Sondheimer: Look for a changing of the guard in City Section football

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With spring football under way and the weather beginning to heat up, there’s a growing feeling that change is in the air when it comes to City Section football.

Birmingham’s reign as the four-time Open Division champion and holder of a 42-game winning streak against City opponents could come to an end. For the first time since 2018, the Patriots will enter this fall without a top candidate as the best player in the City Section. The last three players of the year from Birmingham are in college — Mason White (Oregon State), Arlis Boardingham (Florida) and Peyton Waters (Washington).

It opens the way for someone to step forward and become the player to help end Birmingham’s domination.

Let’s examine the players who are ready to make the jump:

  • Steven Perez, Banning. His versatility makes him similar to what Waters did for Birmingham. He had five touchdowns rushing, five touchdowns receiving and had 83 tackles and five interceptions playing safety. He has grown to 6 feet 1, 185 pounds and will begin his senior season as a 16-year-old.

    “He’s a dynamic player,” coach Raymond Grajeda said.

    Look for Perez to play some quarterback in the fall. The Pilots are part of a fantastic Marine League, where any of the teams are capable of winning the title.

  • Mark Iheanachor, Narbonne. He’s been a big part of Narbonne’s attempt to return to prominence since he was a freshman. Last season, he rushed for 852 yards and 12 touchdowns and had 93 tackles at inside linebacker. His athleticism, toughness and leadership skills will be called upon by a Narbonne team that is loaded with quality skill-position players.

    The arrival of quarterback Jaden O’Neal from Newport Harbor to throw the ball to standout receivers Xavier Owens and Allen Blaylock puts the Gauchos in position to be a legitimate title contender depending on how the offensive and defensive lines performs. When in trouble, it will be up to Iheanachor to deliver.

  • David Sandy, L.A. Jordan. The neighborhood kid from Watts led his team to an 11-4 record last season. The Bulldogs aren’t going to be an Open Division team but Sandy does everything except carry out the water bottles. He rushed for 2,904 yards and 39 touchdowns last season, when he passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns and caught a touchdown. He made 65 tackles, had two interceptions and two sacks. He scored 48 points on two-point conversions.
  • Dylan Rubino, San Pedro. He’s 6-2, 230 pounds, plays defensive end, catches passes and makes big plays. His versatility will be key for a San Pedro team that returns 14 starters.
  • Xavier Grant, Gardena. There was no more surprising team last season than 10-2 Gardena, and the 215-pound Grant bulldozed his way for 831 yards rushing and six touchdowns. On defense, he had 35 tackles, including three sacks and one interception.
  • Chinedu Onyeagoro, King-Drew. The 6-4, 230-pound defensive end is coming off a season in which he was credited with 21 sacks. He has several big-time scholarship offers and continues to improve as he learns football.
  • Jaiden Noel, Venice. He passed for 1,300 yards as a freshman quarterback. With three terrific receivers and the coaching of Angelo Gasca, look for Noel to double his passing totals.
  • Branden Morales, Angelou. He rushed for 1,621 yards and 21 touchdowns to help Angelou go 12-1, its best season in school history. He’ll try to reach 2,000 yards this fall.
  • Kameryn Hurst, Carson. It’s time to turn loose the speedy Hurst, the Marine League 100 and 200 sprint champion. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as the No. 2 back. He’s also an outstanding defensive back who had seven interceptions.

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