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With several Orange County soccer teams starting league play this week, it’s time to acknowledge the surprising performances of the first half of the season.
Anthony Abad, Sonora: The sophomore running back has come on stage with 652 yards and eight touchdowns in the Raiders’ wing-T attack. Abad thrived after an injury earned him a spot at varsity. “We knew he would be a good player for us, but we didn’t expect him to be so good so early on,” said Sonora coach Kevin Oberlander.
Travis Anderson, Mission Viejo: The junior safety snagged his nation-leading sixth interception in the Diablos’ 49-20 win over Leuzinger last week. Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson said Anderson’s time as a wide receiver last season helped him on defense. “Understanding attacking and the track combinations (teams) that are trying is what’s allowed him to be so effective from safety this season,” Johnson said.
Marcus Brown and Jordan Onovughe, Mater Dei: The wide receivers have combined for 44 receptions and nine touchdowns after totaling four catches last season. Mater Dei’s wide receivers were a question mark earlier in the season, but Onovughe, a senior, has emerged as Elijah Brown’s top target with 27 receptions for 308 yards and three TDs. Brown, a junior who was injured last season, has 17 catches for 324 yards and six touchdowns, leading in the Trinity League.
Deshawn Cobbs, Fullerton: The junior running back has rushed for 819 yards, which is second in the county behind Dana Hills’ Christian Guarascio. Indians coach Richard Salazar credits Cobbs’ performance to his intense training methods — on one practice he pushes a vehicle while carrying a football — and the team’s improved offensive line play.
Aidan Houston, Cypress: The Centurions had quarterback contention in the summer, but the dual-threat junior has been the starter in the last three games. Houston has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards and 12 TDs and rushed for 334 yards and five TDs this season. The former Los Alamitos player is returning from two cruciate ligament injuries. “He’s been great for us, but he’s an even better kid,” said Cypress coach Rick Feldman.
Troy Mills, Gorge: The Comanches have some prolific offensive players, but the senior linebacker was a force on defense. He leads the county with 81 tackles. “He has a great instinct to find the ball,” said Comanches coach Phil Hughes.
Makai Sagiao, Edison: The junior offensive lineman, who joined from Newport Harbor, made a strong unit even better.
El Modena: The Vanguards (5-0) were expected to be good but have dominated by outperforming their opponents 189-15. The squad consists of around 25 seniors who play well together offensively and defensively and limit mistakes. Coach Matt Mitchell coordinates the offense while his brother Joe directs the defense.
Crean Lutherans: The Saints are 5-0 heading into the Empire League, a big improvement on their 9-1 record last season. They feature a dynamic duo in quarterback Gavin Rogers (18 TDs, no interceptions) and wide receiver Ty Benefield (eight TDs), a transfer from Santa Margarita.
Santa Ana Valley: The Falcons (4-1) have doubled their overall wins from last season and could be battling for second place in the Orange League behind county-ranked Western. Their next three opponents – Magnolia, Century and Anaheim – each go 0-5 this week.
Sonoran: The Raiders (4-1) surpassed their overall wins from last season (three) before Freeway League play began. Oberländer attributes the success in his third season to top management and continuity with offensive and defensive concepts.
Santa Margarita defenseman Collins Acheampong, a Michigan player, is out for the season with a meniscus injury that requires surgery, Eagles coach Anthony Rouzier confirmed. … El Dorado and La Habra have agreed to play non-league games for the next two seasons, Golden Hawks coach Zack LaMonda said. … San Juan Hills coach Robert Frith said he was open to finding a more competitive balance in the Stallions’ non-league calendar next season. San Juan Hills is 0-6 after playing teams with a combined record of 27-2.