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Prep Rally: The players to watch in high school football this season

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. The Times’ nine-part series previewing Southern California’s top players begins on Monday with a profile of quarterback Ty Dieffenbach of Agoura. He was a receiver until his head coach saw him throw a ball to a fellow receiver. The rest is history.

From WR to QB

Ty Dieffenbach, a 6-foot-5 quarterback at Agoura, has committed to UNLV.

Ty Dieffenbach, a 6-foot-5 quarterback at Agoura, has committed to UNLV.

(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Discovering a quarterback sometimes is as easy as finding a penny on the ground. You just have to be alert and a have good eye for talent.

Agoura High football coach Dustin Croick saw 6-foot-5 sophomore receiver Ty Dieffenbach throwing the ball back to a fellow receiver while running routes after practice in 2020, the COVID-19 season. Agoura was in need of a quarterback.

“OK, we need to try this,” Croick told himself.

Dieffenbach had never played a snap of quarterback in his life.

“I threw it in and I guess he was impressed,” Dieffenbach recalled. “He told me to throw the ball on a route. We kept working. I thought it was a joke. I wasn’t actually going to play quarterback. Coach convinced me to put the work in. I got the starting spot.”

Now he has a scholarship to UNLV and who knows how good he might become as he gains experience and knowledge playing the position.

Here’s a profile of Dieffenbach and a look at 10 quarterbacks to watch for the 2022 season.

For a sneak peek of top players, here’s links to running backs, receivers, quarterbacks, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs, kickers.

Rob Wigod to retire

Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod speaking during a video conference on Thursday with the Executive Committee.

Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod speaking during a video conference on Thursday with the Executive Committee.

(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod issued a long commissioner’s message last week regarding a preview of the 2022-23 school year.

One paragraph explained that schools will vote in September on whether to support the addition of girls’ flag football as a CIF-approved support. Another paragraph noted that the Rose Bowl will serve as the site for the Division 1 football final. Still another paragraph stated the Southern Section will hold its first beach volleyball championship in late April or early May.

Not until the bottom of the email was there a “final thought,” where Wigod announced that this coming school year would be his last as commissioner. He will retire Aug. 1, 2023.

Talk about burying the lead.

Here’s the rundown on the impact he’s had.

Unlike when he took over in 2011 and was a natural successor to Jim Staunton, there is no certain lead candidate whether among the assistant commissioners or outsiders, including several former Southern Section presidents. It will be up to the Executive Committee to select a replacement.

Dorsey getting better

Dorsey football coach Stafon Johnson.

Dorsey football coach Stafon Johnson.

(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Dorsey football coach Stafon Johnson believes the Dons are ready to return to the highest division in the City Section, the Open Division.

“I really believe we have the athletes and the willpower,” he said. “If we can stay healthy we can be a dangerous team.”

Back for the Dons is All-City running back Javaun Lewis Jr., Johnson’s nephew who’s a 225-pound junior. There’s size up front with 340-pound junior Jamari Stephens and 305-pound junior Michael Anderson.

Here’s a report.

Teams head to Hawaii

The high school football season begins this weekend for Mission Viejo, Newport Harbor and Warren, all of whom are headed to Hawaii.

Mission Viejo leaves Monday night for a Friday game against Mililani, which opened its season with a 28-7 win over Honolulu St. Louis. Mission Viejo’s offense is expected to be outstanding because of quarterback Kadin Semonza and returning receivers Mikey Matthews, KJ Reed and and Jackson Holman. Any kind of blocking for Semonza should result in lots of touchdowns for the Diablos.

Warren will face Kamehameha Kapalama on Friday in the return of quarterback Nico Iamaleava, who briefly flirted with playing for Long Beach Poly.

Newport Harbor is playing Farrington on Friday night.

In Southern California, there will be scrimmages on Thursday and Friday.

Girls’ volleyball

The girls’ volleyball season is about to begin, and Luca Evans has a preview of the City Section.

Granada Hills, under veteran coach Tom Harp, could be the team to beat.

Here’s a report on players and teams to watch.

Hein sports family update

Sophomore Dylan Hein of Calabasas is continuing the family sports tradition.

Sophomore Dylan Hein of Calabasas is continuing the family sports tradition. His father, Curtis, played football at USC. His grandfather, Mel Jr., was a pole vaulter. His great grandfather, Mel Sr., was Hall of Fame football player.

(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Sports has been part of the Hein family tree seemingly forever.

Mel Hein is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His son, Mel Jr., was a great pole vaulter at USC and later became track coach at Taft. He died in 2020. He and his wife, Judy, had three boys, Gary, Curtis and Cody, all of whom were sports stars at Taft.

Gary won a City title in the hurdles at Taft and was a cornerback at Cal. Curtis played football at USC after an All-City career at Taft. Cody was the City Section volleyball player of the year in 1990 and became the women’s volleyball coach at Chico State until his death at age 47 from a heart condition

It’s time for a Hein family update because sports remains a driving force and grandma Judy is one proud grandmother.

