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Daily News Football Countdown: No. 1 Sierra Canyon eyes Mission League title, CIF-SS Division 1 berth

LA Daily News logo LA Daily News 8/13/2022 Tarek Fattal, Los Angeles Daily News
Sierra Canyon runs onto the field prior to a prep football game between St. John Bosco and Sierra Canyon at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower on Saturday, March 13, 2021. © Keith Birmingham/Los Angeles Daily News/TNS Sierra Canyon runs onto the field prior to a prep football game between St. John Bosco and Sierra Canyon at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

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As we head into the 2022 high school football season, the Los Angeles Daily News is publishing preseason coverage that includes team rankings and lists of the top players to watch by position.

The season begins the week of Aug. 18-20.


No. 1 Sierra Canyon

Coach: Jon Ellinghouse, 16th year

2021 W-L record: 7-5, 1-0 Gold Coast League

Top returners: Cameron Brandt, DE, Sr.; Terrell Cooks Jr, RB, Jr.; Jojo Phillips, WR, Sr.; Cole Crawford, WR, Jr.; Carnell Ferguson, DE, Jr.; Carmel Crunk, LB, Jr.; Lance Lysholm, OL, Sr.; Aiden Bretthauer, OL, Sr.; Damon Wrighster, QB, Jr.; Nevada Miller, DB, So.; Ashdon Zamani, K, So.

Key losses: Daniel Duran, QB; Jason Jones, RB; Dominic Arango-Serna, WR; Alonzo Contreras, QB (transferred to Calabasas); Jonah Lewis, DB (to Inglewood); Khalil Peart, ATH (to Inglewood); Micah Valenzuela, LB (to San Diego Lincoln); Tyler Woods, LB/TE (to Moorpark)

Newcomers: LaVon Brown, WR, Sr. (transfer from Las Vegas Desert Pines); Eugene Brooks, OL, Jr. (from Las Vegas Desert Pines); Ruben Gamboa, DB, Jr. (from Chaminade); Jaylen’dai Sumlin, WR, Jr. (from Alemany); Xavier White, LB, Sr. (from St Genevieve); Alonzo Esparza, QB, So. (from Culver City); Rodney Leaks, OL, Sr. (from Las Vegas Desert Pines); Elijah Payne, OL, Sr. (from Las Vegas Desert Pines); Eddie Byrd, DB, Sr. (from Glendora)


Team’s biggest strength: “Potential to have a big year.”

Team’s biggest challenge: “This group needs to gel. We have the talent to do big things, and have many new, young players in big spots.”


No surprises here. Sierra Canyon will start the 2022 high school football season the No. 1 team to beat, and for good reason.

This program has been nipping at the heels of Southern California’s top program’s since the spring of 2021, facing St. John Bosco, Corona Centennial, Servite and Mission Viejo. All those bouts finished in losses for the Trailblazers, but taking on giants like that will get you street cred.

Where Sierra Canyon has already established itself is beating teams that claim to be playing “big boy” football, too. Last year, the Trailblazers beat JSerra (twice), Norco, Oaks Christian and Vista Murrieta, before falling to Orange Lutheran 42-40 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 semifinals.

Ellinghouse’s team is bigger, faster and more physical in 2022. Lavon Brown (Colorado State commit), Jojo Phillips, Cole Crawford and Jaylen Sumlin make up what Ellinghouse thinks is the best receiving corps in the state. Junior running back Terrell Cooks Jr. is primed for a breakout year. And perhaps most impressive about this team is the talented and large group, led by Cameron Brandt (Stanford commit), on the defensive line.

Here’s Sierra Canyon’s offensive line: Eugene Brooks (6-foot-4, 385 pounds), Aiden Bretthauer (6-3, 275), Lance Lysholm (6-3, 255), Rodney Leaks (6-4, 275), Ashdon Wnetrzak (6-9, 320), Ryan Curtis (6-1, 270) and Elijah Payne (6-6, 310).

However, Sierra Canyon isn’t invincible. Its biggest question mark will be quarterback play. Alonzo Esparza started the team’s scrimmage against Orange Lutheran Friday, but Damon Wrighster split time with him. Wrighster has no varsity experience at the position and Esparza’s freshman season was at Culver City, where he threw 24 touchdown passes, but also threw 19 interceptions against a schedule that is nothing compared to what Sierra Canyon will face this fall, including a debut season in the Mission League.

Will Sierra Canyon earn its first spot in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs? If it wins the Mission League it will.


Aug. 19: at JSerra

Aug. 26: vs. Oaks Christian

Related Articles

Sept. 2: at Green Valley (Nevada)

Sept. 9: vs. Mission Viejo

Sept. 16: at Westlake

Sept. 30: vs. Bishop Amat

Oct. 7: vs. Alemany

Oct. 14: at Serra

Oct. 21: at Chaminade

Oct. 28: at Notre Dame

2022 W-L prediction: 7-3. Most Mission League coaches wouldn’t admit it, but they aren’t the biggest fans of Sierra Canyon’s arrival. Let’s just say the fandom won’t be growing after the Trailblazers win the Mission League in year one. I think the Trailblazers go 4-1 in league play this fall.

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