Soquel freshman Sam Robertson keeps his eye on the ball during Friday night's game against visiting Willow Glen.
(John Hefti / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Recreation & Sports

High school sports roundup: Rivalries ramp up across sports as league play opens

Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League contests this week include Aptos vs. San Lorenzo Valley in tennis, Harbor vs. Santa Cruz High in volleyball, and Soquel and Santa Cruz defending league titles in water polo.

Editor’s note: Welcome to Lookout’s high school sports coverage. Our coverage is made possible by our members. Please become a member here today. Thomas Frey, an alum of Cabrillo College who has covered high school sports locally, will lead our coverage. His column — rounding up the week and looking forward to the next — will run each Monday. He’ll also profile an athlete of the month. We welcome your input — email and (with high school sports in the subject line).

A number of great contests will take place this week as Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play gets underway in tennis. Old rivalries renew in matches that include Aptos High School against San Lorenzo Valley High School and Scotts Valley High School versus Santa Cruz High School.

In volleyball, Harbor High School will host Santa Cruz in a matchup of undefeated SCCAL squads.

Watsonville High School volleyball sits 2-0 in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division and the Wildcatz will host Stevenson High School, which is also 2-0.

Defending SCCAL boys water polo champion Santa Cruz High School will begin league play against San Lorenzo Valley High School on Tuesday before traveling to Aptos High School on Thursday to take on the Mariners.

Soquel High School, the defending SCCAL girls water polo champion, will begin its title defense against Harbor High School on Thursday. The Knights won the Central Coast Section Open Division last season before reaching the California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Division I championship.

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Soquel High School 21, Scotts Valley 7

Soquel quarterback Sam Whelan warms up under the lights.
(John Hefti / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Soquel quarterback Sam Whelan continued his brilliant sophomore campaign by completing nearly 62% of his passes as the Knights improved to 3-1 and handed Scotts Valley its first loss. He got the scoring started in the second quarter by tossing a 4-yard touchdown to senior Jordan McCord III, a three-star recruit with offers from San Jose State and Eastern Washington. McCord now has three receiving touchdowns this season and 28 in his career.

Scotts Valley tied the game up in the third quarter as junior quarterback Lucas Ringel hit senior wide receiver Quinn Turowski for a 75-yard touchdown. Turowski now has seven touchdowns for the 3-1 Falcons.

Soquel had a great ground game all night, as senior Cruz Ferris had 114 rushing yards on 19 carries. Soquel senior running back Justice Grauel Tebong made it 14-7 in the third quarter with his first rushing TD of the season.

Whelan scored a rushing touchdown for the second consecutive week in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Next up for Soquel: Hosts Salinas (1-3) on Friday.

Next up for Scotts Valley: Hosts St. Francis (2-2) on Sept. 30.

San Lorenzo Valley running back Chase Thomsen (42) gets a high-five after scoring against Scotts Valley.
Running back Chase Thomsen (42) gets a high-five during an earlier San Lorenzo Valley game.
(John Hefti / Lookout Santa Cruz)

San Lorenzo Valley High School 7, Watsonville High School 0

The Cougars moved to 2-2 after shutting out Watsonville (1-3) on Friday in nonleague play. It’s SLV’s first shutout since a 34-0 victory over Pajaro Valley High School in 2019.

Next up for San Lorenzo Valley: Hosts Pajaro Valley (0-4) on Saturday.

Next up for Watsonville: At Santa Cruz High School (0-2) on Friday.

Aptos High School 42, North Salinas High School 27

The Mariners got their first win of the season after an 0-3 start, scoring four first-quarter touchdowns to open Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division play. While Matt Hood found fellow senior Jordan Torres for a 52-yard touchdown, the game was won on the ground.

Senior running back Lawrence Ingram IV had 135 rushing yards with a pair of touchdowns. He is now 38 rushing yards away from 1,000 in his career. Sophomore DeSean Gomez added 41 yards on nearly 6 yards a carry, including a 27-yard burst. Hood and senior Wade Ellis combined for 96 rushing yards and each had a rushing touchdown. For Ellis, the score was the first rushing TD of his career. He also took a kickoff 85 yards into the end zone.

The Mariners were led defensively by seniors Asher Norman and Andrew Castorena, who each had sacks. It was Norman’s second quarterback takedown of the season. Junior Casey MacConnell couldn’t have found a better time for his first career interception, stopping a North Salinas drive in its tracks.

Next up for Aptos: Hosts Everett Alvarez High School (1-3) on Sept. 29.

The St. Francis High School football team practices
St. Francis High during an August practice.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

St. Francis High School 28, Pajaro Valley High School 13

Junior running back John Croghan got the scoring started for the 2-2 Sharks in the first quarter by rushing for a touchdown. Pajaro Valley (0-4) was threatening early in the second quarter before St. Francis forced a fumble on a fourth down to get the ball back. Junior quarterback Javier Fonseca quickly put the Sharks up 14 by rushing for a score.

After Pajaro Valley scored as time expired in the second quarter, Fonseca threw for two third- quarter touchdowns. The first was to senior Pedro “Junior” Ibarra, and the second one, to junior Jesse Navarro, made the game 28-7 heading into the fourth. The Grizzlies got a fourth-quarter touchdown to bring the game to 28-13, before throwing an interception to Sharks junior Andrew Zamora to seal the game.

Next up for St. Francis: At North Monterey County (1-3) on Friday.

Next up for Pajaro Valley: At San Lorenzo Valley (2-2) on Saturday.