Gary has three children. One graduated from Indiana, another, Cade, is running cross country at Cal Poly and Brandon is playing club rugby in college. Curtis has three children. Daughter Josephine won the Southern Section 100 fly at Calabasas and is headed to LSU. Dylan played quarterback for Chaminade’s freshman team and will be at Calabasas this fall. Audrey is 10 and running track.

Cody has three sons living in Chico with their mother. Austin is a junior in high school running cross country and track. Jackson is a sophomore running track. Davis is 10 and playing baseball.

The Hein grandchildren are keeping grandmother Judy busy. She loves it.

Notes . . .

Newbury Park cross country/track coach Sean Brosnan has left for UCLA, where he will take over coaching the Bruins’ distance runners in cross country and track. His wife, Tanya, and assistant Steve Hawkins will serve as interim coaches at Newbury Park. . . .

Twins Leo and Lex Young of Newbury Park have committed to Stanford for cross-country and track and field. They are among the best distance runners in the nation. Their older brother, Nico, runs for Northern Arizona.. . .

Santa Margarita quarterback Jaxon Potter has committed to UAB. . . .

Garrett Yamasaki is the new boys’ volleyball coach at Harvard-Westlake. . . .

Baseball player Justin Mondini of Norco has committed to UC Riverside. . . .

Sierra Canyon assistant baseball coach Shawn Meusborn is the new head coach at San Joaquin Memorial. He’s a Chatsworth graduate and the son of Sierra Canyon coach Tom Meusborn. . . .

Sophomore first baseman/pitcher Ryder Dejournett of Riverside King has committed to UC Riverside. . . .

Receiver Jurrion Dickey from Valley Christian in Northern California is not transferring to Santa Ana Mater Dei. . . .

Chris Mack is the new track coach at Gardena Serra, where he’ll get to work with defending state sprint champion Rodrick Pleasant. He was head coach at L.A. Cathedral and guided the Phantoms to a Southern Section title. . . .

The new baseball coaching staff at USC has been having some success with commits. The latest are Mater Dei sophomore Landon Gordon, Capistrano Valley Christian junior Andrew Johnson and Foothill senior Andrew Harbour. . . .

Bill Gunn, who has spent 32 years at Corona Centennial helping build a top sports program, is leaving to become District Coordinator of Athletics in Corona-Norco Unified. . . .

Former Etiwanda shortstop Tyler Freeman made his major league debut for the Cleveland Indians. . . .

Sophomore pitcher Ajani Wrighster of Sierra Canyon has committed to Cal. . . .

A month ago, Bishop Alemany didn’t really have a quarterback. Now the Warriors have freshman Jackson Presley, who originally was supposed to play in Oklahoma. Coach Casey Clausen is very good at developing young quarterbacks. . . .

Taft is getting a refurbished girls’ basketball locker room thanks to a $40,000 grant. Here’s the story. . . .

Garden Grove Pacifica football coach Vinnie Lopez has resigned and will be replaced by interim coach Randy Franzman . . .

Chole Briggs, a standout girls’ basketball guard from Ontario Christian, has committed to Washington. . . .

Mission Viejo leaves Monday night for Hawaii to open the football season on Friday. Warren and Newport Harbor are also headed to Hawaii. . . .

Standout center fielder Phoenix Call of Calabasas has committed to UCLA. . . .

Logan Powell has returned to be the boys’ and girls’ water polo coach at San Clemente. He had left to be a college coach.

From the archives: Vanessa Nygaard

Former Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard.

Former Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard.

(Nick Koza)

Vanessa Nygaard has gone from high school girls’ basketball coach at Windward last season to WNBA head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, where she has been dealing with the world’s attention on her star player, Brittney Griner, trying to gain her freedom in Russia.

Nygaard was always ready to take the jump to professional coach, having trained at the high school, college and pro level for years.

She was so good at Windward that nobody wanted her to leave. She developed the likes of Jordin Canada, Charisma Osborne and Juju Watkins.

Here’s a story from 2013 when she was The Times’ coach of the year after giving birth to twins.

Recommendations

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on former UCLA lineman Thomas Cole, who tells his story of moving forward after a suicide attempt.

From The Ringer, a story on whether Bronny James will be able to play in the NBA with his father, LeBron.

From Pioneer Press, a story on former Corona Centennial defensive back Cam Bynum for the Minnesota Vikings.

From The Atlantic, a story on the costs of having a youth sports athlete.

From MLB.com, a story on the MLB debut of former Etiwanda shortstop Tyler Freeman.

From John Ortega, a story on the 30-year anniversary of Quincy Watts and Kevin Young winning gold in Barcelona.

Tweets you might have missed

Until next time…

Have a question, comment or something you’d like to see in a future Prep Rally newsletter? Email me at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

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Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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