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Modesti: Friday night lights get fired up this week in Southern California

Editor’s note: This is the Tuesday Aug. 16 edition of the Game Day with Kevin Modesti newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. Those Friday night lights are coming into view.

It’s a busy day on the pro and college sports beats. Bill Plunkett measures the impact of Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler’s surgery on this season and next season. Jeff Fletcher explains the Angels’ ninth-inning horrors last night. Gilbert Manzano says the Rams’ running-back depth is being tested already. John W. Davis looks at changes ahead for the Sparks after they missed the playoffs. Columnist Mirjam Swanson likens LAFC to the Dodgers – and the Globetrotters. And USC is 14th in the AP’s first college football poll.

But I can’t blame readers of our newspapers if you save all that for later and go straight to Southern California’s most complete coverage of the high school football season that begins Thursday and Friday.

With more than 600 teams to keep an eye on, and at least 50 games to be covered in a typical week, the Southern California News Group’s 11 papers have seven high school sports beat writers in Steve Fryer and Dan Albano (Orange County Register), John W. Davis (Long Beach Press-Telegram), Damian Calhoun (South Bay Daily Breeze), Tarek Fattal (Los Angeles Daily News), Eric-Paul Johnson (Riverside Press-Enterprise) and Fred Robledo (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) . As sports editor Tom Moore points out, that’s more than 150 years of sportswriting experience.

Online at all of our papers’ websites, and in the Varsity newsletters (it’s free to sign up, as with this one), are their stories about the teams, players and changes to watch in 2022, with more to come as Week 0 arrives Thursday and Friday nights.

The question that jumped out at me, reading our previews, is how league lineup changes will affect teams’ championship prospects in a year when releaguing involves some big teams.

The Trinity League, in Orange County, remains the toughest league in the CIF Southern Section, with Mater Dei and St. John Bosco the top-ranked teams in the nation, joinedin the California rankings by Servite (No. 5), Santa Margarita (No. 7) and Orange Lutheran (No. 12).

The new Big West Conference, a combination of the Big VIII League (with Centennial, No. 3 in the state, and Norco) and Southwestern League (Murrieta Valley, No. 23, and Vista Murrieta) will challenge the San Fernando Valley’s Mission League for the unofficial title of second-best league in the region.

The Mission League itself made a big addition, Sierra Canyon coming in from the Gold Coast League and bringing its No. 1 ranking in the Daily News’ coverage area, ready to see how close the school is to climbing into the region’s elite.

In the San Gabriel Valley, Bishop Amat is No. 1 in the Tribune’s local rankings (and No. 9 in the state), but Robledo says Damien could move way up after a 3-7 season.

The most-watched player in Southern California could be quarterback Malachi Nelson, who’ll be passing to fellow USC commit Makai Lemon for Los Alamitos High (No. 4 in the state). But there are always too many promising quarterbacks in the region to focus on just one.

One big change in high school football coverage in 2022 is that it’s all about football – at least we can hope – after two years were dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s the fun stuff,” said Brian Patterson, SCNG’s high school sports editor. “We’re like everybody. We want to (think) about the athletes, we want to think about the games.”

TODAY

The Dodgers are betting underdogs (+108 this morning) in a game for the first time since June as rookie Ryan Pepiot faces the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff in Milwaukee (5:10p.m., SNLA).

The Angels try to shake off last night when they host the Mariners (6:38 p.m., BSW).

LAFC continues to chase the MLS mark for best record in a season, facing DC United (7:30, Ch. 13). Josh Gross has the preview.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

What’s the best place to watch high school football in Southern California?Reply by email to [email protected]

280 CHARACTERS

USC is No. 14 in the preseason AP Top 25. The hype for the first Lincoln Riley squad is soaring. https://t.co/bi6PBuXNkV

— Adam Grosbard (@AdamGrosbard) August 15, 2022

1,000 WORDS

Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez, left, and right fielder Mitch Haniger collide at the wall while trying to catch a fly ball hit by the Angels’ Luis Rengifo during the first inning on Monday night at Angel Stadium. Rengifo was awarded a home run after a video replay review. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

TALK TO ME

Thanks for reading. I welcome questions, comments and suggestions about this newsletter and any sports topic. Reach me by email at [email protected]

Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Game Day with Kevin Modesti newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

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