Monterey High School 55, Monte Vista Christian School 19

Monterey jumped out to a 55-0 lead before junior Nico Downie hauled in his seventh touchdown reception of the season from junior quarterback Dominic Pierini, who now has 11 touchdown passes this year for the 3-1 Mustangs.

“It was a tough one tonight,” said Monte Vista Christian coach Spencer Ferrari-Wood. “We were outscored 55-0 in the first half, but I was proud of our guys that we outscored them 19-0 in the second half. We kept battling.”

Next up for Monte Vista Christian: Hosts Seaside High School (2-1) on Friday.

North Monterey County High School 41, Harbor High School 13

After three consecutive victories to open the season, Harbor suffered its first loss, to a very good Condors squad that led 28-6 at halftime.

Next up for Harbor: Hosts Gonzales High School (1-3) on Saturday.

Members of the Santa Cruz High School football team during practice
On the field at an August Santa Cruz High School football practice.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz High School

The Cardinals are 0-2 on the season and haven’t fielded squads for their games the past two weeks, against Soquel and Hollister. Santa Cruz will take on Watsonville as planned Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“Santa Cruz forfeited the Friday, Sept. 9, game against Soquel due to an inadequate number of players who are able to play,” said coach Bassel Faltas. “Athletic Director Erik Redding and Principal Michelle Poirier determined that an attempt to play a football game with such a small number of players constituted an unsafe situation for the school’s student-athletes. SCHS greatly regretted having to take this decision. The school understands that this was disappointing for the student-athletes of both schools. However, the school must hold the physical safety of its students as a top priority.”

Next up for Santa Cruz: Hosts Watsonville (1-3) on Friday.


Santa Cruz High School and Harbor High School sit undefeated in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and will meet Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Harbor will host the game and the Pirates sit at 3-0 in league play after a 3-0 win over San Lorenzo Valley High School on Tuesday. Senior Dakota Johnson and junior Jocelyn Ruelas each had five kills. Junior Tea Stockwell added four kills and an ace and senior Gwen Grigsby had three aces.

Santa Cruz is 4-0 in the SCCAL after defeating Aptos High School in three sets and Soquel High School in a five-set thriller. Senior Lily Pederson had 12 kills in the match that came down to the final serve. Pederson now has double-digit kills in three straight league games.

Sophomore Natalie Monroe also dominated at the net, finishing with 17 kills in a battle against Jessie Dueck of Soquel, one of the top juniors in the nation. Dueck, who is committed to UCLA’s beach volleyball program, had 18 kills in the match.

Despite sitting at 1-3 in the league, Soquel took Harbor to the brink, going to five sets in the second game of the SCCAL season. In that match, Dueck had 26 kills and 33 blocks.

Watsonville High School is 2-0 in the PCAL Mission Division after beating Soledad High School in five sets and Everett Alvarez High School in four. Daisy Renteria was a magnet for the ball against Soledad, digging up 30 shot attempts. Fellow junior Daisy Cornejo had 20 total kills in the two games.

The Wildcatz host Stevenson High School on Thursday in a matchup of the top two teams in the league.

St. Francis won its first league game over North Monterey County High School to move to 1-1 in the PCAL Cypress Division thanks in large part to a thriving sophomore, Peyton Orradre, and teammate Georgia Otzman. The Sharks trailed 2-1 and came back to win the fourth and fifth set to win 3-2. Orradre had 32 digs, eights kills and two aces while Otzman had 20 digs, 21 assists and five kills.


Monte Vista Christian has blazed through the start of its season as the boys squad won the Monte Vista Invitational, the PCAL Jamboree and the first PCAL Mission Division race while finishing sixth in the Jackie Henderson Memorial.

The top runners have been Conor Gilliam, Gavin Beckmen, Mario Gonzalez Chavez, Eli Kieft and Bradley Orlando.

Junior Kylie Brunelli leads the Mustangs girls squad while first-year athlete Finley Castro has finished near the top in all four of her races and has set personal bests in three of them, including a ninth-place finish Thursday in a PCAL Mission race, won by Watsonville junior Kaetlynn Ruiz.

Gilliam and Beckmen finished second and third, respectively, in the boys race, and Watsonville senior Giancarlo Mendo finished fourth and junior Rodrigo Barranco took sixth out of 41 runners.

Santa Cruz resident Evie Marheineke of Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose) placed third overall at the De La Salle Nike Invitational on Saturday in Concord. She covered the 3-mile course in 18 minutes, 13.1 seconds, a school record. Next up is the West Catholic Athletic League opener on Wednesday at Golden Gate Park.

Girls water polo

Harbor High School had a tough game against Monterey High School on Thursday. The score was tied 5-5 heading into the fourth quarter before Monterey pulled away to win 11-5. Harbor was led by junior Abigail Higgins who had three goals, two assists and three steals, junior Serena Manildi, who had two goals and five steals, and senior Scout Bauman, who had five steals. Senior captain Simone Stromberg was in net and saved nine shots for the Pirates.


Robert Wyrsch and Zeke Thomas of Soquel are both on nationally ranked college football teams. Wyrsch, a three-star recruit in the class of 2021, is a tackle for the University of Washington, which is 3-0 and ranked No. 8 in this week’s Associated Press poll. Thomas, a transfer from Cabrillo College, plays defensive back for the 3-0 Bruins, who are ranked 22nd in the AP poll. Both are looking to earn their way on the field through strong practices.

This week in history

In the middle of September 2011, then-Aptos High School junior Nikki Hiltz won the Earlybird Invitational, the Chieftain Invitational and then finished fourth at the Stanford Cross Country Invitational. Hiltz has since gone on to run professionally and won the 1,500 meters in July at the 2023 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

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