enjoying for third or fourth place.

The domination is just like the times when a single workforce in Northern California, Harmony De La Salle, was successful 151 consecutive video games. Coach Jason Negro mentioned Saturday night time, “At the end of the day, you’ve got to give us credit because what we’ve done is we’ve realized what we needed to do to be successful to knock off the De La Salles. To knock off the Mater Deis. To knock off any and all comers across the country.”

St. John Bosco quarterback Pierce Clarkson holds up the state championship trophy as coach Jason Negro celebrates.

(Craig Weston)

Those that suppose two groups dominating isn’t good for highschool soccer would possibly need to make their displeasure recognized quickly, as a result of the Southern Part is within the means of hiring a successor to Rob Wigod as the brand new commissioner. One of many questions the Government Committee ought to ask candidates within the interview course of is for concepts on making the Division 1 playoffs extra aggressive.

This season shall be remembered for the standard of particular person gamers making an influence.

For pure pleasure, nothing in comparison with ready for Rodrick Nice of Gardena Serra to get his palms on a ball, whether or not with an interception or kickoff return, then seeing his velocity kick in — he’s run the 100 meters in 10.14 seconds.

Pace was a giant divider. Receiver Makai Lemon of Los Alamitos proved himself to be one of the best receiver within the state in serving to the Griffins attain the Division 1 semifinals.

Dijon Stanley of Granada Hills used his 400-meter velocity to make defenders really feel helpless, dashing for 378 yards within the Metropolis Part Division I championship recreation.

Junior Peyton Waters of Birmingham helped his workforce broaden its successful streak to 34 video games towards Metropolis Part opponents by starring at cornerback, receiver and wildcat quarterback.

Senior linebacker Leviticus Su’a of Mater Dei was so good that he earned MVP honors within the highly effective Trinity League.

Freshman quarterback Brady Smigiel of Newbury Park turned out to be higher than marketed, passing for 3,479 yards and 46 touchdowns. In opposition to rival Thousand Oaks, he was intercepted thrice within the first quarter. His workforce fell behind 20-0. Did he pout? Did he rage? Did he make excuses? He rallied his workforce to tie the Lancers and ship the sport into extra time earlier than dropping 41-38. A star quarterback was born.

Bruce Rollinson introduced he can be retiring after 34 years as head coach at Mater Dei on a Thursday night time earlier than the workforce’s first playoff recreation. The faculty president says it was Rollinson’s determination. At any time when the Diocese of Orange decides to launch a security evaluation of the Monarchs’ athletic program that has been “in progress” for greater than a yr, maybe extra shall be realized.

The workforce of the yr not named St. John Bosco was Laguna Hills, which went 15-1 and was the one workforce from Southern California to journey to rain-drenched Northern California and are available away with a state title. The Hawks rallied from a 27-7 halftime deficit to win the 3-A title over San Jose Bellarmine 28-27. Operating again Troy Leigber contributed an astounding 52 touchdowns this season.

In a altering atmosphere the place what occurs on the professional and faculty stage trickles all the way down to excessive colleges, there are many points forward, from title, picture and likeness to the way forward for aggressive fairness within the playoffs when there’s no competitiveness on the highest stage.

There are disagreements which may by no means be resolved, however let’s not neglect inspiring moments, equivalent to groups that haven’t gained titles in years discovering success, equivalent to Laguna Seashore and San Gabriel.

After which there’s the return of swagger to Crenshaw, which gained the Metropolis Part Division III championship after coming near shutting down its program throughout the pandemic days.

“It was very close,” Garrett mentioned. “Even this summer, the team was close to disbanding.”

The Cougars are on the way in which again with 20 underclassmen dedicated to enjoying soccer.

“I’m smiling,” Garrett mentioned. “These kids are great.”

Employees author Luca Evans contributed to this column.