When the season started, Alemany coach Dean Herrington knew he had a special group of receivers on his football team.
Junior Steven Mitchell has emerged as the best of the bunch.
He leads the team with 34 catches for 741 yards, an average of 92.6 yards per game, and nine touchdowns. He has nearly three times as many receiving yards as UCLA-bound Jerico Richardson, who is second on the team with 265 yards. Mitchell’s nine touchdowns are more than Richardson, Jeff Farrar and Corey Simms combined.
“He has unbelievable speed and great body control,” Herrington said. “Against Dorsey, he only touched the ball four times. That will never happen again.”
The game against Dorsey was one of the few hiccups this season for Alemany (6-2), the No. 12 team in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings. The Warriors lost that game, 14-13. Both of Alemany’s losses have been by one point. The Warriors also lost to J.W. North 36-35.
When Alemany plays Loyola (7-1), the No. 13 team in the ESPNLA rankings, on Friday night at home in a crucial Serra League game, Herrington will make sure Mitchell is very much in the mix.
Alemany and Loyola are tied for first place in league with 2-0 records. The winner of Friday night’s game is guaranteed at least a share of the league title.
“It’s a big game in the sense that we control our own destiny,” Loyola coach Mike Christensen said. “You can’t take a breath in this league. If you do, you’re going to get beat.”
In addition to leading the team in receiving, Mitchell, who has received interest from UCLA, Washington, Arizona State and Southern Methodist, also leads Alemany with 8.5 yards per carry. He has rushed 27 times for 230 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground. He has a team-leading 14 touchdowns.
Herrington says he likes to use Mitchell in his pass-oriented offense the same way USC used Reggie Bush. But Christensen said his team will be ready for the challenge. The Cubs faced a similar style offense against St. John Bosco in Week 4.
“We don’t really focus on one position,” Christensen said. “We want to make them a complete team. We think we have D1 talent across the board in our secondary.”
Loyola has created a strong running attack this season to go with its stellar secondary. The Cubs are averaging 181.3 yards per game on the ground. Part of reason for the team’s gaudy rushing numbers is the emergence of the junior running back Wyatt Bradford.
He leads the team with 725 yards and nine touchdowns, but he was slowed midway through the season with an ankle injury. He played sparingly in Weeks 4 and 5, but has come on strong in the past two games.
He rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame three weeks ago. Two weeks ago against Bishop Amat, he gained 124 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“He’s going to be a great running back,” Christensen said. “We held him out to get him healthy. He’s been tough in league, a real tough runner.”
Herrington said this year’s Loyola team reminds him of the Loyola team of the 1990s. The Cubs run the ball effectively and can control the clock with their ground game.
“They have a strong defense and can control the ball on offense,” Herrington said. “It’s going to be a good one.”